Recent Goings-on

LATEST:
My day went like this: wake up and work feverishly on my preparations and Power Point presentations for the afternoon's class or for classes to follow. At 1.15pm walk down to the Rehab bus station where I would arrive in good time for the bus that left at 2pm for Cairo. Arrive in Cairo at about 2.20 to 2.25, depending on the traffic. Get off at the Merghany Bridge and try to cross the road.

The ‘road’ consists of four lanes in one direction and four in the other with a little island in the middle. Cairo's traffic system eliminates the need for intersections - almost no traffic lights. So the traffic flows fast and endlessly when it's not jammed. I got the hang of threading my way through to the other side but always nursed a secret dread that I would make a slip - and that would have been the end of me, especially after I was crossing a feeder road into the main road, hesitated and had a car clip my heel as it went past. I realised during the course of my teaching that English is an extraordinarily idiomatic language. We hardly ever say things literally. So before each class I used to share idioms or idiomatic expressions with the students culled from my recent experiences. On that day my idiom was: ‘He who hesitates is lost’. I followed it with: ‘Faint heart never won fair lady’ - though I was a bit dubious as to how my Muslim students might relate to that. 

So having successfully negotiated the traffic I walked to work and arrived there at about 2.45pm with a quarter of an hour for setting up. 3-5 and 6-8 teaching and then repeating the process going home though no dangerous road crossings this time as the bus came back in a friendlier way and I was able to catch it not far up the road. One night however there was a breakdown and I think the driver was rushing and did not want to stop at any bus stops. When we flagged him down he did not pull over but stopped in the middle of the traffic. So with the traffic flowing past on either side of the bus like a river around a midstream boulder we boarded the bus - or rather let me say two others did and as I had just placed my hand on the rail at the rear entrance, the bus driver sped off.  Luckily I was able to spring on in time and not fall to my death under the tyres of the passing cars! I screamed at the driver and everyone tittered because I screamed in English and they of course they spoke Arabic. Then I went up to him as he drove and all I could say was: "Haram! Haram!" [Wrong! Wrong!]" He paid no attention but somebody nearby said: "Malish" - meaning "Alright. Never mind."

Then I would arrive at the bus station by about 9pm and make my way back to the house, getting in before 10pm. I would have a cup of tea, eat, sleep and then at 6am wake up the family and get the boys up so that they did not miss their buses to school - which seems to have been a regular occurrence. Snatch a little more sleep when all quietened down and then the daily grind resumed. Saturday/Sunday meant a respite to catch up with my preparation - except when Gugu and Njabs were there - and that is another story for next time I have the energy and the time.

Amai is a having great success at the church in Mbare. The youth are flocking and she has started a Junior Service after the main service - fully subscribed. So that is three services in one day instead of two! 

 Other news - my old book, Theatre and Cultural Struggle in South Africa, is coming out in a new online edition, which I have updated a little. I was able to buy a scanner in the Rehab marketplace and felt a whole new world opening up but discovered when I got back that I could not trace my copies of Sketsh – and Thando couldn’t find them either in Egypt where I might have taken them. To my great relief I spotted them in a nondescript plastic back stashed away on top of the wardrobe!

Following on from our trip up Mount Sinai Amai and I have started a Bible Tour project. We are in the process of putting it together in cahoots with an Egyptian tour company. There will be an Egypt only tour and an Egypt/Jordan one too.

One rather tragic development is that the chicken run is almost empty. Eight lovely little chicks I had been nursing died apparently a day or so after Amai and I left for Egypt. Then when Amai was all alone no-one was really looking after them and so although I resumed doing that when I returned the cre started dying one by one. Not Newcastle - symptom is a twisted neck - but something called Marek's Disease, I think, The legs become paralysed. One showed the symptoms very early on. I isolated it and tried to give it an antibiotic. None of the others responded but it is alive today and its legs are working again. Did I tell you that previous to this, a cat or something got in and wiped out 7 youth [chicken, not human beings] during the night. So all in all we lost something like 27 birds.

