Outreach Foundation Hillbrow Theatre Project at the National Arts Festival
My Silence is Talkative
– Created in collaboration with the young cast
by Gcebile Dlamini

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Outreach Foundation's My Silence is Talkative at Grahamstown Festival

Outreach Foundation's My silence is talkativeMphilo is a teenager from the countryside who is, in the eyes of the family, born as a blessing as she is a person living with Albinism. Her grandmother believes that she can cure the disease her older daughter (Mphilo’s mother, Nozizwe) has and that Mphilo’s body parts can make the family rich. Mphilo and her mother journey to confront the myths that allow young girls to be exploited, harassed and abused by authority figures in our communities. Nozizwe, during her journey, meets up with other women from different backgrounds, and together they articulate their struggles.  United they can reach beyond the wall of society’s myths around Albinism.

‘My silence is talkative’, is a cutting-edge, relevant and inspiring production. It is innovative in its presentation and how it handles the subject matter. It tackles issues faced by society which are not easy to communicate. Through the eyes of the children, we see how albinism, human trafficking, abortion and the struggle of females come together to relate stories that need to be told. The stories expressed by these children through this production will go a long way in bringing about conversations within the community by males and females of all ages.

Issues around culture, sexuality, domestic violence, xenophobia, belonging, and religion are some of the themes the play explores. Many females in our country are facing issues such as these on a daily basis. They often need to defend their existence within communities, especially if they are living with Albinism. The production aims to not only promote the discussion around these subjects through a profound reflection of how participants envision their worlds, future and themselves but also to sensitise audiences around Albinism.

The production was first created in 2016 under the Inner City High Schools’ Drama Festival from the theme ‘20 years of democracy’. Just like the youth of 1976, a group of female youth voiced the issues they faced in their society at that time. The aim was to look beyond the theme by tackling what young people could perhaps fight for, today. This encouraged investigations into the possibilities and contradictions faced by women. About the wars inside their bodies, and what could be used to transform and rehabilitate them. About what could help start conversations about theories and practices within society, e.g. religion, culture, rape, and stigmatisation, to name but a few.  Through partnering with ASSA (Albinism Society of South Africa), we believe our journey towards the struggle to highlight Albinism and women’s issues will begin, and the voices of people living with Albinism is heard.

Albinism occurs in all racial and ethnic groups throughout Africa, and indeed the world, yet it has not been given the attention it deserves. A large number of people live in fear daily as a result of hunters who target people living with Albinism who perceive them to have magical powers and will stop at nothing to ‘capture’ one. Within some cultures, they are believed to cure diseases. Thus they are sometimes seen as a blessing. Even when not hunted, people living with Albinism face discrimination and abuse in their respective communities. This discrimination affects their self-esteem, and they often succumb to abuse and become victims of human trafficking.

The play highlights the choices we make and the battles and challenges the youth deal with by revealing the many forces that control and block self-esteem within females. The slow dance and silent rhythm of the journeys become the advocacy that shows the contradictions of being a female living in an unprotected world. The embodiments show that society is always fabricating a specific form of obedience on the female body from a young age. The repetition of myths shows us how we cope with different forms of submission to our perceived authority figures. The play is filled with stories, hence the use of newspapers as costumes. The red sticks show the red tapes in our communities that are instilled by figures who should be protecting us. The sticks also represent the spears and knives used to cut these body parts with the red blood spilled and given to Sangomas for various rituals.