Imagine it’s the 13th of October 1990. Simon Nkoli is leading the first Gay Pride March in Africa, four years ahead of Nelson Mandela’s presidency and South Africa’s first democratic elections. Now picture a classic fashion runway as used in Black Queer Vogueing events. Performers walk the runway, competing in different categories, with song and dance battles. Sometimes it is playful sparring, other times it is all-out-style war. Large video projections show images of Simon Nkoli; his letters from prison, Sebokeng township and anti-apartheid protest marches.
This is Nkoli: The Vogue-Opera about the life and trials of Simon Nkoli, a gay anti-apartheid freedom fighter who was imprisoned for four years in the famous Delmas Treason trial (1985-1988). Simon Nkoli was at the forefront of the queer liberation movement in South Africa, and if it weren't for him, South Africa would not have been the first country in the world to explicitly protect sexual minorities.
With a cast of more than 26 top singers, dancers, voguers and musicians the production is highly contemporary in feel with a mix of rap, opera, protest songs and archival audio clips.
Part opera, part vogueing-ball, Nkoli: The Vogue-Opera, is as fierce and fabulous as Simon was. “Think if Hamilton and RuPaul’s Drag Race had a baby in South Africa. That’s Nkoli: The Vogue-Opera!” says S’bo Gyre, co-lyricist. Nkoli: The Vogue-Opera is created and composed by internationally renowned composer Philip Miller, whose recent successes include the soundtrack to the uShaka iLembe score; his collaboration on William Kentridge’s The Head and the Load, and the Reuben T Caluza B-Side concerts with composer Tshegofatso Moeng.
The show is directed by the award-winning international UK director and screenwriter Rikki Beadle-Blair (known for "Noah’s Arc" and "Stonewall"). “I have always wanted to work at The Market Theatre. The home of protest theatre in South Africa,” says Beadle-Blair. “Simon Loved glamor, and so we can’t think of a better way to tell his story. To combine his story with vogue-ball culture which is a celebration of possibility, defiance, activism, dance, glamour and escapism.”
Nkoli: The Vogue-Opera has been four years in the making. Its social media campaign is already making waves. With choreography by Llwellyn Mnguni, costumes by the designer Mr Allofit combined with multi-media projections by South African filmmaker and celebrated video designer, Catherine Meyburgh. Musical direction by Tshegofatso Moeng and produced by Harriet Perlman. It’s a show not to be missed.
Simon Nkoli is a South African icon, but many people don’t know his story. Nkoli: The Vogue-Opera, changes all of this. Never before in South Africa, has a vogue opera quite like this been imagined. It talks to both opera fans and those who have never been to an opera but regularly attend vogueing nights, balls and drag clubs.
Next year, it will tour internationally. Celebrate and be part of its birth in Jozi, from 17 – 19 November. Tickets are available on Webtickets. Follow @NkoliVogueOpera for more.
Members of the media are cordially invited to the world premiere on 17 November at the Market Theatre. Please confirm attendance as seats are limited.
For additional details about Nkoli: The Vogue-Opera ticket sales please visit Webtickets and stay updated on social media using the hashtag #NkoliVogueOpera.
Check out Nkoli: The Vogue-Opera medley mix on Vimeo: