Mongi Mthombeni was challenged to write about something that scares him when he started at the Royal Court Theatre’s South African writing workshops in 2015.
So he wrote about a traumatic encounter he’d had with police who had beaten and tortured him. The result was I See You, which was chosen for production at the Royal Court Theatre in London, the first South African play in 40 years to be staged there.
“I chose to create something out of a destructive experience. I chose to fight back with my pen,” says Mthombeni. Scriptwriting is just one weapon in his arsenal. He is also involved in puppeteering, production, directing and writing for screen and stage. He has acted in, written and directed a number of plays for the National Arts Festival, including Fallenand The Feather Collector.
A puppetry piece he directed, Qhawe: A Xhosa Fairtytale, won a Standard Bank Ovation Award. Mthombeni’s pen name, Mongiwekhaya, means protector of the home and, true to his name, he believes that theatre and puppetry are tools to empower and liberate young people.
He works alongside more than 200 of them with the Magpie Art Collective and the Handspring Trust to put on the annual Barrydale Parade.
Find Mongi Twitter: @Mongiwekhaya