Making Mandela and Insta-Grammar were both featured performances during the Cradle of Creativity’s Focus Day on Theatre for Social Change, held on Saturday 20th May 2017 at Guga S’thebe Arts and Cultural Centre in Langa Township.
Making Mandela, produced by Hello Elephant (Dir. Jenine Collocott), features the coming-of-age story of Nelson Mandela. The narrative follows his life from birth to when he first became a social activist, giving the audience a personal perspective on his childhood and adolescence. The story of the young Mandela seemed to strike at the hearts of the young people at the Theatre – the tension in the room was almost palpable as the young people responded very viscerally to the poignant moments of the Performance from their seats. Certainly, Making Mandela is an excellent way of engaging members of South Africa’s ‘Born-Free’ generation (those born after Apartheid) in the early history of their country’s most prolific Social Activist.
On the other hand, Insta-Grammar, produced by Drama For Life (Dir. Hamish Neill), explores Social Activism through a more contemporary subject matter. Following the lives of four teenagers living in the 21st century, it focuses on social media and its role in their lives. The Piece eloquently demonstrates how interactions between young people, as well as the ways in which young people view themselves, are all increasingly mediated through social media platforms. Whilst the narrative was situated in the context of Johannesburg, its core message, that social media has the potential to corrupt the self-esteem and relationships of adolescents, seemed to resonate with all of the young audience members regardless of their background or hometown. Strikingly, the Piece went on to offer a clear path towards resisting the negative effects of social media – inspiring and motivating the young audience members to think about their role in changing social media for the better.
While the two Productions detailed different topics during different eras, and were completely contrasting in narrative, they paralleled each other well in both acting as a call to action – inspiring young people to become activists of social change.