Am feeling very fulfilled at the moment. Though we have to struggle to raise an inordinate amount to pay for the two boarders, I remain buoyant as life with Amai and my work is very nice and I am doing things I have wanted to do for years.



PAST EXPERIENCES

RETURN FROM EGYPT AND ETHIOPIA

Since I last wrote, I moved back to Zimbabwe. Why I have left the land of my birth after such a short sojourn and returned to the country I have lived in since 1984 is a story for another day. 

In March this year I left for Egypt to do a job for my son-in-law in this marketing company, 

Emerging Media Basically what I was a six-week course entitled "Language and Communication through Creative Drama". It was an interesting and a new experience working in a marketing company in Egypt but it turned out ver well in the end.

I am now back in my house in Harare and very glad to be so. On the way back I spent some four days in Addis Ababa, whjere I had once worked at the university. 

My stay in Addis Ababa turned out to be as good as I could have hoped for. After some initial misgivings about delaying my return home by some days – after my long stay in Cairo I was just dying to get home – I am very glad I went. Lots of injera, invitations, a meeting with students at the university, ideas to get Ethiopia to start up a CHIPAWO-type organisation, wonderful chats with old friends – Abate Merkuria, the famous director, who directed me in the play Tewodros, Haimenot Alemu, the equally famous film-maker and theatre personality and Manyazewal Endeshaw, a student in my first year at the university, whom I had not seen since I left Ethiopia. We had a wonderful evening at his house, with so much to catch up on and a great idea to act on for the future – a site for African theatre artists with scripts, videos, article etc., something I had already discussed with others in South Africa. Ethiopian television even wanted me on one of their shows! And of course the Amharic all rushing back like sweet spring water.

Stayed in a cheap but very pleasant lodge which was so well situated that I went everywhere on foot. Much better than a  hotel any day – like being in someone’s compound. Z Guest House)


MY FANTASTICAL TOUR TO VISIT FRIENDS

I came over to England on a CHIPAWO World mission with three young people from schools in Namibia, South Africa and Zambia as well as a youth technician from CHIPAWO Zimbabwe. The first few days were taken up with the 2020 Education project launch and other activities in Oxford and then there were three days in London. After seeing them off on their way back to their home countries I spent a couple of days in London with an old family friend and had two delightful dinners in the company of my son.

I then went over to Holland on the ferry, spent a night there and then boarded a few trains to Bremen in Germany. I stayed for a few days with other old friends, and then set off again to Lingen, a small town in the north west of Germany. From there some more trains to the tiny town of Rødekro in south east Jutland, Denmark. Spent the night with friends on the banks of the Åbenrå Fiord. Next day, I was picked up and after dropping in at another old friend’s 75th birthday party in Grasteen, we drove up to the lovely old town of Ribe.

I had hoped to return to England by sea again but unfortunately this turned out to be too expensive and so I boarded the original airline cheapie, Ryan Air, at Billund International Airport, not too far from Ribe, and Ryan Air duly fitted me into my little cage like a battery hen and transported me to Stanstead Airport, not too far from Bishop Stortford in Essex. In the course of my travels I had taken 15 trains!

Another old Zimbabwean friend picked me up at Stanstead and took me back to Hitchin in Hertfordshire. After some days of being treated like a king, I journeyed back to London – again by train, one to St Pancras and the other to the unprepossessing London suburb of Tooting in the borough of Wandsworth, where my son had secured me comfortable and convenient accommodation. Tooting is a very old human settlement - though you would be forgiven for doubting it now - dating back to pre-Saxon times. Conjecture has it that its name comes from the Saxon word we derive the modern word ‘tout’ from and meant ‘the people of the watch tower’. The old Roman road from London to Chichester, Stane Street, apparently passed through Tooting and the main road through modern Tooting was built on it.

