Soyikwa Players

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Soyikwa Players is a progressive theatre company founded and run by Matsemela Manaka (1955-1998).

Also called Soyikwa Theatre, Soyikwa Drama Group, Soyikwa Dance Project, or simply Soyikwa.

The company

Influenced by the Black Consciousness Movement of the late 1960s and directly inspired by the 1978 youth uprising, it was founded by Manaka in 1978. Conceived as an instrument in the emerging cultural struggle and functioning as a workshop project, it engaged with young people in Soweto and did outreach work in rural areas. The original members included Ronnie Mkwanazi, Danny Moitse, David Sebe, and Makarious Sebe. Although faced with limited resources Manaka worked with determination with the likes of Ray Hlongwane, Sibongile Khumalo, Maishe Maponya, Motumi Makhene, John Ledwaba, Ali Hlongwane and Job Kubatsi. The idea was to found and develop a project that what is variouly referred to as the Soyikwa Institute for African Art or the Soyikwa Institute for African Theatre).

According to Hlongwane (1988), the project was named after Wole Soyinka, but the title also carried the symbolic meaning of "We shall overcome".

They produced provocative and enlightened stage productions including Imbumba, Vuka and Pula which were presented at international theatre festivals in London, Edinburgh, Berlin and Copenhagen. (Tribute to Manaka written by Sandile Memela, published in City Press, 2 August 1998).

In 1979 Manaka's Egoli: City of Gold was developed "under the auspices of Soyikwa" and produced at The Space in August.. Also did Pula (1981 to 1984), *** and Domba: The Last Dance (1986) by Manaka as well as a number of plays by other playwrights, including Zakes Mda (The Road, Dead End, Dark Voices Ring), *** and ***. (see ) [**THIS NEEDS FOLLOW UP* See Steadman?*] Soyikwa: A company which presented Matsemela Manaka’s Vuka downstairs at the Wits Theatre in March 1986 after its run at the Market Theatre. ****

A folder marked Soyikwa African Theatre Productions (containing, previews, reviews, press cuttings, and information sheets on productions staged by the theatre) contains information on plays like Imbumba by Matsemela Manaka; the Shaka excerpt from Ogun Abbibiman by Wole Soyinka; Vuka by Matsemela Manaka; Pula by Matsemela Manaka; Children of Asazi by Matsemela Manaka; The Eve by Jerry Raletebele;

Other productions ascribed to them are Sego (The African Calabash) (1988),

Soyikwa Institute of African Theatre


Ali Khangela Hlongwane. 1988. The Soyikwa Institute of African Theatre and Its Rural Theatre Project. African Languages and Cultures (Vol. 1, No. 2 (1988), pp. 163-167 Taylor & Francis, Ltd.

Robert Kavanagh 1985. Theatre and Cultural Struggle in South Africa. London: Zed Books.

Loren Kruger 1999. The Drama of South Africa: Plays, Pageants and Publics Since 1910. London: Routledge

Sandile Memela. 1998. Tribute to Manaka , City Press 2 August 1998

Shap! (Soweto History and Archives Project)[1]

Ian Steadman 1985a. Drama and social consciousness: themes in Black theatre on the Witwatersrand until 1984. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Johannesburg: University of the Witwatersrand.

Percy Tucker. 1997. Just the Ticket. My 50 Years in Show Business. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press.

Soyikwa African Theatre Productions: Folder containing, previews, reviews, press cuttings, and information sheets on productions staged by the theatre.

Various entries in the NELM catalogue.

Go to ESAT Bibliography

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