Contemporary issues of identity, class, and heritage are explored with comedic grace in the 11-minute epic Cwaka.
Conceptualised and performed by Siyabonga Mthembu, Jefferson Tshabalala, and Tony Miyambo, Cwaka takes a look at the idea of belonging in the age of Soundcloud rap and Siri. Equipped with a MacBook air and keyboard sampler, Miyambo and Mthembu’s characters present us with “the first ever listening session slash cleansing slash umcimbi in Mzansi” – cue trap sirens.
Tshabalala plays the part of the cousin “from the village” and while he dons his overalls and speaks only in vernacular, the other two sip champagne, puff on vapes, and lay uninspired, Americanised lyrics over “traditional gqom”. It is a hilarious and sharply written show, all tied together by the discerning directorial skills of Phala O. Phala.
Like all good epics, Cwaka draws towards a memorable climactic point when, after a few failed attempts to slaughter a live sheep (“We’ve got a special guest, his name’s Richard aka Richie Wi-Fi”), Miyambo’s character breaks down. Although the scene is brief, it manages to touch on issues of ancestry, culture, and contemporary identity – a quick shot of reality amidst the laughter.
Ultimately, Cwaka puts forward the question of how we go about navigating our spiritualty in the world of hyper-connectivity. It’s a mammoth inquiry that the cast manage to wrap up and present in a simple line: “Hey Siri,” says Miyambo’s character into his iPhone, “Where do I belong?”
CONCEPTUALISED AND PERFORMED BY | Siyabonga Mthembu | Jefferson Tshabalala | Tony Miyambo
DIRECTED BY | Phala O. Phala
WRITER | Dave Mann
VIDEO ENGINEER & EDITOR | Noah Cohen
STILLS PHOTOGRAPHER | Nina Lieska