After one or two more social encounters involving old and new friends, my son and, by lucky chance, my son-in-law, who was in London on business from Cairo, I boarded my Ethiopian Airlines flight at Heathrow. After a smooth though of course never comfortable journey for a man of my height, I arrived home. Homecoming was marked by some whisky, red wine, lovely food and warm and cheery hygge[1] in my friend and landlady’s kitchen.

There was a surprise though, reserved for almost the last. In the bus from the terminal out to the plane at Addis Ababa airport, a rather sociable young South African couldn’t help engaging me in conversation. He was obviously bubbling over with his achievement. He and his friends had motored up from South Africa to Addis. He had to go back for one reason or another but his friends were continuing on to Egypt and from there across to West Africa  – and as this is something that a friend and I are planning to do in a couple of years time, his description of the road up was fascinating. He actually said that is a couple of years time you will be able to do the journey from Cape to Cairo in a Taz!

[1] Hygge’, pronounced ‘hu’ as in ‘huge’ and ‘ga’ as in Lady Gaga, means a homely, warm and companionable time – lots of good food and drink mandatory.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE TOUR

“Children learn, collaborate and make a local impact on global issues in the 21st century” - LAUNCH OF THE 2020 EDUCATION PROJECT

An unaccompanied minor with a difference - FROM LUSAKA TO LONDON

You’ll be alright. It’s like riding a bike! - PUNTING ON THE CHERWELL

Of duck ponds and sewage - CROSSING THE NORTH SEA

The man who said: ‘You’ll be alright. It’s like riding a bike!’ was right – about bikes - CYCLING AND THE WÜMME

An unexpected delight between trains - LEER IN FRISIA

‘Freilichttheater’ – a village of Thespians - OUTDOOR THEATRE IN BAD BENTHEIM

A slither to the fiord - A SWIM IN THE ÅBENRÅ FIORD

Of ancient towns and rare beauty - RIBE AND HITCHIN

Back home


NZOU'S GREAT CHARGE

posted 1 Aug 2012, 03:24 by Robert McLaren

29.8.11 

Having said goodbye to Zimbabwe, I am back again in Johannesburg again. I want to share the story of how that was accomplished.

Many people already know about Nzou - my 1983 Ford Cortina, appropriately named ‘The Elephant’ for her lifetime of unstinting service, to all sorts of places, with all sorts of loads and for all sorts of reasons. For one, if the history of theatre and the arts in Zimbabwe is ever written and does not include at least a paragraph on Nzou, it is no history! No-one mentions Alexander the Great without paying tribute to his horse, Bucephalus, so how can anything be said about theatre and the arts in Zimbabwe without mentioning this untiring and intrepid elephant?

Having had my eye operation in Harare, I had to wait two weeks before I could travel. But I had decided to drive down in Nzou as I need a car here in South Africa and I also needed to carry a whole lot of my books, papers, office equipment, household and kitchen utensils and clothes to my new home.

But it is a long way and Nzou, though it has made the journey countless times, is now getting old. However I got our local mechanic, Va Makhonya, working on it as part of a planned refurbishment of the old beast and finally was able to leave on Thursday morning. Not everything is yet working -  for instance, the rear left side lights, the speedometer, the oil gauge and in particular the fuel and the temperature gauges. The latter have somehow got linked and so when the temperature suddenly soars into the red for no apparent or real reason, the fuel gauge keeps it company so one can never be quite certain when the engine is going to overheat or when the petrol is going to run out.

The 480 km run from Harare to Bubi River, about 70 kms from the border, was mercifully uneventful. This was the stretch I was dreading as a lot of it is very far from any habitation and in some places from mobile phone network. Also the stretch from Masvingo to the border is now notorious for armed gangs that swoop on travellers if they happen to stop on the side of the road. Anything could have happened - but it didn't, and Nzou spent the night peacefully with her relatives at the Lion and Elephant Motel.

The worst was almost over. I wallowed in the luxury of a bath full of water. The fact that it was cold made no difference. It was water and we had not seen proper water for more than a couple of days for the entire six weeks I spent at our house in the Harare suburb of Marlborough. After a good meal and a restful night, we set out for the most dangerous stretch of all - Bubi River to Beit Bridge. I did not want Nzou to break down then - and it didn't.

