I went to Alexandra Township to watch a rehearsal for a play. Five women participated in the rehearsal: four actresses and the writer/director.

The rehearsal took place in a shop — selling soap, floor polish, and other household cleaners — that is about half the size of my kitchen.

Rehearsal

Four gorgeous women, practicing their art amidst bottles and buckets of soap and floor polish. They have to pause what they’re doing when customers come in to buy things.

Alexandra, which locals call Alex, is an extraordinary place. It is Joburg’s oldest, most densely populated, most notorious township. There are 180,00 people (give or take) living in Alex, which spans about seven square kilometers (2.7 square miles). That translates to 26,000 people per square kilometer, a large portion of whom are living in tiny shacks. (Read my previous posts about Alex here, here, and here.)

Alex is burdened by poverty, crime, lack of resources, and a serious lack of space. It’s beautiful and inspiring (at least I think it is), but it’s a difficult place to make art.

The women I met yesterday aren’t deterred by these challenges. These women are using what they have — their intelligence, talent, and the few resources available — to create something beautiful.

Nothemba1

Writer/director Nothemba Sulupha talks about her play, which is called Wombman.

I was incredibly moved by this rehearsal. I cried through most of it, especially during the singing.

Musa

Musa Happiness Mkhize.

Mapule

Mapule Pinky Monyelo.

Mantala

Mantala Nkoatse.

Pretty

Pretty Buhle Ngcobo.

This play is going to be part of the Women’s Theatre Festival in Alex, taking place from 25-27 October. I’m not going to tell you what the play is about because I want you to go see it (and the other plays in the festival) for yourself. Learn more about the festival here.

Nothemba2

Thank you Nothemba, Musa, Mapule, Mantala, and Pretty for showing me some things that I really needed to see. I can’t wait for your performance.

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