Q&A with PEN SA Student Prize Shortlistee Sithembiso Khalishwayo
15 Jun 2016
Khalishwayo is an actor, dancer, teacher, writer, choreographer and facilitator who studied at the Wits School of Arts and Drama For Life majoring in Physical Theatre, Performance and Applied Drama, he is currently working towards his Masters Degree in Applied Drama (Drama in Education, Theatre as Activism) with his research focusing on the ability of Body to hold the story of many, with specific focus on the Fees Must Fall Movement. He is the current student representative for both the Masters Applied Drama students and overall student representative for all students under the Drama For Life Program. He is the recipient of The Pieter-Dirk Uys Theatre for Social Change Award for outstanding theatre for social change research by a postgraduate student, and winner of the 2015 Wits Photographic Competition. He has created and \or performed work for the NAF, Dance Umbrella, all DFL Festivals,the Young Artists Festival, My Body…My Space Festival in Mpumalanga and the Maitisong Festival in Botswana this year. For the past 8 years he has done work with students, youth and professionals having created and\or performed in over 40 productions. His passion lies in the heART.
What are your thoughts on the role of writing in South Africa today, particularly with regards to its ability to effect change?
I believe that writing in South Africa has always been a catalyst for change. I believe in the current climate of the country it has to play a bigger role in expressing the thoughts of people. What is key is who writes these texts, how accessible these writings are and who accesses them. Words have the ability to unite people whether it be a Twitter post or a novel. It is the content and the relevance of the writing that affects the change but if people aren’t critically engaging with the various texts, the change remains just an idea.
Can you talk a bit about your piece “The Forgotten”, which you entered into the PEN SA Student Writing Prize?
In every revolution, some voices are lost. This is the basic premise of “The Forgotten”. The Movement and its people carried many voices and gave those to a few leaders, so that they could carry them. The voices were expressed through the leaders, but sometimes the voices were just a generalized version of what people felt. The stories that I have heard and what I have experienced myself brings me to the realization that the story of self has been lost to the dominant narrative of “others before me”. The narratives constructed in “The Forgotten” are either based on something that someone has said, my own personal experiences or what I have observed. One thing that stood out for me is whether or not people have a safe space to share their own personal narrative and if one person’s story is more important than another. The use of student numbers is used to highlight this idea of the loss of one’s voice, one’s self and that the human story is sometimes lost and asks the question, have students been reduced to just being numbers in a system.
What can we expect from you next and where can we find your work?
I want to continue to explore and write these stories as they form a critical part in my Masters Research, but for now, the next stop is the Grahamstown National Arts Festival with Drama for Life’s Afriqueer production, taking part in the main programme of the Festival. My work can be seen on my Facebook page: The Book of Khali, which mainly consists of theatre works but I am planning to add texts that I have written which have largely remained in my notebooks.
Writers that have had an impact on you?
Doris Lessing; Zakes Mda; Nadine Gordimer.
Writers that you’re enjoying at the moment?
Augusto Boal; J.M Coetzee; Robin Nelson.