Formerly the Masiphumelele Youth Development Theatre Group, Ukwanda Puppet and Design Company was formed during the 2010 Soccer World Cup in South Africa by Luyanda Nogodlwane and Ncedile Daki, both former members of Handspring Puppet Company. Masiphumelele, a Xhosa word meaning “we will succeed”, is a township along the road to Kommetjie in the southern Cape Peninsula.
Ukwanda initially made makaraba, the hand-made helmets worn by soccer fans, also performing as a dance group with traditional and hip hop outfits, sometimes during township tours. They have performed at a variety of venues, including schools, theatres and festivals. In 2014 they performed at the Montague National Youth Arts Festival, Western Cape; at the Cape Town Fringe Festival; and at the Farewell Festival for retiring UWC rector, Brian O’Connell, UWC campus. In 2015 they are scheduled to appeared at the Zabalaza Theatre Festival at the Baxter Theatre, Cape Town, and at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, South Africa.
In February 2017, artist, puppeteer and member of Ukwanda, Ncedile Daki was shot and killed outside of his home in Driftsands. The loss of Ned rippled through Ukwanda, the CHR, the Handspring Puppet Company and the broader Cape Town arts community. The annual Barrydale puppetry parade and performance on December 17, 2017 titled Renosterbos was dedicated to the memory of Ncedile Daki and to his long dream of doing a puppet parade with rhinos.
Ukwanda’s puppet production, Qhawe, a Xhosa fairytale, is directed by Mongiwekhaya (Mongi) Mthombeni, with the assistance of Gabriel Merchand, and the puppets are designed by Luyanda Nogodlwana, with the support of other members of Ukwanda. Qhawe is based on a story from Xhosa tradition about how animals once had the power to communicate with people, particularly the Amaqaba, the red people, so-named because of the red ochre they wore on their clothes in order to communicate with the ancestors. More particularly, Qhawe tells the story of a son of a chief (Qhawe), born to the younger of his two wives (Mamcirha). Because she is jealous, the older wife (Marhadebe), who cannot fall pregnant, steals the child at birth, replacing him with a puppy. Qhawe is then reared by animals far from his home village. Marhadebe, the older wife, replaces the child with a puppy. As an older person, Qhawe returns to the village of his birth, only to find that it is being terrorised by a snake called ‘Great One’. On killing the snake, he becomes a hero of the village and is also re-united with his father, the chief.
Ukwanda Puppet and Design Company is supported by the Handspring Trust for Puppetry Arts and the CHR at UWC.
Between July 6th and July 10th 2019, the Laboratory of Kinetic Objects (LoKO) at the CHR hosted a colloquium on Subject/Object relations, in an ongoing exploration of Animation, Animism, Thing Theory, the Subject and the Object, Puppetry Arts and performance.