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MAXEKE is a new puppetry and object theatre production which brings the worlds and words of intellectual, activist and artist Charlotte Maxeke to life, as a means through which to reimagine our collective future in new ways.

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Directed by Itumeleng wa Lehulere, MAXEKE is brought to you by the Centre for Humanities Research (CHR), University of the Western Cape, in collaboration with the Ukwanda Puppets and Design Collective. MAXEKE is based on an original script by Buhle Ngaba and PhD research by former CHR fellow, Dr Thozama April, with musical direction by Neo Muyanga, puppetry direction by Aja Marneweck, and projection design and creation by Kirstin Cummings.

In partnership with the CHR, the collaborating artists have embarked on a visual and sonic co-creation inspired by the UWC doctoral research of Dr Thozama April (currently at University of Fort Hare) on the life of Charlotte Maxeke.

Maxeke is called the ‘Mother of the Liberation Struggle’ in South Africa and 2021 was deemed the year of Charlotte Maxeke. Yet so little is known of her intellectual, political, and artistic significance. Maxeke was the first Black woman from South Africa to graduate with a university degree in the sciences, which she received from Wilberforce University in the USA in 1903.  She became a renowned intellectual of the Black Atlantic, an early political campaigner for women’s rights in South Africa, and a hugely significant thinker and modernist at the turn of the 20th Century.

Her intellectual leadership influenced many of the early leaders of the freedom struggle. Maxeke was also an artist and singer, and her astounding experiences across the world as a member of the African Jubilee Choir in Europe and North America in the late 1890’s provide the production with references of her remarkable, worldly life experiences.

Re-imagining Maxeke’s ideas and life’s work through puppetry arts, combines memory, history and object theatre to breathe life into the story of an extraordinary South African woman. The original rod puppets for the production are created by the Ukwanda Puppets and Design Collective with Ukwanda’s Luyanda Nogondlwana as head designer in collaboration with master puppet maker, Adrian Kohler of Handspring Puppet Company. Kinetic objects and puppetry combine with set and lighting design by Patrick Curtis and Kirsti Cumming’s multimedia projections to drive the visual world of the production which cuts between past and present. Neo Muyanga’s re-working of the musical legacies of the famous African Jubilee Choir are also brought to life by a stellar cast of singers, musicians and puppeteers led by Babalwa Zimbini, Noxolo Blandile, Carlo Daniels, Ntando Ngcume, Vuyolwethu Dunge, Marty Kintu, Sipho Ngxola and Siphokazi Mpofu.

The production premieres at the Star Theatre at the District Six Homecoming Centre (formerly the Fugard Theatre) on the 7th of February until the 11th of February, 2023. Click here to Book your tickets.

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