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Unpacking Hlakanyana’s sonic journey towards the stage

A contemporary take on a classic South African folktale is being introduced to the world this September through Hlakanyana’s musical animation preview this Heritage Day.

The work was commissioned by UJ’s Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture in 2020 as part of the faculty’s flagship Interdisciplinary Theatre Programme. Despite a year fraught with turbulence and uncertainty, Madevu Entertainment – led by Zolani Shangase and Michael William Wallace and director Janice Honeyman – went on to develop, workshop, and create a brand new South African play, primarily using digital communication platforms. 

Ahead of The Sounds of Hlakanyana, we reached out to UJ Arts & Culture’s Lakin Morgan-Baatjies, Madevu Entertainment’s Zolani Shangase, and performer Momo Matsunyane to find out more about the process of developing the work, its inherent themes, and its location in a contemporary South African setting.

The sonic journey towards Hlakanyana

The Sounds of Hlakanyana is a journey towards the staged version of Hlakanyana. It’s all a journey towards Hlakanyana.’

Lakin Morgan-Baatjies

What is Hlakanyana about?

Hlakanyana is about a young man/boy/child born to a king and queen under very mysterious circumstances. Upon his birth his father decides that this is not his son and decides to banish him from the land… We follow [Hlakanyana] trying to navigate the world on his own.’

Momo Matsunyane

Creating the Sounds of Hlakanyana in a virtual environment

‘Devising music online, it was quite a challenge as you can imagine… We had to do a lot of the groundwork individually… each person had a journey to follow in terms of the music.’

Zolani Shangase

Crafting a staged production online

‘It doesn’t diminish its importance. By having this digital iteration, it elevates the theatre experience.’

Lakin Morgan-Baatjies

Themes in Hlakanyana

‘Very huge themes of Nature vs Nurture and how you move through the world depending on where you’re from.’

Zolani Shangase

‘What I really appreciate is the exploration of African ritual and the importance of handing down lessons.’

Momo Matsunyane

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