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Napo Masheane goes back to her roots with 'HerStory' festival

Napo Masheane on her new festival HerStory International Festival
Napo Masheane on her new festival HerStory International Festival
Image: Supplied

Going to Soweto for her latest production next month will not be like just another work destination for Napo Masheane.

Mzansi's most famous township is the birthplace of one of SA's foremost theatre producers, although she does acknowledge growing up with her paternal family in Qwa Qwa, Free State. 

In her words, Soweto is where her umbilical cord was buried, a ritualistic act that bears a deep spiritual significance in African culture.

"Where one's umbilical cord is buried means the place will remain one's home forever despite their current location," Masheane said.

"That means I am extremely happy to be going back home to my birthplace, to do what I think I was born to do."

Masheane will be hosting the inaugural HerStory International Theatre Festival from August 1-7 at the Soweto Theatre. The festival provides a huge platform for Womxn theatre practitioners from across Africa, as well as from Canada, the United Kingdom, US, Brazil, Nigeria, Sweden, and the Caribbean.

As she tells SowetanLIVE, her maternal side of the family settled in Naledi many years ago, where her grandmother, MmaTshabalala, ruled the roost in a tiny matchbox home entirely dominated by women. Her formative experiences of six boisterous female voices booming through the home from the kitchen table was the order of the day and informs most of what she does today.  

"This is an opportune time for me to honour my ancestors and celebrate my roots. I was the first grandchild of a family with these six amazing, loud, big, opinionated, prayer warriors aunts," Masheane said.

"I never had a chance to honour my grandmother, who was a warrior. She worked as a domestic worker but handled her business. It's a pity she did not live long enough to see me perform, after leaving her physical form in my first year at theatre school. But I can see her plaiting my hair, boiling water on our old Jewel stove. I want women who come after me to find a home in this industry. To understand that just like my grandma, I'm not gonna judge you, but I will hold you accountable," she said. 

"If you are in an abusive relationship, I won't tell you to leave, but I will explain why you must choose you," Masheane said.

It is never easy to undertake a project of such grandeur but Masheane's conviction flows from the knowledge that wherever her beloved MmaTshabalala is right now, she is seated in the front row and watching her first grandchild in awe. She knows the sacrifices were worth it.


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