TIKA – Zulu for ‘the one who liked to indulge’ – is the creation of South African professional actor Sizwe Vilakazi. It is a one man show inspired by his own life growing up in Soweto.
Sizwe Vilakazi first worked with Action Transport Theatre (ATT) as a performer in ‘Tselane’s Song’, a co-production with Vulavulani Theatre Company, Soweto, South Africa touring the UK in 2004. He subsequently toured the UK with ATT and Vulavulani co-productions of ‘Tselane’s Song’ in 2005 and 2006 and ‘Gogo’ in 2006. His South African work includes a Vulavulani Theatre Company Johannesburg tour of ‘Dumisani’s Drum’ (originally an ATT production), innumerable story telling and drama workshops in Soweto and at The National School of the Arts in Johannesburg, directing ‘Renaissance’, a youth theatre group in Soweto, and an appearance in the popular SABC soapie, ‘Zone 14′.
TIKA is a contemporary township play that is designed to give hope to the youth about their future and also to create a theatre piece that reflects a changing society in the fairly new democracy of post-apartheid South Africa.
Sizwe describes the story as follows: ‘A young boy who lives in a shack in a township alone. He has no source of income. That creates a struggle for him through school until he finishes matric. The challenge begins when he is out of school because all the support systems fall off and survival becomes a daily struggle for him. All this turns him into a criminal. The play is about him, the challenges he goes through and the choices he makes’.
THE DEVELOPMENT PROCESS
2007 Sizwe worked with ATT and Vulavulani Theatre Company to work on the ideas and story of the play. The process focussed on trying new ways of using material and adding to and physicalising stories to create a fiction based on fact. Development time took place in Ellesmere Port, UK, and Soweto, South Africa and was led by Guy Christiansen and Louie Ingham (then ATT’s Associate Director and Projects Manager respectively), supported by Joe Sumsion (then ATT’s Artistic Director/Chief Executive). Work was put on hold partly due to a management change at ATT and partly because Vulavulani Theatre Company ceased to be a functioning company.
2009 Further development took place in Soweto in April with ATT’s then Executive Director, Sarah Clover, then Chair, David Selzer, and myself, as the company’s resident photographer, working with Sizwe to re-establish the process for developing the play. It was agreed that ATT would support Sizwe in developing his play as a writer first and foremost, with a view to working with him on the production of the play in the future for young audiences in the UK. (As part the support John Clover provided Sizwe with a laptop). ATT would also support Sizwe in finding ways to test and produce the play in South Africa. During the rest of the year and into early 2010, ATT provided dramaturgical support by email and phone. As part of this process, the company arranged for Sizwe to meet Yvette Hardie – who has supported much of Sizwe’s work in South Africa since.
2010 Nina Hajiyianni, then ATT’s Associate Director, David Selzer and I spent a week in South Africa in April/May 2010.
Directed by Sowetan writer/director Welile Buyeye, Sizwe rehearsed his work in progress in Piri Community Hall. He had, by now, decided to return to his former authentic and traditional form of presenting the piece – township theatre style where the performer carries a bag of basic props from venue to venue and relies on a simple form of storytelling.
The news soon spread that there was something going on in Piri Hall!
Sizwe performed at two venues in Soweto. First, the Sekano Ntoane Secondary School where most of the students had never seen any sort of live theatre so there was much excitement and anticipation.
Photography was prohibited at the Walter Sisulu Centre (a young offenders’ institution). However, three of the guards who had rigorously searched our transport on the way in were keen to pose for a photograph on the way out!
The piece was enthusiastically received by the young people at both venues. Its portrayal of township life and its key themes of poverty and of moral choices resonated with the audiences.
Sizwe also went on to perform at the National School of the Arts in Johannesburg and continued developing the work as a township play prior to coming to the UK in Autumn 2010.
SIZWE VILAKAZI AND ACTION TRANSPORT THEATRE
Sizwe saw his work with ATT in October/November 2010 as a very important part of his development as a writer.
He delivered a workshop for young people at 20 Stories High in Liverpool and, with Nina Hajiyianni, an exploratory workshop, to further develop TIKA, at Whitby Hall with young people from 20 Stories High, Valley Community Theatre, The Brindley, Theatre in the Quarter and ATT.
At this time, there were also writers’ discussion groups – part of the Shell Chester Literature Festival.
TIKA was performed before an invited audience at Whitby Hall, home of ATT. This was followed by a lively Q and A at which a 20 Stories High participant from the youth workshop movingly read her poem, her response to TIKA.
In an interview with Nina in Soweto, Sizwe said, “I’ve grown as a person, I’ve started to be brave about my work…especially because of the support of ATT, because if I had no one to keep on talking about it and checking the progress, I think I would have left it.”
TIKA PERFORMANCES POST 2010
Since 2010 ‘Tika’ has been performed in a number of very different venues in South Africa either as part of a festival and or as part of an educational programme.
Windybrow Theatre, Johannesburg
Chiawelo Library, Soweto
Vhuwani Primary School, Soweto
Walter Sisulu Place of Safety, Johannesburg – a young offenders’ institution.
The Homestead, Khayelitsha township, Cape Town – a home for the rehabilitation of former street kids and young offenders
Chiawelo secondary schools at Chiawelo Community Centre, Soweto
Goudveld secondary school, Matjhabeng.
With the Soweto Young Writers’ Forum, Sizwe has co-written a sequel to TIKA – I NEVER THOUGHT. Both pieces were performed at Goudveld secondary school.
Sizwe Vilakazi – email@example.com