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Nomathemba ("hope") is a play by Eric Simonson (1960-)[1], Joseph Shabalala (1941-2020) and Ntozake Shange (1948-2018)[2].

The original text

The play's title comes from the song "Nomathemba", written by Joseph Shabalala (1940–2020) round about 1965, the play was created for Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago in 1995.

The plot, jointly created/written by Simonson, Shabalala and Shange, is set in post-apartheid South Africa and uses the familiar "Jim comes to Jo'burg" theme, to tell the story of the spirited and restless young rural village girl "Nomathemba", who is being courted by the proud and handsome "Bongani", nevertheless decides to go to the big city of Johannesburg to "find herself". Bongani pursues her and they both go through many changes and suffer many hardships before they are at last reunited and marry.

The premier production was created for and produced by Steppenwolf Theatre,Chicago, in 1995. Directed by Eric Simonson, with choreography by Joseph Shabalala, the cast consisted of Vanita Harbour (1968-)[3](playing "Nomathemba") and Ntare Mwine(1967-) [4] (playing "Bongani") and a cast of 23 South African and African-American players, including Dumisani Dlamini as a shrewd, snappy man of the streets. Set design was by Loy Arcenas, costumes by Karin Kopischke and lighting by James F. Ingalls. The play

It also played in the Kennedy Center, Washington (April 1996) and at Boston’s Shubert Theatre.

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

As far as can be ascertained, the play has not been performed in South Africa yet.


Richard Christiansen. 1995. "Nomathemba raises hopes, and fulfills them", The Chicago Tribune 10 April 1995.[5]

J. Wynn Rousuck. 1996. "Nomathemba sings of hope, wariness, Theater Review: Musical is joyous storytelling, but offers a reminder of what was in apartheid South Africa", The Baltimore Sun, 23 April, 1996[6]

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