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The role of tradition in modern society, and how it can perpetuate domestic violence, is the crux of the play, Shwele Bawo (A Grave Injustice).
THERE is an epidemic of woman and child abuse in South Africa, where many people are trying to change traditional ways of living to fit a more modern lifestyle.

Motshabi Tyelele plays Dikeledi NkabindeMotshabi Tyelele plays Dikeledi NkabindeShwele Bawo (A Grave Injustice), the Naledi-nominated play, deals with these issues. In a sensitive and thought-provoking way, it tackles the challenges that women face when tradition and modernity clash.

The play is on at The Market Theatre from 12 February to 18 March.

Written and performed by Motshabi Tyelele, who plays the lead character, Dikeledi Nkabinde, and directed by Lynn Maree, Shwele Bawo tells the story of a downtrodden woman who is forced to stay in an abusive marriage because of tradition.

The play opens with Dikeledi in prison, where she has already spent two years. She tells her story retrospectively: she was married to Solly Nkabinde for more than 12 years, enduring his infidelities and physical abuse. Traditional instructions from her elders to obey her husband keep her from leaving.

But when she realises that he has also abused her daughter, Bontle, her protective maternal instinct takes over and she plots to kill her husband.

The theatre notes the many layers the play uncovers – identity crises among men and women; the disintegration of family structures; woman and child abuse; relationships; incest; the power of the media and the inequalities in our justice system.

“Issues of injustice, domestic violence and how the media report are raised in the play,” explains Maree. “Shwele Bawo is the story of the voiceless woman in South Africa and around the world. It gives mouth to the innocent woman in prison. It looks at the old situation with fresh eyes. The play touches everyone from all angles of life and it changes life too.”

It reveals how these issues, ignored for far too long, have created a social time bomb of secrets and lies that threaten to destroy society.

“Any kind of abuse is socially unacceptable and it is up to society to change the situation. People need to do something about it rather than wait for the government to bring about change. Change is within the people,” Maree points out.

Tyelele, an award-winning actress, received the Best Performance by Lead Actress Award, in the 2004 Naledis for her outstanding role in this play. It was also nominated for Best New South African Play and Best Set Design.

She is more recently known for her television work, playing Thando in the local sitcom Suburban Bliss, Sophie in Generations and Eve in Madam and Eve. She also voices three characters in the children’s international award-winning animation programme, Magic Cellar, among other roles.

Mary Makhatho also stars. Makhatho is known for her roles as Thandi in the 2005 film Duma, as Esther Mamoruti Tlhong in the SABC2 sitcom Ga Re Dumele, and as Nelly in the Etv drama series eKasi: Our Stories, in the episode entitled Sugar Mommy.

Shwele Bawo is on the Barney Simon Stage at The Market Theatre from 12 February to 18 March, from Tuesdays to Sundays. Tickets are available through Computicket or by calling the theatre on 011 832 1641. Group and block bookings are available.

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