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‘Africa’ sings, dances in musical

Tuner will preem at State Theater in Pretoria May 25

JOHANNESBURG — The history and spirit of Africa will be showcased through song and dance in the first pan-African musical play, “Sing Africa Dance,” created and produced by Mbongeni Ngema (“Sarafina!”) with backing from South Africa’s Arts & Culture Ministry.

“Sing Africa Dance” will premiere at the State Theater in Pretoria on Africa Day, May 25. After its Pretoria run, the show will move to Cape Town and Durban before embarking on a tour of Africa.

Auditions are being conducted around Africa to find performers for the show, which is being financed with funds left over from the budget set aside for 2004’s “10 Years of Democracy” celebrations. The remainder will come from the Dept. of Arts & Culture.

Ngema, who is working with musician Jonas Gwangwa on the production, says the play aims to further the ideals of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) by examining 500 years of the history of Africa, her present and future.

“There is documented proof that the origin of mankind is Africa. Music and dance started in Africa. And so we begin by looking at the gift that God gave to this continent,” Ngema says. “We then move on in time to examine how Africa was raped by colonizers. We also look at the revolution by people of the diaspora; the contribution of people like Nkwame Nkrumah, Lumumba and Malcolm X; the end of slavery and, much later, apartheid, the advent of democracy in South Africa, Nelson Mandela, current President Thabo Mbeki and the setting up of the Nepad strategy.”

Ngema says Africans are known for their storytelling, singing and dancing skills, so it is best to tell the continent’s story through these means. “We’re doing all of this through song and dance because we can’t stand in front of an audience and start lecturing people. We’re not politicians.”

However, Ngema is disappointed at the lack of racial diversity among those who have auditioned so far in South Africa.

“This is a show about the whole of Africa. So it is sad that we’ve only had black Africans coming to audition so far. It is an inherent problem that when we have shows done by black people, there’s still hesitancy from other race groups to be part of it. As a result, we might end up having to hand-pick people of other races that we know. But I’m sure, with time, it will come.”

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