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Posted on: Monday, 21 June 2010

‘African Songbook: A Musical Tribute to the life of Nelson Mandela’ at Artscape

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African Songbook

African Songbook

We were invited last night to the opening performance of ‘African Songbook: A Musical Tribute to the life of Nelson Mandela’ at the Artscape Theatre in Cape Town.

The show is composed of three acts and opens up at the initiation ceremony of young Xhosa men, Mandela included, in the Eastern Cape.  It is here that Madiba defies tradition and refuses to take a wife, opting instead to leave the hills of his homeland and move to Johannesburg.  The young Mandela is portrayed by Edward Phiri.  I enjoyed this act – the cast of a traditionally dressed Xhosa tribe was wonderful with the colours, costumes and facial makeup completely capturing the spirit of the tribe …

The second act moves to jazzy Sophiatown.  In this act our freedom activisit Mandela is played by Aubrey Lodewyk and the audience gets the sense of how the Sophiatown public were already beginning to seek advice and leadership from Mandela.  Gloria Bosman takes on the role of the Shebeen Queen and her powerful voice indicates that Sophiatown in the 1950’s was a vibrant, happening place.  The music of this act portrays that vibrancy; the cast dances fantastically and the mood is only shattered with the sound of the apartheid security police bulldozers wrecking the lives and homes of the residents of this area.

The performance ends with the third act which is a 40 minute opera.  Mandela the statesman is played by Ntobeko Rwanqa who impressed with his singing and acting – it must be very difficult to portray the life of such a great man!

I enjoyed my evening at the Artscape.  The costumes, lighting, music from the orchestra, singing, dancing and performances from the cast and the three Mandela’s were all outstanding.  Music was performed by The Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, the Cape Town Opera Chorus, the Fezeka High School Choir and Gloria Bosman.

There will be another two performances of African Songbook on June 19th (2.30pm and 7.30pm) – so if you want a break from the soccer you know where to go!

Artscape – book at Computicket
Tickets from R100.00

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Helen Rushton


After living in London and travelling the world for many years and more recently living in the Mother City, I now reside on a tranquil sugar cane farm in Kearsney; an area steeped in the history of South Africa’s sugar industry. During the summer months I get involved with the community by assisting the local primary school with swimming lessons at our country club. Some of my favourite things are reading or picking freshly grown vegetables and Iceland poppies in our garden. Milly, my boxer loves her walks to the river that runs through our farm and sometimes, Sandy the cat I hand reared, joins us for a stroll!

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