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SCENE IT: BACK TO ASHES, a moving chorus of collective consciousness

Barbara Loots


BACK TO ASHES, currently onstage at the Baxter Theatre, is the African echo of the Greek chorus, giving a collective perspective of a tragedy, in this instance the impact of gender-based-violence on a family and community following the violent beating and death of a beloved daughter.

Although it clearly draws narrative inspiration from the tragic death of Uyinene Mrwetyana and so many other lives lost to this GBV pandemic, the character at the centre of this tale of suffering is called Nkosazana. The play doesn't merely focus on the violence associated with GBV (the moment Nkosazana becomes ashes), it exposes the impact of GBV that cuts to the core of the soul of our society. It invites the audience to reflect on the journey of Nkosazana’s life (including the love she was born from and the vibrant woman she grew to be), allowing a full perspective of the lives that stand to be affected by such horrendous acts without the play feeling like it's trying to say too much at once.

The end of the play builds to a climax in a cathartic manner, resembling the physical expression of the crying women of our country, the women whose heart no longer birth hope, the women who are igniting the movement that says, 'It ends here!'.

The production is performed in isiXhosa, with English surtitles. Though even if the surtitles were not there, the emotion and meaning behind the narrative is unquestionably clear: The societal impact of GBV transcends words in this powerfully reflective piece performed by a committed cast of 11.

BACK TO ASHES is one of two productions that were selected as the best to emerge from this year's 13th Annual Zabalaza Festival which was held at the Baxter Theatre this past April. Artistic Director for the festival, Mdu Kweyama, says that both BACK TO ASHES and HOSTEL LIGHTS (the other stand out play) are regarded as the festival's finest, not only because of the powerful themes addressed by both, but also because of the 'excellence in script writing, performances, direction and overall presentation'. And in saying so, Kweyama is indeed correct, as BACK TO ASHES not only resonates but reverberates the collective feeling of disbelief, pain and outrage of a nation facing the surge of GBV in a clever and innovative fashion.

Go be part of the movement that wishes to reignite the safety and hope of women by supporting the brave cast of BACK TO ASHES as they leave their hearts exposed on the stage with this play.

You have until 17 September 2022 to see BACK TO ASHES at the Baxter Theatre, with tickets available online via Webtickets. Please note that the production has an age restriction of 13+.


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