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Iyeza dispels Covid-19 myths

By Nkululeko Mgenge

The eye-opening interprovincial show caters to a range of audiences who are usually left out of mainstream media messaging about the virus and vaccine.

Iyeza which translates to ‘it is coming’, showcases how Covid-19 education can be fun and engaging to all audiences. The performance, hosted by StageFright Edutainment is a Covid-19 Industrial Theatre Awareness Roadshow which has toured across the country and has been performed in local languages. Iyeza provides factual information about vaccination registration and staying protected from Covid-19. The roadshow encourages safety through talking about mask protocol, hand sanitising, social distancing, self-quarantining, and vaccination. The message is communicated  through a live theatre piece which includes music and dance. The target audiences are special-needs schools, old age homes, homes for people living with disabilities, and disadvantaged care organisations around the country.   

The production aims to educate South Africans from many walks of life about how to stay safe during the pandemic. Nhlakanipho Khumalo, one of the performers in Iyeza says that as an actor it is their duty to give the audience perspective.

StageFright provincial rollouts

‘Covid-19 is real, and our people are misled with myths about the vaccine having microchips and 5G to control their minds. It was my first time performing in special-needs schools and homes which is a great initiative; those audiences are normally sidelined. I could see the happiness in their eyes when we performed,’ he shares with Creative Feel.

The audience felt like they could relate to the performance, and MaNdlovu, an audience member from Ebuhleni Old Age Home says that she’s grateful for the performance.

‘Now that we are knowledgeable about the vaccine we will vaccinate. We have been vaccinating for all other diseases so we will vaccinate for this one as well. Old age homes are normally abandoned when it comes to such educational shows.’

MaNdlovu

She was jubilant after the show and enjoyed the fact that the information was delivered in her home language.  Covid-19 edutainment is of paramount importance in presenting accurate information and catering for a range of audiences. Educational theatre is the best vehicle to communicate such messages to a live audience, enlightening them and fostering conscious decision-making about their health. The production offers an antagonist who believes in Covid-19 myths and spouts fake news about the vaccine. In contrast, the protagonist opposes these myths using facts and science, and in this way the audience goes on a journey of Covid-19 awareness.

Tiro Venter, StageFright’s executive director and producer, says that the value of education theatre, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, is immeasurable.

‘We believe that the value of Educational Theatre or TFI, is immeasurable. It provides similar educational or awareness value as other forms of mainstream media do. The main difference with our approach as StageFright Edutainment in this particular project was that we are able to provide awareness to communities that are mostly overlooked by mainstream media for various reasons. We use it to complement mainstream media in areas which are not covered,’ says Venter.

Tiro Venter

Iyeza catered for everyone and made audience members active participants rather than passive observers. The message is communicated before their eyes, allowing for audience agency.

Gifter Ngobeni, one of the performers says: ‘The majority of people in our society can’t read, others find reading difficult, so they comprehend better through visuals. The educational theatre interactive approach of sharing information is very impressive and caters for all.’

Nhlakanipho and Gifter

StageFright Edutainment is successful in disseminating factual and potentially life-saving messages about Covid-19 to communities that are often overlooked by mainstream media. By using vernacular languages, relatable characters, and strong visuals, Iyeza dispels rumours and misinformation swirling around Covid-19 and the vaccine, and demonstrates how art can make health, science, and social messaging accessible and engaging.

Iyeza hosted by StageFright Edutainment

Iyeza hosted by StageFright Edutainment (entire cast rehearsal)

Iyeza hosted by StageFright Edutainment (song rehearsal)

Nkululeko Mgenge is a creative artist and actor, children’s theatre practitioner, facilitator, storyteller and entrepreneur. He holds a Btech in drama from Tshwane University of Technology and is currently doing his Advanced Diploma in Project Management. He is based in Pretoria, originally from KwaZulu-Natal, Mtubatuba.

This review was published as part of the Creative Feel My Art Radar project which was made possible by the National Arts Council’s PESP programme.

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