City Press reviews: Beneath the Armour

2016-11-27 06:01
The Moth (Photo: City Press)

Johannesburg - Stand back. Shut up. Listen. It is something we all have. And it is unique. It is a story. Last week, as part of a partnership to commemorate World Aids Day on December 1, and as a way of highlighting how much more needs to be done, The Moth came to Joburg’s The Market theatre.

The Moth is an American organisation that has, since 1997, been helping people from all walks of life tell their stories. The event at the historic theatre in Newtown was the first in South Africa and featured five storytellers from the continent. With just a standing mic, a spotlight and violinist David Delaney to keep storytellers to time, the stage was set.

The hostess was Dame Wilburn, who introduces the storytellers as well as getting the audience comfortable in their seats with tales from her own life.

As the showcase, titled Beneath the Armour, was part of a World Aids Day programme, the stories centred on issues of identity, women’s rights and stigma.

Lesotho’s Lepheana Mosoonane, the Avac (an HIV prevention advocacy group) voluntary medical male circumcision advocacy fellow, told the story of how he moved from stigmatising those around him to working to eradicate the stigma in those around him. It is a riveting tale of change, of how information feeds compassion and how compassion creates in us a space to care for others.

Zambian activist Chilufya Kasanda’s tale of how her body was not considered her own after marriage might shock some, but in our toxic patriarchy it is a familiar scourge that her personal story drives home.

South Africa’s Gethwana Mahlase got the crowd laughing with her anecdotes about starting her own NGO in rural KwaZulu-Natal. But the laughter belies the real challenges this fine woman faces down daily in caring for and educating a community destroyed by this virus. Similarly, Zimbabwe’s Chamunorwa Mashoko’s seemingly slight tale of how he had to chop off his dreads to get a job speaks volumes about the myriad ways we build identity and how a virus like HIV can disrupt our sense of who we are.

Mary Kalimi Valai, from Kenya, rounded off with her achingly personal tale of discovering her status and how she and her family rebuilt her sense of self.Continually driving home the HIV/Aids message to people who aren’t inclined to listen and to those for whom sexual and biological rights are a pipe dream is eternally difficult. Finding new ways to package the message is paramount and this powerful medium is a revelation.

Everyone has a story; everyone tells their stories to someone – a mother, a lover, a friend. The Moth organisation helps people tell their stories in a way that amplifies the universal themes that run through all our individual stories.

A showcase such as this should travel to town halls around the country to teach us all to listen more closely to the stories of those around us. After all, it is the oldest form of information transfer known to the human race.

Visit to hear more stories. The Market theatre stories will be broadcast on eNCA and on 702

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