Potato play on the way

Edward Tsumele

Edward Tsumele

Celebrated South African playwright Mbongeni Ngema has launched a bid to hit gold again with a major musical that marks the 50th anniversary of the potato boycott.

The musical, called The Lion of the East, pays tribute to Gert Sibande, who led the boycott .

The iconic producer and director is sure to bring to life on stage the life and times of Sibande, the son of a labourer tenant on the Eastern Transvaal potato farms of Bethal.

Speaking to Sowetan, Ngema confirmed he was commissioned by the Mpumalanga department of arts, culture and recreation to pen this musical which, once finished and polished, will tour the province and country before hitting the international stages.

A genius when it comes to producing culturally relevant Afro musicals, Ngema is well known for penning Sarafinaand recently, The Zulu.

Sibande, disguised as a farm worker, played a pivotal role in exposing inhumane conditions that workers faced and the brutal practices that were taking place on these farms.

The boycott was a resounding success and demonstrated that African workers and consumers were prepared to sacrifice their cheap source of staple food to fight together to end the exploitation of their brothers and sisters in the rural areas.

This musical will allow the youth of South Africa to understand their history and legacies left by previous generations . It is also about using the arts as a platform to tell our stories and most of all it's about involving young South Africans .

Ngema is currently auditioning artists for roles.