Thina Sizwe Esimnyama
Goethe-Institut Project Space (GPS)

With his project Thina Sizwe Esimnyama (“We as a Black Nation”), Mongezi Ncwadi aims to honour the lives and sacrifices made by previous generations from East London, and New Brighton in particular, so that their descendants can enjoy the fruits of freedom in post-apartheid South Africa. By presenting these works in sites in New Brighton that memorialise these heroes of the past, the project seeks to revive the spirits of young New Brightoners, and to reaffirm consciousness in the leadership of the community.

“Amathambo Ayashukuma” speaks to the remains of the more than six hundred South Africans who sunk with the troopship SS Mendi during World War I. The work was first performed at the SS Mendi Memorial site, situated between a Garage, a busy traffic intersection and a shopping centre on Monday, 22 February, at noon. The performance was attended by community members, including a group of high school students, who were amazed and moved to learn about the fate of their ancestors during the Great War in Europe.

“Ropes of Liberation”, referring to the ropes that hanged South African political activists during the era of the struggle against apartheid, was premiered on Friday 26 February at the Emlotheni Memorial Park.

The Emolotheni Memorial park was built as the final resting place of the remains of the first anti-apartheid political prisoners who were found guilty of High Treason by the apartheid state, and hung in 1964 and 1965.

The remains of the deceased were relocated to New Brighton after Emloteni Memorial Park was completed, and there is an annual government-sponsored memorial event at the site. Sadly, the site subsequently had to be fenced off to protect it from vandalism, and today many of the young people who live in the area only have a vague idea of the history it memorializes.

By opening the gates of the memorial to invite community members to a performance created by members of the same community, the significance of the site, and what this history means to the younger generations of New Brightoners was made apparent to community members in a new way.

After the premiere of the works in February 2020, the intention is to seek support to present both works on a regular basis to community members and visitors to New Brighton.

The cast of the two productions were selected by Mongezi Ncwadi from community members who participate in theatre and cultural workshops he regularly presents in the area. They are: Andile Siyoli, Qaqambile Qona, Nomabhtwe Mthimkhulu, Anele Mzobe and Lubabalo Mbombela.