The Gift is a story about love, about resilience, about hope and about generosity. It is also a story about rape and brutality.
“Corrective rape” is a disingenuous term coined to define the widespread practice of raping lesbians in South Africa. Though homosexual partnerships are recognised and protected by the South African Constitution, there is violent homophobia in many communities. It is commonly held that a lesbian can be made into a heterosexual woman by the act of rape; these crimes are often gang rapes, and frequently so brutal that the victims die. In Cape Town alone, more than ten lesbians per week are raped.
Umculo has made music theatre addressing social issues with international and local artists in South Africa since 2010. In May of 2017, Umculo took “Schande”, a production which addressed themes of violence against women through the music of Schubert, to three disadvantaged communities in Cape Town. In Langa, a 19-year-old woman was brutally raped and murdered a few hundred metres from the venue the day after the performance of “Schande”. Fatima Dike, a Langa-based playwright with whom Umculo has collaborated since 2014, suggested that it was time to make a piece in Langa, for Langa, specifically addressing the issue of corrective rape.
Fatima Dike will collaborate with Langa-based composer Lungiswa Plaaitjes, who works with traditional Xhosa instruments and performance styles, and Thabisa Dinga, a Langa-based dancer and choreographer, to create a work of music theatre around the story of Belinda.
Fatima and Belinda met in one of the writers’ workshops which Fatima runs. Belinda wrote down her story, which is the basis of “The Gift”. Abducted by four men who chained her to a bed in a remote house, Belinda was gang raped over several days. She managed to escape, but was pregnant.
A block from the house where she lived with her child, a man used to sit on the corner, waiting for her to pass, and say, “One day I will show you that you are not a man.” He raped her, and she bore a second child.
Today, Belinda lives in a stable and loving relationship with her partner, and the pair work to help lesbians in their community find safety.
While homosexual men are finding their voice in South African society, lesbians are afraid to speak out on the issue of corrective rape, for fear of reprisals. Only when the LGBTI community dares to speak openly about corrective rape, believes Dike, will there be a chance to change the prevalent attitudes. “The Gift” is a step towards voicing the horror, with a strong undercurrent of traditional Xhosa culture and wisdom, and an ultimate message of hope.
“The Gift” will be a multi-media performance, bringing together traditional Xhosa music with western instruments, dance with acting, improvisation with notation, and spoken texts with song. Devised by an all-female team of Cape Town-based artists and performers, supported by Umculo’s international network of theatre-makers, “The Gift” will use excellence and innovation in the performing arts as a vehicle to communicate strongly around taboo subjects within its own community.
Made locally, “The Gift” will be firmly rooted in Xhosa language and cultural expression, but will carry a powerful message to audiences nationally and internationally.
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