Coming Soon!

MAKEBA!

The Play

By Mkawasi Mcharo Hall

 

Premiering at
THEARC

1901 Mississippi Ave SE
Washington DC  20020

 

The Script:

The dramatic material for the play has been compiled and molded into creative writing through research using media clips, historical data, and biographical material in the public domain. More important, the script has endeavored to honor the life and memory of the subject, to the best of the playwright's ability, with the hope that it will continue to inspire audiences across the world.

The Dance:

The dance will be performed by Lesole's Dance Project under the choreography of internationally accomplished movement director, Lesole Maine. It is woven into the drama to enhance the plot, enrich spectacle, and communicate through physical metaphor that is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

The Songs:

The music, played by the Afro Floetry band, is copyrighted material selected from the Miriam Makeba songs recorded during apartheid and exile years.


Harry Belafonte/Miriam Makeba
"My Angel" 2003
(courtesy of YouTube - shobdokolpodrum)

Miriam Makeba begins to experience the excitement of fame and success, and the pain of exile all at once after Harry Belafonte helps introduce her to an American audience. She is quickly thrown into the TV circuit, making appearances on the Ed Sullivan, Steve Allen, Today, Garry Moore shows and numerous others. She graces many theatres, clubs and concert halls across the US. Her song, Pata Pata, becomes a hit worldwide, and is translated in many languages. She becomes the first African to win a Grammy for the album, "An Evening with Harry Belafonte/Miriam Makeba."

Many singers and actors walk in and out of her personal life, helping shape an extraordinary story. These include Marlon Brando, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Dianne Carroll, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, etc. She sings for President Kennedy's birthday celebrations barely two years after leaving South Africa as an unknown singer.

Miriam Makeba (Mama Afrika)
Khawuleza 1966
(courtesy of YouTube - smallstillvoice)

Her life as a musician becomes interwoven with her accidental role as a political figure, a spokesperson for her South African people, and a diplomatic representative for Guinea. She plays all these facets from the Facebook wounded heart and stubborn mind of a fighter who is exiled from her home by the South African apartheid government and survives the pain of not being able to bury her mother, survives domestic violence in her first marriage, survives cancer, and survives rejection from a people who, as she says, "refused to forgive me for marrying the man I loved."

When she marries Students Nonviolent Coordinating Committee's chairman and Black Power movement founder, Stokely Carmichael in 1968, the music industry begins to cancel her shows all over the US for fear of bad press and loss of profits. She is constantly under FBI surveillance.

Miriam Makeba "Pata Pata"
Live in Cape Town 2006
(courtesy of YouTube - mstockmaier)

At the invitation of President Sekou Toure, she moves to Guinea, West Africa, together with Stokely, where she continues to perform across Europe and Africa.

She relocates to Brussels after the devastating death of her only child, Bongi. Makeba's love life, highlighted by five marriages, is a reflection of a

hopeless romantic, naivety, longing for love and acceptance, and a spirit that choses to love fearlessly. After 30 years of exile, and following South Africa's new freedom from Apartheid and an invitation from Nelson Mandela, she moves back to South Africa. She never stops performing. In 2008, at the age of 76, she collapses on stage in Italy and dies soon after.

In Makeba's own words, this is a story of "hope, determination and song."

Script Excerpt:

- VOICE OVER - 
“I look at an ant and I see myself: a native South African,
endowed with strength much greater than my size. I look at a 
bird and I see myself, souring above the injustices of 
apartheid on wings of pride. I look at a stream, and I see 
myself, flowing irresistibly over hard obstacles until they 
become smooth and disappear, flowing from an origin that 
has been forgotten, towards an end that - ”
 
(Interruption. Music plays hauntingly as a woman lies on the 
floor in pain. A second woman, the baby’s grandmother, 
helps her daughter deliver. The grandmother takes the child, 
looks at her with worry, and slaps it. At the moment of the 
slap, the music comes to an abrupt end, then a dreadful 
silence, followed by a loud cry from the baby. Grandmother
cradles the baby to a hush, then turns to the mother)
 
 - GRANDMOTHER - 
(Pointing an accusing finger at the mother)
Uzenzile! Uzenzile!
 