Once I was over the border in South Africa I felt a lot better. If anything went wrong, somebody could be contacted and something done about it. All went well till I passed a place called Mookgopong, formerly Naboomspruit. It was now getting late in the afternoon and I did not relish driving any more, especially after dark in the rush hour of the Friday evening traffic. In a way, Nzou solved the problem for me. Suddenly the alternator let out a wild screech, not dissimilar to that of an elephant in pain, and seized solid.

I phoned my daughter, Gugu, in johannesburg to get the AA to arrange a tow truck for me. There were some anxious moments as the shadows fell and I was stuck on the side of the busy N1 highway all by myself. But eventually Chibi, a tall and expert Shangana-speaking man, pitched up and loaded Nzou onto his truck. He did a hair-raising U-turn across four lanes of speeding South African cars that bore very little family resemblance to Nzou, and he had me in Mookgopong in a matter of minutes. There I was given the number of an auto electrician to phone, by the name of Andre, and he was the proverbial Good Samaritan. He found me a very comfortable B and B with the best shower in the whole world - this time the water was hot - and then whipped out the alternator. Next morning after breakfast he was back with it, repaired and ready to go.

And with it, by midday, I managed to drive into Johannesburg with my load and Nzou. So a journey we used to do over and over again in one day, took us two and a half - but Nzou had done it and that was all that mattered. Even the alternator was not her fault. It was our negligence. We should have attended to it in Harare where it was already beginning to make complaining noises. But what if the alternator had seized somewhere out in the bush on the Zimbabwean side of the border! 

The drama wasn't quite over because when I tried to drive up the drive into the house, Nzou got stuck. I forgot to mention earlier that she really does need rear shock absorbers and, being heavily loaded, the exhaust simply impaled her on the tarmac. We had to unload and carry things into the house so that I could gently coax her off the rocks.

And then what a homecoming! Such relief, such a sense of achievement, that Nzou had made it and we were safely at the end of our 1,200 km journey. I am afraid to say that too much wine and whiskey was drunk and by the time I made my way off into the garden to my cottage and a good night's sleep, I knew for one of the first times in my life what it means to be 'legless'.

IBSEN THEATRE CAMP ENDS

posted 1 Aug 2012, 03:23 by Robert McLaren

I have just said goodbye to the young artists from Namibia and South Africa and as I write they are boarding their Citiliner coach bound for Johannesburg. They are scheduled to leave in fifteen minutes. It is over – all over bar the shouting or rather bar the accounting and the reporting. Phase 1 of the “Negotiating Ibsen in southern Africa” Project is over.

I gave Chipo, the Manager of CHIPAWO, a big hug. We both knew we had done it. The CHIPAWO Zimbabwe team under the direction of Chipo has moved a mountain. It has been a wonderful camp, good, outstanding in almost every respect. And now it is over and, before preparing for Phase 2, it is time to wrap up the finances, do a report and get one’s breath back.

Last night was the Farewell Party, the last in a series of enjoyable extra-curricular camp activities. It all started with a day out at Lake Chivero, visiting the dam wall and then an afternoon at the lakeside with gochi gochi – barbequed meat. Then there was that breathtaking CHIPAWO concert when the children wowed us with their dances and the audience grew hoarse from shouting out its appreciation. An absolutely special evening with the singer, Hope Masike, followed. She plays mbira but orchestrates her various musicians with great sensitivity and panache. Hope is someone that many of the CHIPAWO youth have worked and performed with at the Umoja Cultural Flying Carpet regional music camps and so the rapport between her and the audience made the programme both touching and very memorable. She has a wonderful stage presence and all in all she is a performer with a great future. Then there was the dinner we all had together after the Public Preview performances two nights ago. Held at a hotel just round the corner from the Gallery Delta where the previews were staged, it gave everyone still more opportunity to come ever closer to each other. There were many nights as well when the young artists either went out on the town together or spent the night singing and talking into the early hours.

