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Performances

1. The "Shaka Readings" - Preview

“The Shaka Readings” is a series of about 12 readings featuring selected extracts, with narrative links, from Mazisi Kunene’s epic poem, Emperor Shaka the Great, read and compiled by me.

Each reading is followed by discussion led by knowledgeable authorities in Zulu history and literature. On 2nd May, from 1pm to 2pm, in conjunction with the Wits Writing Centre, Robert Mshengu Kavanagh will be giving a one-off preview of the readings in the Nunnery Theatre, Wits, in the hopes that others will also share the belief in Mazisi Kunene’s great poem so that the full readings can go ahead as planned.

The motivation behind “The Shaka Readings” is as follows:

·       “Emperor Shaka the Great” is a classic work of which South Africans and all Africans can be proud

·       Kunene’s epic poem invites comparison with those of Homer, Vergil, Dante and Milton

·       It is not well-known either in this country or elsewhere – and it deserves to be

·       Kunene’s poem is based on the original praise poems of the period and his interpretation of the personality and ideals of Shaka is unique and one which many South Africans and Africans would be impressed to know

·       The work was originally written in Zulu but only published in translation. This is an anomaly which needs to be corrected. The world is being deprived of a great piece of literature in the Zulu language.


The writer of "Emperor Shaka the Great" - Mazisi Kunene 

2. "Mzantsi" - songs of South Africa (80 mins.)

                                                                                                                                                                        Audience giving a  hand
A participatory programme of the songs of South Africa in the context of the country's history - from the arrival of the Dutch in 16th century and the first encounter of the settlers and the Xhosa people through the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand. the Boer War, Sophiatown, and the urban culture of the black townships to the rise of African Nationalism, Robben Island and the struggle for liberation. Songs and narrative are accompanied by slides and lots of dance and singing opportunities for the audience. Suitable for audiences of about 20, in private homes or intimate public spaces.

'All my friends were very impressed with the evening and enjoyed the experience tremendously. They also learnt a lot, and that is a good thing' - Simsbury, Connecticut, US

'Outstanding performance...absolutely fabulous. Had us all transfixed and under your spell - and the spell of that wonderful music. The program was seamless  - and so rich, and the slides really helped draw people in and include them more viscerally in the experience.' - Amherst, Massachusetts, US.

Available for booking immediately.



3. "Rantin' Rovin' Robin" - a tale of two Roberts (60 mins.)

The one Robert                                                                                                                                                                                                        The other Robert

A tribute to the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, the show was first devised to commemorate the 250th anniversary of his birth. It tells the story of Burns's life and ideas and above all features some his most famous and much loved songs and poems. The other Robert is Robert Mael Coluim Maclabhran, which is the original Gaelic for me and I weave in something about my own ancestors and family while I'm in the telling. The programme features, among others, the poems 'To a Mouse', "Tam O'Shanter' and ' 'A Man's a Man for A' That'' as well as the songs 'My Love is like a Red Red Rose', 'Ye Banks and Braes o' Bonnie Doon' and 'Scots Wha Hae Wi' Wallace Bled'. Some of the broadest bits of Scots are partly translated to make it easier for everyone. Singing along is encouraged where called for. Suitable for audiences of about 20. in private homes or intimate public spaces.   


                                                                                                         

' A delightful evening with lots of beautiful poetry, stimulating music and song and good fellowship. Everyone enjoyed it! ' - Simsbury, Connecticut, US

' I gained the best understanding and appreciation for this legend through your presentation than any reading or lecture could have taught me' - Toronto, Canada

' Spirited, entertaining and interesting performance' - Toronto, Canada

Available for booking immediately.



4. "Between the Congo and the Fish" - a journey through southern Africa in song and dance (90 mins.)

 with Chipo Mashingaidze

A two hander, an actor and an actress, featuring the history and culture of countries from the Congo River in the North to the Fish in the South, in song, dance, narrative and slides. It includes songs in Swahili (Tanzania), Chewa (Malawi), Nyanja (Zambia), Shona (Zimbabwe), Tswana (Botswana), Afrikaans, Sotho, Xhosa and Zulu (South Africa). The performers accompany themselves with mbira (Zimbabwean thumb piano), hosho (shakers), guitar, drums and clappers. The audience have opportunities to learn the songs and dances and join in.

Available for booking - one month's notice







4. "2 200 000 Years (At Least)" (90 mins.)
A Short History of South Africa 
or
2.2 million years to get this far - still a long way to go!

Based on John O'Farrel's hilarious book, "An Uttlerly Impartial History of Britain or 2000 Years of Upper Class Idiots in Charge, '52000 years' is a one-person comic and satirical view of South African history from the first inhabitants of South Africa up to the release of Mandela. If you don't get the joke in the title then this show is not for you.

In progress.   

FOR INFORMATION OR BOOKINGS, GET IN TOUCH: umshengu @ mango.zw