After continuous harassment by my workmate I finally gave in to break my theatre virginity ,courtesy of south African performing arts group umoja it was an eventful one never to be let out of my memories to share . I have never really paid any mind or had any attraction to theatre arts, the closest I have come to any musical is the 1965 movie ‘’sound of music’’, i so I was a bit reluctant when UMOJA group came to town. Before I went to see the musical I did some research just to get my mind wet and I was fascinated with the journey and the message behind this musical group .Todd Twala and Thembi Nyandeni, lived a long dream to create UMOJA.
Todd grew up in a township outside Johannesburg, called George Goch. In 1968, Todd and her family woke up to a bulldozer at their front door. They were forced to leave. They then settled in Soweto (an acronym for South Western Township) on the outskirts of Johannesburg. The housing was in the form of box-like huts with no electricity or running water. Todd and Thembi choreographed their own dance pieces, and performed in front of small audiences. These first pieces were the building blocks of UMOJA, which they named ‘Pals of Africa’ in 1982 when they started the 2-man, or rather 2-woman group. They started saving money they made after each performance into buying customs and recruiting more members. The numbers increased and the name was changed to BAOBAB, after inspiration from Hugh Masekela.The name was again changed from Baobab to ‘UMOJA’ a name that represented what they were all about. The name has united and empowered as many as underprivileged kids as they could, giving the kids the opportunities. From 2 members, UMOJA can now boast of over 35 members with several awards to their credit.
UMOJA is officially my first live theatre encounter and even though I have not seen other acts I won’t hesitate to say this experience was peerless!..the performance was breathtaking from start to finish with no window to pace down . The cast were so full of character, the vibrant colors and impeccable choreography didn’t hurt. Africa UMOJA,is a Swahili word meaning “Africa togetherness” ,the story of UMOJA tells the tale of South Africa, its people and the changes that the years have had on their music. The only way to truly appreciate the story as told in the beautiful stage musical is to experience it in all its glory.
The energetic dance moves that reverberates throughout the National Theatre long after the last foot had been stomped, the vibrant colors of the various costumes for different segments of the musical and the enchanting tone of the narrator stays long with those who made it to the show last year. Scenes like “Venda Snake dance”, the exquisite voices of the singers and the fury of the traditional Zulu dancers all add up to ensuring that the journey through the South African musical history a fun one. I definitely had so much I took my workmate to lunch the next day…I honestly just wanted to recap the whole experience over food , you won’t blame if you had the chance to experience. I hope someone gets a hint to let steam catch up to theater scene in Africa..UMOJA has definitely picked up the torch.I have experienced south africa with my own eyes but i never came this close the skin of their culture…it would be nice if we could take our culture around the world in the same way. I am sorry I couldn’t take pictures of what I was wearing after my camera died from taking video footage which I unfortunately cant post due to copyright issues.
Photo credits TEAMFRSHWALLSTREET