(Narrator appears, observing the two women)
 
 - NARRATOR - 
Uzenzile. It means, “you have brought this on yourself.” That 
is her sixth childbirth. She lost three at infancy. Her 
mother had warned her, loud enough for the whole village to
hear, “Christina Nomkomndelo, wife of Makeba! I tell you 
with my finger in your stubborn face that another pregnancy 
will kill you!” But did she listen? Now look, she has brought
into the world another sickly child whose future is 
immediately uncertain. The child’s head is too big, her body
scrawny and weak.
(Moves closer to audience)
Between you and me -
(She is interrupted by a man’s entry. She observes him as he
picks up the child.)
That’s the baby’s father. Mpambane Caswell Makeba. It is his 
first child. See, his wife had other children by another 
husband before he married her. This one is truly his own 
flesh and blood.
 
 - MAN - 
(Holding the baby)
She is very ill. Lord, my child is ill.
(He kneels down, cradling and praying for the child)
 
 - NARRATOR - 
For two days and nights, the father watches his child suffer 
through convulsions. He cannot bear it. He prays for her to 
exit this world and escape the pain.
(Grandmother gently takes the baby away from the father)
The women nurse the baby, and eventually, the convulsions 
stop. She begins to breathe easy and suckle from her mother’s 
breast. It seems as if she will make it.
(Lights brighten. Mother, grandmother, and father’s faces are 
joyful)
 
 - GRANDMOTHER - 
(This time in jest, at her daughter)
Uzenzile!
(She laughs)
 
 - MOTHER - 
Uzenzile. Hmm. Zenzile... Aah! Zenzi!
 
 - FATHER - 
(Looking at the child)
My daughter, Zenzi. May the ancestors bless you and protect 
you from harm. May you always know that your father here, 
your mother, your grandmother, sisters, brother, and cousins, 
will be there to love you and take care of you. 
 
 - MOTHER - 
We need to find her a Christian name. 
 
 - FATHER - 
Eh, wena! She does not need a white man’s name.
 
 - MOTHER - 
But I have one, and you have one too, everyone has a baptism 
name.
 
 - FATHER - 
It was wrong for our parents to give us those names.
(Mother gives him a dismissive look, then looks at her baby 
lovingly.)
 
 - MOTHER - 
Zenzi Miriam Makeba.
 
 - FATHER - 
Miriam. Hmmm.
(The baby lets out a loud cry)
 
 - GRANDMOTHER - 
(Rushing to take the baby)
She is small but she has a voice! I think she’s ready to feed 
again.
(She takes the baby from her father, hands her over to the 
mother who begins to suckle her. They exit.)
 
 - NARRATOR - 
It is 1932. Baby Zenzi’s birth and near-brush with death is 
an ordinary event in the life of a black family in South 
Africa. Nothing is too shocking. When a country is in the 
grip of a depression, and the people are under the weight 
of oppression, I tell you, nothing is too shocking. At 
eighteen days old - yes, you heard me right - that’s two and
a half weeks of age, baby Zenzi is grown up enough to be 
thrown in jail! 
(There is sudden noise of a raid. People, pots, pans, and 
police shouting all over the place.)
 
 - VOICE 1 - 
(Male Police officer)
Where are you hiding the beer?
(A woman screams, a child cries)
 
 - VOICE 2 - 
(Female)
Fihla i umqombothi. Nkqi!
 
 - VOICE 3 -
(Male)
Shiya ifemile yam!
(Sound of a slap)
 
 - VOICE 1 - 
Who are you to tell me to leave your criminal family alone?
 
 - VOICE 3 - 
Baas, there is no beer in this house…
 
 - VOICE 1 - 
What is this under the bed? Kafir! It’s against the law of 
the land to brew umqomboti. That will be eighteen pounds. 
Pay up now or you go to jail.
 
 - VOICE 3 - 
Officer, please. I do not have the money, and my wife just
gave birth. My child is only…
 
 - VOICE 1 - 
Get in the car now! Just you woman; you’re the criminal
 
 - VOICE 2 - 
I have a new born baby…
 
 - VOICE 1 - 
Well, the pickaninny goes to jail too.
(muttering)
Aagh, foolish Africans breeding like mice
 
 - MAKEBA - 
(Voice Over)
I look for freedom wherever I can find it. The minute I made 
my way out of my mother’s womb, I sensed trouble. The shape
of memory in the mind of a toddler is like a wind that blows 
by, faint, fragile and soon forgotten. But these memories are 
stuck in my mother’s mind, and she narrates them to me when
I’m grown, and they become my pain too. I have to heal that 
which I was too young to remember. My fragile birth, my days
in jail as a toddler, and then one day when I’m a little 
older, I’m told that my father will not be coming home…


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