Tue Oct 25 10:41:19 CAT 2016

Lebo M's outburst was result of anger over racial bias

By unknown | Mar 06, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Edward Tsumele

Edward Tsumele

Theatre and showbiz watchers were not totally surprised that internationally-acclaimed producer Lebo M blew his top at the Naledi Awards on Monday night.

The swelling anger among black playwrights and producers over the unrepresentative nature of the awards found expression through the angry reaction of influential The Lion King producer Lebo M during the ceremony at Gold Reef City.

Lebo M, real name Lebogang Morake, stopped short of calling the awards racist for having only a negligible number of black winners even though there was a significant number of nominees.

And as usual, the often pretentious South African theatre fraternity seemed to have been caught off guard, unprepared and unaware of the steady groundswell of anger that has been simmering for all these years.

This feeling of unfairness was particularly strongest among progressive white theatre people and black thespians. These progressive minds still need an answer to the following question: how come, in an industry where the majority of actors are black - and several of them are quite good in what they do - the winners' demographic profile is so disproportionate?

Simply put, the awards are unrepresentative. There has always been a sprinkling of black nominees and a glut of white winners.

There have been very few exceptions over the years. For instance last year, The Suitcase, directed by James Ngcobo, won handsomely when it collected a number of awards.

This year there was only one winning black producer, Lebo M, and one winning black director, Paul Grootboom.

Of the 23 contested categories, only three were won by black actors: Paul Grootboom for Telling Stories (best ensemble production), Bronwyn van Graan for Shirley, Goodness and Mercy (best performance by an actress in a supporting role/cameo/play or musical category), and TheLion King produced by Lebo M and Pieter Torien. It was directed by Julie Taymor.

Zwai Bala shared the best musical director/arranger/score category with Janine Neethling for Soweto Story.

This unfair representation of the country's demographics must have led to Lebo M's angry outburst.

The Naledis have a long way to go before they can claim to be truly representative. For a start, black actors, actresses, producers and directors want "judges of the highest integrity, who actually go to theatres to watch these productions, to be chosen".

"I was horrified that there were more whites than blacks in the audience. Do they want to tell me there are no black directors and producers? The answer is there are, but they are not given opportunities.

"Before 1994 we had black directors like Mbongeni Ngema and Duma kaNdlovu. These people are not directing because they do not have the financial muscle of Lebo M," Lebo M says.


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