Zuko Wonderfull Sikhafungana


Current Fellows: Anthropology Department, MA

Anthropology Masters Student/actor/ playwright/photographer/filmmaker (artists).

Founder and artistic director of Back Stage Theatre Production (BSTP) a community theatre company that was established on the 3rd of October 2014 by Zuko Sikhafungana and Siphumzile Pharela. Which was then later registered as a non-profit organisation (NPO) on the 17th of September 2015. Currently located in the Western Cape on the outskirts of Cape Town in a small township known as Lwandle in Strand.

My research interest lies between community and mainstream theatre: the politics and poetics of performative spaces in Cape Town.

My project locates at the intersection between issues of race, technology, and aesthetic education. My research seeks to understand theatre, and performing arts more generally in contemporary South Africa, particularly looking at how “community theatre” artists develop and maintain their craft without accessing formal learning processes that would make them recognised as professional artists in mainstream theatre. I wish to unpack the concept of “community theatre” and explore what are the possibilities that are offered to young black artists in Cape Town today in performative arts. I also wish to explore the training and patronage systems that are offered to young artists. I am doing ethnography looking at two case-studies: the Back Stage Theatre Production (BSTP)—a community theatre company, located in the Western Cape outside of Cape Town in Strand a small township known as Lwandle, of which I am part of— and the Ukwanda Puppetry Company—that is located in the township of Masiphumelele and is in residence at the Factory of Arts at the Centre for Humanities Research. My interest is to illustrate the processes of making, creative writing, collaborations and the performances that have been experienced by both companies. I seek to understand the roots and dynamics of community theatre, to discuss its contemporary developments and its past legacies, in order to grasp contemporary forms of performance making that transcend the boundaries of what is generally understood as community theatre, as well as to discuss the current politics in theatre. How black artist are recognized and valued in Cape Town? What are the opportunities for small companies that come from the township to enter the space of mainstream theatre? What forms of patronage are existing in the Cape Town scene of performing arts?

While in process of conducting my research, new questions and interests were triggered and they have prompted me to develop my study further. I am interested in closely studying theatre formation, specifically theatre as a space of performance by exploring the concepts of the body and the puppet as subjects of representation in performance. I want to investigate further the reality of the performance marked by the presence that bodies bring on stage and the uses of feelings, emotions, pain, the human voice, sweat, time, flesh and blood. How does the roles the actor plays affect the self and the audiences personally? I am particularly interest in exploring how the expression and the presentation of real life and social issues take place through storytelling and the manipulation of the body as a primary source. When looking at theatre as space my interest is to question the features that make theatre different from other media.

My current study introduced me to puppetry; I have never thought of puppetry the way I learned during the process of my research. As an artist I have never seen or considered puppetry as such a powerful medium of performance. By this I mean a puppet as an object used by a person in performance which functions as the emotional and/or intellectual and/or ideational prosthesis of that person. What caught my interest is how to consider the puppet as a body rather than an object on stage. To what extent can a puppet be the emotional and or intellectual prosthesis of a human in a performance for an audience? Who is manipulating who, the body or the object?  At what point does the puppet begins and the human ends? What is the puppet way of connecting to an audience? Can we think of characters/actors as puppets in productions where there are no puppets?

Related News


CHR fellow invited to judge at Thola Drama Festival

This past month the CHR’s MA Fellow, Zuko Wonderfull Sikhafungana was invited to be a judge at the Third Annual Thola Drama Festival at the Lwandle Community Hall in Strand.