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Puppet play explores Western Cape communities’ response to drug culture

Author: Myolisi Gophe

How can a township community truly grapple with the dilemma of drug abuse? The play Warona explores this question with masterfully made puppets from uKwanda Puppetry Collective.

(Published - 3 August 2018)

How can a township community truly grapple with the dilemma of drug abuse? The play Warona explores this question with masterfully made puppets from uKwanda Puppetry Collective.

The overarching opinion of the UWC community and other guests - who watched the final rehearsal of the play last month - is that it is intensely educational and insightful, yet still extremely entertaining.

The 50-minute production is a robust and energetic piece that uses the inter-relationships between people and a dog to explore questions of social justice.

Warona, directed by Thando Doni, is touring schools and township theatres up until August 23 and is an initiative of the University of the Western Cape’s Centre for Humanities Research (CHR). The centre is supported by the National Research Foundation, the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Rand Merchant Bank.

According to Professor Premesh Lalu, Director of the CHR, the objective is to take forward a set of ideas about how we think about ‘the human’ and technology in the contemporary world.

Previously, uKwanda Puppetry Collective had worked with the Handspring Puppet Company to build the puppets for War Horse - a powerful drama of the National Theatre in Britain that has been seen by over nine million people all over the world.

Thereafter, uKwanda Puppetry Collective joined forces with the CHR to foster the next generation of puppet-makers in the tradition of Handspring.

Warona, Professor Lalu said, is part of the Laboratory of Kinetic Objects, which is convened by Professor Jane Taylor who holds the AW Mellon Chair in Aesthetic Theory and Material Performance in the CHR.

“It is often now asserted that we are in the age of the ‘Post-Human’,” Professor Taylor said.

“Our enquiries seek to explore what this assertion might mean - and what its implications are for questions of social justice, historical narrative and artificial intelligence.”

Puppets, Projects and Post-Human

The CHR built two projects from the DST-NRF grant which has now been consolidated in the Greatmore Initiative which hosts a public lecture programme, an artist in residence programme, and the Laboratory of Kinetic Objects.

“To build a production like this we needed space and the appropriate facilities to build large-scale theatre objects - and we don’t really have that at UWC,” Professor Lalu explained.

“We decided to build two projects that would bring UWC closer to the debates about the city, but also bring UWC closer to a post-apartheid public sphere.”

Meanwhile, the uKwanda Puppetry Collective, together with CHR post-doctoral fellow and puppet-maker, Aja Marneweck, are working on the development of the new script for the Barrydale Reconciliation Day Festival, scheduled for December 2018.


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