Classical Redefining womanhood

Redefining womanhood

He sits comfortably on the small coffee table in the Hangar, his dreadlocks lying loosely over his shoulders. He speaks with ease and confidence when addressing questions about his role in directing a play about women’s issues. “The question that I am often asked is, ‘Why is a man directing a play all about women’?” says Clive Mathibe, playwright and director of 8 Minuets.

Issues such as women in the workplace, female initiation, child-headed homes and spirituality are represented in each of the four characters. There are also four different spirits which express the aspect of the ‘silent’ woman. They say the things that the women essentially cannot. “In pre-apartheid theatre men dominated the strong and meaty roles.

So I became interested in creating meaty roles for black women,” he said. The term minuets refer to a slow static dance and in the play it is used as a metaphor to tell the stories of these women. The play makes use of physical theatre and dance and incorporates a cappella singing and music which was composed by Mathibe himself. “I choose to combine physical theatre and movement because I believe in a play you need to appeal to all the senses. Some things are said better physically than in words,” Mathibe says.

One character explores the role of a woman entering into a male dominated environment and having to fight her way up the corporate ladder. Another issue addressed is that of child headed homes. “Due to circumstances she has to be an adult before she is a child. When she gets her period she thinks she is being punished by God. She doesn’t know how to be a woman,” says Mathibe.

A further character looks at what happens when a woman raised in the Christian faith has been called to become a traditional healer. She now has to define herself as a person and not by her faith. The fourth woman has been forced into initiation as part of her culture in order to become a woman. Mathibe says he is giving a voice to issues outside of those addressed by mainstream theatre. “There is a new breed of directors, theatre-makers and performers not afraid to go outside the boundaries set and revolutionise theatre,” he says.

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