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SCENE IT: CANTOS OF A LIFE IN EXILE captivates as storytelling with soul in search of truth

Barbara Loots


CANTOS OF A LIFE IN EXILE, currently onstage at Theatre Arts, explores the search for self-truth. Written, directed and performed by Makhaola Ndebele, this production will leave you mesmerised by its very intimate exploration of a life through the purest form of storytelling.

Storytelling is an art, and Ndebele has tapped into the true magic of this art form with CANTOS OF A LIFE IN EXILE. The setting is a deceptively simplistic one: a chair in a dark room with a soft spot indicating where the soul of the writer-performer will sit exposed. It all starts off with Ndebele inviting the audience to listen to his tale as he would if he was calling his community to do as a storyteller in a village in Lesotho.

The structure of the production is a collections of cantos, brought together by a delicately poetic hand, revealing that Ndebele understands the power of well-placed rhyme, repetition and rhythm. Even though mostly spoken, the cantos are allowed to ‘sing’.

He invites you to sit in quiet contemplation as he vividly paints a picture with word, a picture of a boy in search of home, a boy always ready to defend the honour of those he loves, a boy not afraid to speak his truth. And truth indeed stands at the centre of CANTOS OF A LIFE IN EXCILE. His search for home is revealed as a conflicted one, riddled with issues of discrimination and inequality which continuously displaced him, yet somewhere in the midst of that sadness he also reveals the presence of humour and love as part of his journey. Through this he brings a beautiful, sensitive balance to his multilingual storytelling.

The production may be intimate and small (with a venue like Theatre Arts adding another layer of meditative respect to it), yet it remains extremely powerful in the message of perseverance and hope it shares, all cloaked in a very moving perspective. That personal touch elevates the feeling of authenticity that shines throughout.

CANTOS OF A LIFE IN EXILE is a theatrical gem, loud in its quietness and captivating throughout, and deserves to be seen and heard and appreciated. You have until 20 August 2023 to see it at Theatre Arts. Tickets are R150 and can be booked online at It carries an age warning of PG9.


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