But of course the highlight was the Public Previews of the two plays they had been working on in the camp for 12 days – the first four days were taken up with various workshop inputs by Resource Persons. I will not say much about this except to attach my speech as Project Director and summarise the words of the Chargée d’Affaires of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Harare, who was so moved that she came forward and asked to be allowed to say something. In my speech I had said:

The project is predicated on the belief, first of all, that theatre and the arts generally have a crucial role to play in social development and, secondly, that the works of Ibsen have the power to contribute to that development.

 The Chargée d’Affaires said with some passion that if anyone had doubted that theatre has a role to play in social development, the two plays she saw that night would have convinced them that it has.

The Zimbabwean participants were divided between the two groups and many Zimbabwean cultural and artistic elements were included in the work they produced. The ‘South African’ team performed a work in progress derived from Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People called The People’s Republic, highlighting the need for there to be openness and consultation concerning the country’s plans for a vast expansion of its nuclear power generating capacity. The ‘Namibian’ team, working on Ibsen’s Ghosts, produced a powerful piece called The Tree of Ghosts, in which issues of fear and secrecy, the hardships of women and attitudes to artists and homosexuals were raised.

Now it is over and I have just heard that the bus is a little late in taking off but it won’t be long before they roll out and drive off down the road to Beit Bridge and South Africa. They are all hugging, crying and saying their last fond farewells and I think a lot of them would echo the words of Vivian Gli, the Ghanaian student at the University of Oslo, who came as an observer and left yesterday, saying: “I don’t want to go back.” 

Back again in Zimbabwe

posted 2 Oct 2011, 01:44 by Robert McLaren

15.7.11 
Back again in Zimbabwe - not a very cheerful return. Certain aspects of life here seem to have deteriorated markedly in the short time I have been away. For instance, we never really had water problems in the part of Harare where I live but we have not had water since early Monday morning. There is no electricity on Tuesdays, Thursdays and I should imagine Saturdays as well as almost all evenings. Corruption seems to have penetrated to the deepest fibres of the society. For instance, there are police on the roads who are not policing. They are simply running a sort of police protection racket as taxi drivers have to pay a sort of unofficial toll each day to ply their route. All is not made more cheerful by the bitterly cold, unusually cold, weather and the gloomy overcast afternoons. 

However in the house all is human warmth, helped along at night after a late supper in front of a roaring wood fire. Nokuthula arrived from South Africa a day earlier than expected and is well into the swing of things, accompanying the young CHIPAWO Programmes Officer, Ms Deon Picardo, to centres as the build-up to the long-awaited End-of-Year Concerts gathers steam This year there will be one in Bindura on 16th and the other in Harare on 23rd - great days of children's power and enthusiasm when every child gets a chance to show their parents, friends and other children in CHIPAWO what they can do.  

Water in the night

posted 29 Aug 2011, 01:06 by Robert McLaren

14.8.11 

I was just drifting off to sleep at about 1.30am when I thought I heard the sound of water, very faintly. Then I heard a bird outside, quite far away. It sounded rather like the sound I thought was water. So I allowed myself to drift off. Two hours later I woke up and went to the toilet. Again I got that sense that there was water somewhere. I flushed the toilet to see – and lo, the cistern was full and as it emptied, water began to flow into it. The water had come!

I rushed to the girls’ room and knocked on the door, not too loudly so as not to frighten them. When I got an answer I said: “Come, quick. Water.” Deon was up in a flash – Charmaine rather later. She loves her blankets and she was not feeling too well.

I switched off the alarm and we went outside through the kitchen door to the outside tap – always the first to get water and always the best pressure. We started filling up 25 litre zvigubhu (containers) and with them a large plastic dirt bin we had bought new and turned into a water storage tank – probably near to 100 litres. We filled up a cooler box, from where we normally draw our drinking water, and we filled up many 2 litre plastic bottles. Then I turned on the tap in my bath and started filling that. By the time we got back to sleep again we had water! Lots of it – to last us for the next four or five days for sure.

