Dr Jonas Gwangwa’s Amandla Cultural Ensemble comes home

In 1980, Dr. Jonas Gwangwa brought the theatrical protest musical Amandla to the world. Now for the first time, it is coming home to South Africa and promises a cutting-edge theatrical production that will enthrall audiences, inspire youngsters and showcase the country’s finest artistic talent.

Jonas Gwangwa, director of the Amandla Cultural Ensemble.
Jonas Gwangwa, director of the Amandla Cultural Ensemble.

An integral part of South African protest music, the Amandla Cultural Ensemble was originally developed and produced by Gwangwa in Angola. Created to lobby support for the ANC liberation movement in exile, Amandla galvanized international solidarity movements and communicated the injustices of the apartheid system to the global community. Solidarity movements responded to the call through multiple projects that saw donations of food, clothing, medication, transportation, educational and skills development opportunities for exiled South Africans.

From 1980 to 1990, Amandla travelled the world, performing in numerous countries including Angola, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Ghana, India, Japan, Luxembourg, Libya, Malaysia, Mozambique, Netherlands, New Zealand, Newfoundland, Nigeria, Norway, Russia, Singapore, Sweden, Tanzania, the UK, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In 1990, the Amandla Cultural Ensemble settled and finally dismantled in Zimbabwe as apartheid came to an end and liberation organisations were unbanned in South Africa.

In the spirit of the original production and with the knowledge that progress relies on an understanding of our past, Gwangwa, now head of Barungwa Productions, is looking to inspire the next generation of South Africans. With support from the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) and the South African State Theatre, Barungwa Productions will bring Amandla Cultural Ensemble – The Production to the stage in December 2015 with an exclusive inaugural performance at the State Theatre in Pretoria on 3 December, followed by public performances on 4 and 5 December. The programme for 2016 is still in development.
Envisaged as a premium nation-building tool, this re-invigoration of the production of Amandla narratively traces the history of the struggle within the global context. With Gwangwa at the helm, his wealth of knowledge and experience, the production aims to develop, elevate and empower the South African arts and culture industry. “As a nation-building tool, the Amandla Cultural Ensemble has proven to be a pre-eminent communication vehicle that can transcend language and cultural barriers. Amandla is able to educate current and future generations about their history, and how the dedication and aspirations of ordinary South Africans made such a big difference to their own lives, and in the world, and why they too should take up that mantle,” said Gwangwa.

Auditions recently took place with great success and the cast is currently preparing to begin rehearsals. Barungwa Productions invites stakeholders who have an interest in, have information about or have archived content to come forward and share their stories. For more information email Barungwa Productions at info@barungwapro.co.za or info@amandlatheproduction.co.za


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