The power of telling my own story
A theatre production in Pretoria by director and producer, Surprise Netshioswi, seeks to normalise homosexuality in conservative households.
The great Dr Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”. These are the words that inspire me as a writer. As a writer I strive for perfection which can only be achieved through challenge. It was for that reason that when an opportunity presented itself into my life I grabbed it.
Every year the University of Pretoria’s Drama department hosts an annual student festival known as Kopanong during the month of July. During this festival, artists run their performances for an entire week and when I discovered that as an honours student it is mandatory to write and direct a theatrical production, I knew it was time to expand my horizon as a writer.
During the festival I was presented with an opportunity to either adopt an already written play or write a new play. I opted to write a new play. For the past few years I have been on a journey of sharing my untold story. When Kopanong came knocking, I saw an opportunity to share my story in a different medium, theatre.
As a young homosexual man of colour, there is always a great story to tell. That’s what inspired my production for the festival. Titled Mme, my play is inspired by the life I have shared with my mother. It particularly follows one event of my life, my sexual identity and how my mother treated me during the time she learned about it. Though the production follows a relationship of a single mother and her son, in reality my parents are still together.
Coming out about my sexuality I had hoped for my mother to shield me and protect me. But that was not the case. Influenced by the community and the stereotypes around homosexuality, usually associated with evil spirits, it wasn’t easy for my mother to accept it at first. It’s been many years now and we do not talk about my sexuality. But I am glad that my relationship with my mother is stronger than before. I have always wanted a mother who has an interest in my life’s journey and the struggle with accepting my sexuality somehow resulted in something even greater that I have always wanted.
My production Mme follows the story of my life. Working with two great actors, Musa Mngadi, who plays the character Mkhize Tembi (the mother) and Amkele Shembe who plays the character Ayanda Mkhize (the son) has granted me a prospect to revisit my teenage self and look at things differently.
Through these characters, I have realised that there is a need to educate each other about who we are, and staging this play is one way of normalizing of my sexuality.
Through my production of Mme during Kopanong, my main aim was to disseminate a message that not only entertains but also educates people about my sexuality by normalizing the character Ayanda, who is homosexual but desires his mother’s love and happiness.