More than mere entertainment

by Awelani Moyo | 1 September 2017

Change…meant simply being able to share my experience in a positive and affirming way.

I don’t know if this is the result of a strict religious upbringing or simply a personal obsession but I have always had this idea that things have to have a purpose. For me art, and especially theatre, has to function as more than mere entertainment, it has to mean something. I spent my childhood in conservative Zimbabwe and moved to South Africa not long after it had its first democratic elections in 1994. I went from one post-colonial country beginning a slow implosion to another post-apartheid land caught up with the infectious optimism of freedom. In the past art had been thought of, and used as, a “weapon” against oppression, now artists in South Africa were beginning to make work about this historic transition and to rediscover a new role in society.

At university I was frustrated by injustices I saw going on around me and by the ways in which Africa and Africans were (mis)understood and (mis)represented. I became preoccupied with the idea that there was so much to be done, so many things that needed to be changed in the world, and deeply concerned about how I would use my love of theatre to do this. I was always interested in big writers and big directors doing big works about big ideas and big themes. I felt as though my own contribution had to be big, had to announce itself onto the world stage and permanently alter every person who came into contact with it. I was desperate to affect real, practical political change in the course of my performances and wanted to make stirring, thought-provoking statements, to shake up audiences, to change the way people think.

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