Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Love in the time of cattle

Nguni: A Love Story, on the Grahamstown fringe festival, is a comic exploration of the relationship between love and cattle in changing times. The sentiment of the piece is expressed aptly in the words of the character Somandla, played by Nhlanhla Mavundla, who proclaims: “Nguni, the voice of my past, the voice of my future”.

The work raises the tensions between the rights of women and some aspects of Zulu tradition, particularly the paying of lobola, as well as the tension between rural and urban lives.

Nguni was inspired by the paintings of Nguni cattle by Leigh Voigt, at present being exhibited at the Thomas Pringle Hall in Grahamstown as part of the main festival, as well as the book The Abundant Herds by Marguerite Poland and David Hammond-Took.

Being performed at the Pony Club, the venue is perfect, and the set welcomes one with a wood fire, hay stacks, sand spirals, a rural backdrop burnt into wooden board and a few resident flies. The pace and tone are joyous, and the performance is punctuated by wonderful moments, such as the wide-eyed cow, played by Zandile Mutswana, emerging from a wooden box. There are also passages of sharp, witty dialogue.

Yet, overall the piece has a haphazard feel to it, with the story drifting around but never really finding its locus. The performances, while entertaining, often lapse into ham-acting. The warmth and exuberance of the piece are attractive, but one is left with the feeling that the complexity of the themes being explored are only superficially dealt with and the potential of the piece is, as yet, not fully realised.

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and receive a 40% discount on our annual rate..

Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon
Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon is a lecturer in anthropology at the University of the Witwatersrand and a research associate of the Migration and Health Project Southern Africa.

Related stories


Subscribers only

‘W Cape, fix unplaced pupils crisis’

Civil rights organisations want the department to find a permanent solution to the problem

Shanduka shade over Free State education

Audit firm PwC said R500-million irregular expenditure incurred by the Free State education department is related to an unsolicited bid by the Kagiso Shanduka Trust to improve schools

More top stories

Even religion has limits on its rights

The constitution does protect faith — but not beyond what is reasonable

Covid kills a decade of employment growth in SA

The self-employed were nearly three times less likely to work during the hard lockdown, economists found

Ramaphosa faction dividing Limpopo — NEC hears

In a leaked recording during Saturday’s ANC national executive committee meeting, Mathabatha said he has observed ‘comrades who run around purporting to be the defenders of our president’.

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…