For close on three weeks, we had not had water for more than an hour or two. Now we had been told, the City of Harare was closing down the main water treatment plant and the whole of the city would not have water for a few days while a serious fault was being attended to – and we were already down to our last drops. So this sudden, unexpected  windfall had really come not a moment too early.

And this in a suburb where, during the worst times, say between 2004 and 2009, though we had had very little electricity and endured all the other problems people in Zimbabwe had to cope with in those days, we almost always had water. So why no water now? A mystery – unsolved as yet.

Visit to Nigeria (2)

posted 29 Aug 2011, 01:04 by Robert McLaren

26.7.11
No longer Harare but Naija - my first visit to the giant of Africa. In Islamic culture, many women prefer to be accompanied by a male relative when they travel. This is called a mahram. So this has been my role here in Abuja, the nation's capital, for the last four days, being well-looked after by our hosts, Muslim Identity Kollektions. My daughter, Naima bint Robert, has been launching her new novel on Zimbabwe, autographing copies of her other publications, giving talks, visiting an orphanage, meeting school children, women at dinners given in her honour and visitors to an Expo, which was held here on Saturday and Sunday She also paid a day visit to Lagos to address another meeting and meet with women there. 

For me it was interesting to visit a country one has read so much about and whose literature is renowned worldwide. Abuja, being the seat of government and a new city, is hardly a true reflection of Nigeria as a whole. As mahram, I have largely been cast in a supporting role and attended events as a passive observer. I have also had more time to myself. which I have been able to use well in pursuing my own agendas.

Visit to Nigeria (1)

posted 29 Aug 2011, 01:03 by Robert McLaren

18.7.11
A nerve-racking few days has just come to an end and I can breathe again. The organisers of my daughter, Naima bint Robert's promotional visit to Nigeria want her and I in Abuja, Nigeria, on 21st - no later. But the Nigerian Embassy in Harare only does its interviews on Wednesdays, in this case 20th July, and they open at 10am. They do not allow expedited interviews and so getting from Harare to Abuja was proving to be a nightmare and a very expensive one at that. Just found a Kenya Airways flight via Nairobi to Lagos for 21st. The organisers in Nigeria will facilitate my domestic transfer to Abuja. Some embassies are more accommodating than others.

GETTING CHISA OFF THE GROUND

posted 29 Aug 2011, 00:58 by Robert McLaren

10.7.11 

In our efforts to get the South African organisation, CHISA, off the ground here we have arranged for Nokuthula Nzimande to travel up to Harare and spend two weeks with CHIPAWO, attending mini-festivals and end of year concerts and getting to know the children of CHIPAWO, the youth and those that work with them. 

CHIPAWO World is registered in South Africa. It's mandate is to facilitate the sharing of CHIPAWO's ideas and practice in other countries round the world. It is in the process of setting up a South Aftrican organisation modelled on CHIPAWO, called CHISA. It is within this framework that Nokuthula is going to Zimbabwe on an orientation attachment so that when she comes back to South Africa, she will have hands-on experience of CHIPAWO and hos it works with children. As yet the process is at the steering stage and so no appointments have been made. It is possible that as the process firms up, Nokuthula may join the CHISA staff in some capacity. 

Farewell to Zimbabwe

posted 29 Aug 2011, 00:58 by Robert McLaren   [ updated 29 Aug 2011, 01:10 ]

20.8.11

Last night I bade farewell to many of my friends and associates in Zimbabwe with a rollicking hootnannie. My performance of “Mzansi: Songs of My Country – Songs of South Africa” was followed by an Open Mic session in which people in the audience performed whatever they wanted to – these included three wildly applauded and participated in popular numbers by the well-known Zimbabwean music star, David Chifunyise.

With about 25 people, including children, packed into a make-shift theatre – originally my sitting room/dining room/Ethiopian lounge – the energy and fun was way up there as we began with a children’s naming game so as to get to know each other and then the famous “Dudu mduri” – a Shona game which also familiarises people as to who is who.

