Mama Winnie watches the musical she inspired

2017-04-02 08:58
A fresh take on the classic musical Sarafina!. (Photo: Leon Sadiki/City Press)

Johannesburg - On Friday night, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela attended a performance of Sarafina!, a musical she inspired while cooking in her kitchen in Orlando.

A frail Madikizela-Mandela was expected to be called up on to the stage at the end of the performance at the State Theatre in Pretoria, but it wasn’t to be.

She watched the show away from prying eyes in one of the theatre’s private boxes.

City Press did manage to get a quick comment from her at the end of the show, before being shoved out of the way by burly bodyguards.

She said: "For me it was very nostalgic. The performance was absolutely wonderful and stunning. I cannot believe that anyone can recreate something to this extent; Mbongeni has a very special talent. It is as relevant today as it was those many years ago ... real freedom is still coming."


Sarafina! has returned with a new lead actress, Noxolo Dlamini, who is filling the shoes of Leleti Khumalo, who made the musical famous.

Sarafina! came about during a conversation between its writer and director, Mbongeni Ngema, and Madikizela-Mandela.

"That evening, I was standing in Winnie Mandela’s kitchen as she was preparing supper for her children," Ngema said.

"I asked her: ‘Mama, what do you think would happen when we finally face the Boers’ army?’ She replied: ‘Mbongeni, I wish I had a big blanket to cover the faces of the little ones, so that they do not see the bitter end.’

"As I drove to my house that evening, those words echoed in my mind and I started hearing voices of students singing, ‘Freedom is Coming Tomorrow’, and that became the centre piece for my work. From that day, I started writing the script and composing music," Ngema said.

The musical manages to keep the essence of the original story, although some parts have been slightly altered.

The cast closely resembles that of the 1992 film adaptation and does a stellar job of capturing the spirit of the original play.

Dlamini manages to embody the energy, vigour, charm and fearlessness of lead character Sarafina, which audiences have always loved.

However, her Model C accent slightly took away from emotive delivery.

With amazing vocal performances, Mbaqanga jams, fused with jazz, rhythm, blues and gospel, expect to be taken on a unique experience and fresher take on the story.

Ngema was delighted that so many young children came to see the show.

"This is their history, they should know where the country comes from and know how hard their parents struggled for their freedom," he said.

Somizi Mhlongo, the initial choreographer of the musical and subsequent star in the film, was also due to attend but wasn’t present.


(A scene from Sarafina!. Photo: Leon Sadiki/City Press)

The show runs until May 20. Tickets cost between R100 and R180