“All women, for women, with women” – Napo Masheane on his cast and crew for the Herstory Festival

  • Multi-talented playwright and director Napo Masheane says she was raised by matriarchs who encouraged self-expression.
  • She says the Herstory festival was born out of the loss she and her peers suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Napo will also release a four-piece book as his next project.

Napo Masheane, the multi-award-winning playwright and activist, shares that she is the product of strong black women and an unwavering journey and wants the world to know it by hosting the first Herstory Festival.

Born in Soweto and raised in the Free State, Napo – who was raised by matriarchs she describes as unapologetic, loud and storyteller – says she too became a storyteller because it was more than her culture but in his DNA. As a result, she became passionate and fascinated by the stories of black women – especially undocumented and untold ones – and wanted to stage them.

Speaking to TRUELOVE about her journey and career, the director and theater maker says her upbringing was a catalyst for the stories she tells, as it encouraged freedom of expression and the voice.

“The women in my family aren’t mute, aren’t censored, they aren’t silent, they speak out and whether they do it with this volume, being dramatic or being quiet – but not aggressive, that’s closed.

“So with me stepping into this space of creativity and the world that wanted to mute me and shut me up and wanted me to bite my tongue and not be loud, I had to be rebellious and disobey because “At home, I have the right to say what I want to say. But of course, with respect, firmness and honesty,” she says.

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Napo will host the first Herstory Festival, a brainchild she says grew out of the Covid-19 pandemic and the loss she and her industry peers have suffered during this time.

“In recent years, due to the pandemic, it is not a hidden fact that all over the world, theaters have been closed, festivals have been cancelled; so most of us have lost jobs over the last two years and that has resulted in the loss of assets for most of my peers and co-workers – things that they have acquired. More than that, we keep losing our colleagues – umuntu uyalala, akavuki (people died). »

“So there’s a very underlying sadness and loss that we as famous people haven’t had a chance to talk about, and I think that’s the effect of what we’ve been through. and worn for the past two years,” she says. .

Additionally, she shares how the pandemic impacted her mental health and how the idea for the festival came about from the mental challenges she was facing. She started reaching out to friends, using her networks and creativity to bring this idea to life.

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“I found myself in this space [where I was] mentally handicapped, sad, depressed and for the first time in seven years I wondered: ‘What am I going to be?’. Because I’ve worked hard, I’ve got an amazing network, I’ve created amazing shows, I’ve released. I found myself asking, ‘Was it worth it and if I had to change careers in my 40s, what would I be?’ because all my life I have been that thing”.

By talking to friends and her support structure, Napo gathered all the contacts she had and solidified her talents and skills such as writing, storytelling and bringing artists together. Out of 17 countries, 15 responded to his call by joining the Herstory Festival. To date, Napo has had 150-200 creatives and artists working on the Herstory Festival which will run from August 1-7 for all women.

She says: “Its 250 creatives, over 50 from around the world and 200 from all over the country with almost 150 (out of the 200) from Gauteng and they are all women, for women, with women or those who identify as female.”

With the Herstory Festival, the poet and producer says she aims to reclaim and tell these stories globally by taking the festival overseas, creating jobs and making the festival an ongoing and sustainable project. She also wants to bring back and ignite the spark of theater by having day passes for the festival where people can not only watch the performances but also engage with the relevant stakeholders of each performance.

Napo’s future plans include publishing a book consisting of four of his plays, titled My Bum Is Genetic, Deal With It and Other Plays. She says this will be the first of several books to come as she aims to publish more of her plays.

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