Venus vs Modernity is an hour-long theatre piece depicting the life of historical icon Saartjie Baartman. Baartman is best known for having been taken from Cape Colony more than 200 years ago and subjected to harrowing abuse while being exhibited as a freak in London due to her ample posterior.
At the peak of her fame in the early 1800s, Saartjie Baartman became a reference point for abolishionists, fashion designers, and political satirists alike. Her remains were dissected and put on display at the French National Museum for 150 years, and in 2002, Saartjie Baartman was finally returned to the land of her birth, the Gamtoos River Valley in the Eastern Cape.
Lebo Mashile, an award-winning author, presenter, producer, and actress is best known for her fiery poetry which has captivated audiences in 26 countries. Mashile has been developing this two-hander production for the past five years with the renowned actress, director, and theatre maker, Pamela Nomvete at the helm as director. Critically acclaimed and multi-award winning poet and playwright Koleka Putuma capably takes over from Nomvete as director for the current run of the play. Mashile co-stars in the play alongside the incomparably talented vocalist Ann Masina who has worked extensively with William Kentridge, Robin Orlyn, and previously with Soweto Gospel Choir.
The work was staged in its infancy in 2017 at the Centre for The Less Good Idea, a multi-disciplinary artistic collaborative space, founded by William Kentridge. In 2018 the work was staged in Cape Town with the support of Design Indaba. Last year, Windybrow Theatre partnered with Mashile to stage the work at Thari Women’s Festival. This relationship has developed even further with the Windybrow Theatre joining hands with the Market Theatre to stage the piece for its first ever full run for public audiences.
The piece fuses spoken word, poetry, dialogue, and music across genres to recreate the life of Saartjie Baartman through two characters, Saartjie and Venus. While the events that are depicted are historically accurate, the inclusion of Venus, a tempestuous, passionate, and formidable goddess, allows the piece to delve into a fictionalized inner world for Saartjie Baartman.
The piece is as humorous and entertaining as it a gut-wrenching and tender. It is a character driven, emotional journey driven by two formidable performers and a host of talented, experienced creative women who have worked on this piece throughout its development. No stranger to the theatre, Venus vs Modernity marks Lebo Mashile’s first foray into penning a full-length theatrical piece. From this run at the Market Theatre, the production travels to Amsterdam, Holland for Afro-Vibes Theatre festival taking place from 3-13 October
Written and Conceptual: Lebo Mashile
Director Koleka Putuma:
Sound Technician: Mthuthuzeli Ndlebe
Stage Manager: Lebeisa Molapo
Performers: Anne Masina: Venus Lebo Mashile: Saartjie
Duration: 90 minutes
Age Recommendation 16 years
Season: Thursday 12 – Sunday 27 September 2019
Venue: The Barney Simon
Performance times:Tuesday – Saturday @20h15 and Sunday @15h15
Ticket prices: Tuesday – Sunday R90.00 - R150.00
Student Prices: R70.00