Matsunyane, Motshabi and the Zwakala Festival

The 2022 Zwakala Festival opened on a highly exciting note. Out of numerous applications, eight plays were chosen to participate and perform at Barney Simon Theatre.

The Zwakala Festival is a community-based theatre that seeks to actively develop, nurture and promote new writers, actors, and directors. It acts as a platform for connecting communities. This year, The Market Theatre Foundation appointed Momo Matsunyane as the Festival director.

“My objective is to bring a variety of plays that represents a multitude of voices from marginalised communities,” Matsunyane said.

One of the plays that stood out is Blacks Don’t Cry. It is a play about four South African men who find themselves imprisoned by emotional oppression and mental disillusions caused by social standards of living in cities; away from their hometowns.

It might not seem like a classical story but Blacks Don’t Cry is a well-crafted piece of art that excels at exposing the dysfunctionality in which democratic South Africa’s working class communities lives. Though it’s told in a very complicated but interesting way; this is a thought-provoking story. The play starts with the release of Nelson Mandela from prison; people rejoice and are optimistic about the beginning of a new era. Suddenly it skips to Jacob Zuma’s tenure as president; people looking for jobs, fees must fall protests and leaders engulfed in corruption.

The following scenes unpack the lives of ordinary working-class men living in South Africa, who work far away from their homes and families enduring inhumane working conditions and day-to-day pressures that come with working in the big city.

Written by Linda Wa Ka Shabangu, one could not resist how relatable the storyline is. University graduates sit unemployed with their qualifications and working class people working tirelessly for peanuts that cannot even sustain their unbearable living conditions.

The director of the play, Thabo Motshabi, put together a talented cast to deliver the outstanding tale of a defective democratic society. As the story changed from scene to scene, one could not dismiss the poignant mood in the room that was occasionally graced with laughter. This play portrayed all characters with a good level of credibility. At some point, one could hear the audience moaning and grumbling, with slight remarks, ” what did we do to deserve these living conditions?” The audience was fully immersed in the play. As it continued it was amazing to witness how the cast skilfully gave each scene a distinguished meaning.

This theatre offering is undoubtedly a must-see. If you think working class men’s struggles are often not told, this is a story worth hearing.

This article was submitted on 13 December 2022. You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and Karibu! Online (, and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.

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