In the audience was Chipo Mashingaidze, with whom I had performed “Between the Congo and the Fish”, and she showed she had not forgotten much as she joined me in many of the songs. People really got down on the Tikkiedraai medlay of Cape dancing songs and the shebeen numbers, including that great township number, “Meadowlands”. Even the children could follow the story of the music of the peoples of South Africa, going right back to a hymn to the Zulu supreme deity, Mvelingqangi, the story of Nongqause and those very poignant songs of migrant workers, travelling to the mines in Johannesburg, their experiences underground and their worries about the families they left behind.

The Open Mic session was great, with lots of songs and dances, of all kinds, with some rumbustious gospel, some golden oldies and lovely presentations by the children, including Chipo’s daughter, Lerato, who showed us the mbhakumba traditional dance she had learnt at school.

And the CHIPAWO media team was there to film it with Farai Kuzvidza behind the camera. Farai is the creator and director of the popular children’s television show, ‘Nde’ipi gen’a’ – “What’s up, gang!’

It was midnight by the time everyone began trooping home. There was no water but the electricity came back after a whole day just in time for the show – so we were able to have the slides and people could get the words and sing more vigorously. A typically Zimbabwean evening, as I remarked – for ten years Zimbabweans have been making things happen against all the odds and with very few resources. Oyee, Zimbabwe!

And so goodbye – but that we shall meet again, over and over again, I am sure.

TRIP TO NIGERIA

posted 29 Aug 2011, 00:46 by Robert McLaren

9.7.11 
Tomorrow I leave for Harare where I will be for just over a week. I then go to Cairo to meet up with my daughter, the author, Naima bint Robert, so as to accompany her on a visit to Nigeria where the local publishers of her Muslim women's magazine, Sisters, have invited her for a programme of talks and publicity events. I then return to Cairo to spend some time with my daughter's family, four grandchildren, and then back to Harare - where I hope to have a cataract operation and then with a good load of things I need here and with eyes renewed drive down to Johannesburg  in my old Ford Cortina, 1983, station wagon - very justly nicknamed Nzou - meaning 'elephant'.

Fats Dike at the Market

posted 9 Jul 2011, 14:59 by Robert McLaren

I read in The Star yesterday that there's a play by Fatima 'Fats' Dike at The Market Theatre, called So what's new? I immediately smsed my daughter and said Hey, there's a play by Fats Dike on at The Market, shall we go? I don't know whether she knew anything about Fats Dike but she is a good daughter and she said yes, let's go. I am thrilled to hear that I shall be seeing a play by Fats and, I hope, meeting her after all these years - at least 35. I first met her when she was working at the Space Theatre in Cape Town in the 1970s. 

I am living right now on the property of Hildur Amato, the widow of my old friend and theatre colleague, Rob Amato, who worked closely with Fats. Rob and I met at Oxford, where we were both Rhodes Scholars - he from Natal and me from the Cape. We then co-operated in theatre when we returned to South Africa. While I was participateding in the exploits of Workshop '71 in Johannesburg, he founded the Imitha Players in East London and we invited their production of Oedipus up to Johannesburg. Rob later founded the non-racial Window Theatre in East London, where Workshop '71 also played, and still later the successor to The Spae, the People's Space. He financed S'ketch' Magazine toowhich I edited until Bra Sydney Sepamla took over. 

Where I am living is where he was living when he died in a car crash not very long ago. I miss him. It's a pity we lost touch when I went to Ethiopia and then being in Zimbabwe after that did not help.

Rob worked with Fats on her epic play on Xhosa history, The Sacrifice of Kreli, and directed it. The part of Kreli, if I remember well, was played by another playwright and actor, Julius Makwedini Mtsaka. I wonder where he is. After Cape Town the play came up to Johannesburg and played on the main stage at The Market. It deserves a revival and reminds us that there is a great deal of South African history which is perhaps not being done justice on the South African stage - or am I just ignorant, having been out of the country all these years?

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