Joseph Komani: All the world's a stage

Joseph Komani is revelling in the success of his production, 'Xova'.
Joseph Komani is revelling in the success of his production, 'Xova'.

Playwright Joseph Komani may have not been raised in the deep valleys of the Eastern Cape but his interest in his culture bagged him two awards last week.

The proud Xhosa first bagged the Ovation Award at the week-long National Arts Festival before he was called on stage to grab his major prize, the Standard Bank Gold Ovation Award - both for his exceptional production of the stage play Xova.

In his own language, Komani explained that the play uses creativity to narrate a story that is a reality to most black South African women.

In it a Xhosa single mother from an Eastern Cape village is trying her best to grant her daughter the best opportunities in the absence of a father figure in her life.

The father vanishes and returns home nine years later to claim back his position as man of the house.

The 29-year-old from Centurion in Pretoria says he had always heard such stories being told about households in the villages and decided to address the subject in a play in his home language.

"It sounds so overdone but we looked deeply into the promises from mother to child and what we can call forgiveness. It's a beautiful story; the award says it all," says Komani.

The young director says he started acting at the SA State Theatre in Pretoria in 2007 after he visited the huge theatre building to enquire about theatre plays.

He says he had always been interested in entertainment and craved to hear applause from crowds who cherished his work. He immediately started after-school drama studies at Monnyth Drama House, based at the theatre.

"I was still in high school at the time but I always had a thing for theatre. I could not resist it. I am fortunate that I did not stay far. They granted me an opportunity to be mentored by big names in the industry, such as Paul Grootboom. I knew I would follow this path when I matriculated," he says.

A year after matric, Komani started writing plays, the first beingInterpretation, which was showcased at the same theatre. He followed this up with numerous plays including Twister, Naledi Award-nominated Mother and Child, and The Story of Solomon Plaatje.

"It is dedication, passion and respect for my craft that landed me here. My first award is the most precious and I hope that youngsters wishing to be in this space will realise that it is not true that the beauty of this space is fading."

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