From 14 to 31 October 2021, The South African State Theatre (SAST) will present TSOGO (The Rise of Charlotte Mannya-Maxeke), a new biographical theatre play exploring the life and times of the iconic social and political activist Mama Charlotte Makgomo Mannya-Maxeke (1871 –1939), who would have turned 150 in April years this year. The season of the play will coincide with her date of death 16 October 1939.
Written by multiple award-winning playwright Napo Masheane, and directed by thespian Mapula Setlhako, TSOGO (The Rise of Charlotte Mannya-Maxeke) is a resurrection of one of South Africa’s Pan African, black conscious, and feminist pioneers. The inventive premise of the story-arch will draw on ‘Re-Birthing- Re-Imagining and Re-flecting’ on Maxeke’s her-story, which will be echoed through seven female voices on stage. The ensemble represents seven portraits of Maxeke, focusing on seven prominent milestones of her life, almost symbolizing the seven decades of her tapestry, against not just tradition and religion, but also patriarchy and politics.
Through choral and Afrocentric melodies, TSOGO also suggests Maxeke’s imaginative childhood, her coming of age, her undying resistance and resilience, her bravery to travel the world as an artist (chorister) in persuasion of a dream to empower the black child.
Charlotte Mannya-Maxeke was born in Botlokwa, Ga-Ramokgopa in Limpopo 150 years ago. As a young mopedi girl, at the age of 20, she joined and toured with African Jubilee Choir which toured the UK, USA, and Canada from 1891 to 1893, where together with other choristers left South Africa to raise funds for a technical college. But, with the demise of the choir, Maxeke would later be offered a scholarship to study at Wilberforce University in Ohio (USA), where she became the first black South African woman to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree. Over the landscape of her-story, Maxeke was also known as the organiser of anti-pass marches and was founder of the Bantu Women’s League in 1918.
Setlhako comments: “I believe that we need the traits of Mama Charlotte Maxeke more than ever before if we are to realise her dreams of gender equality and a future where women will be valued as individuals and members of society. Women are still fighting the same fight she fought many years ago. Women still do not feel safe to walk the streets without being afraid that someone will pounce and invade our bodies and minds.
“Not many know about her as a creative during her life and activism in the 18th century. We need to set up unity of sisterhood in the arts fraternity, which will help raise the next generation of female artists to the next level. We need structures which will help shatter the ceilings of patriarchy and gender inequality in the arts,” Setlhako concludes.
TSOGO tickets are R130 at Webtickets, available online, State Theatre’s Box Office, and Pick n Pay stores.