Blog – Negotiating despair and finding hope: Ntombi Wonci

A blog by Wandisile Afrika Sebezo

Plett Tourism is proud to have presented our first virtual Plett ARTS Festival, supported by Wesgro, in June 2020 – a festival featuring solely local performers, our La Vida Local! Watch this space as we round up all the shows for your viewing enjoyment and, in the meantime, read about Wandisile Sebezo’s conversation with Plett performer, Ntombi Wonci.

Perhaps you know her as an academic, radical feminist and activist, well, there’s more to Sivuyisiwe “Ntombi” Wonci than she lets on, and at this year’s first ever virtual Plett ARTS Festival, we get to experience the creative side of this amazing Plett local.

Ntombi is one of many who hails from the hands of Mncedisi “Ta Mnce” Ncedani, who at the time ran a number of creative arts projects at the Simunye Community Centre now known as Thusong Centre.

Ntombi is one of those gems that Ta Mnce found and polished, she told me she owes most of her creative arts to the years where she was performing under his leadership. In her own words she says of Ta Mnce; “most of the things I know about performance, theatre and poetry, I learned from that great legend”.

It was during her stay as a student at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), though, that she nurtured the skill and performed in theatres in and around Cape Town. She also had an opportunity to perform at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival as a member of ‘Reclaiming the P Word’ production, an African feminist initiative by the Gender Equity Unit at UWC.

Incwadi ye themba, loosely translated is a ‘book of hope’, that she performed at the Plett ARTS Festival is a collection of poems that she wrote over the years since being diagnosed as bipolar in 2017. She wrote it while she was admitted at the psychiatric ward at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Tshwane.

“It’s really about my journey as a woman and some of the challenges I’ve encountered in terms of growing up, becoming and continuing. The theme is the constant negotiation as a young woman of self-mutilation, self-doubt, self-loathing, the depression,the anxieties of how things are going to be, the self-critique, the hatred that we go through, but also at the same time the commitment to serving and appreciating self, affirming self, but also serving family and the community at large”.

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