Art & Design Event

HerStory International Festival set to take this August

July 26, 2022

Multi-award-winning playwright, director, poet and performer Napo Masheane is working on her biggest project to date – HerStory International Festival. The festival will feature womxn creatives from countries like: 

  • Canada
  • United Kingdom
  • USA
  • South Africa
  • Brazil
  • Nigeria
  • Botswana
  • Lesotho
  • Zimbabwe
  • Mozambique
  • Madagascar
  • Namibia
  • Sweden

They will come together to celebrate Womxn’s month at the Soweto Theatre. Here, they will share their stories and art while embracing their scars and, hopefully, heal as well.

It comes at the perfect time when the world needs softness. 

“HerStory Festival is my brainchild. But I do need to make a disclaimer that I was called out by my community of sisters, friends and brotherhood from different parts of the world. Post-Covid, so many of us have lost a sense of participating in festivals, coming together as creatives live as opposed to virtually. Also, I think a lot of us have lost a sense of ourselves. And I was going through one of those moments where I was trying to figure out what to do next. 

You don’t have control over external factors. You have control over creation. Reflecting on what I have been doing over the past 27 years, trying to find myself again; knowing that I am very passionate about womxn’s stories and that I have also contributed a lot in bringing to light undocumented narratives of womxn from my family and my community

HerStory – a celebration of womxn

I needed to do HerStory, something that could celebrate, amplify and also bring contemporary women creatives and artists together and started calling all my contacts and networks. I went to my artistic bank and called everyone from Sweden, UK, Caribbean, US, SA, etc – I want to do a womxn festival, for women, by womxn, and asked them to be a part of them. Within a space of 24 hours, I already had almost 30 people agreeing to be a part of this,” Napo explains.

Often we feel as if we are losing the battle against GBV. Take, for instance, the response to Namhla’s spine-chilling death. It gave hope that perhaps we would be heard. But, instead, the accused is said to be roaming the streets and has effortlessly escaped the law. Despite the dark days, Napo encourages us not to give up, not to be discouraged. 

“I am a survivor of GBV. I know what it feels like to be in an abusive relationship. But I can tell you now that it took a community of sisters, friends and amazing brothers to get me out of there. A sense of communal solidarity that helped me at my lowest. From being ashamed and afraid to saying just because I am Napo doesn’t mean I am immune to violence, but also to realize that it gives me more reason to not keep quiet. So, we need to make noise until somebody hears. 

HerStory International Festival
Multi-award-winning playwright, director, poet and performer Napo Masheane. Image: supplied

“I think the problem would be us keeping quiet.Thank God for social media and different alliances. All of us are making noise. Someone in that office will listen and be forced to hear us. We are not the law makers, but if we constantly use our platform to reflect in such a way that different mirrors of us show up in spaces that are not conforming to hearing us, at some point somebody is going to stand up, somebody is going to create change.”

A festival to lift you up

We have been experiencing the toughest 2 years as a country. The theme of the festival is about rising. We fall down, but we get up. 

“It’s no hidden factor that we have lost so many creatives. Our industry as a whole has been most affected; people struggling with mental illness. So, it’s one thing to be seeing what has been going around the world in terms of the pandemic, in terms of GBV [and] losing community members. But it’s also another thing to try and keep sane as a creative. 

“We are social beings, we are emotional creatures, we are so affected – by not being able to travel, create, which is how we earn our living. So most of us have been struggling with mental illness so this is a conversation about how do we rise from that – rising from that means we re-awaken [and] reignite the spark in all of us. We recreate platforms where it can be about us and this is why her story. 

“We are gonna tell stories of womxn in our lives, celebrate womxn in our lives. The most important thing is that we come together, connect and help each other to rise from the traumas that we have been going through for the past 2 years – financially, economically, socially. I may not know your struggle but if I am able to be with you for 7 days, to allow you to meet my other Napos, to allow you to share your art, to have profound, inspiring conversations and allow your work that you created with your blood and sweat be able to artistically migrate to other countries then I have done something. I have helped you rise from your fears and traumas and things you have not been able to articulate. We need to rise but we rise from this through sharing, teaching, perfoming.”

HerStory International Festival  

“This is going to be an annual festival. So, every first week of August. We know as South Africans that August is very important so we were very intentional to make it in August to start the womxn’s month and also to let the world know about our own history and what our grandmothers have fought through. The dynamics of the battles are different but we are still on the battlefield 

“Everybody is arriving between the 30th and 31st of July. 1st August is for our meet and greet and then we have an amazing opening night on the 2nd. Everything starts happening from different performances, every day is spent on a particular genre. You have got spoken word, dance, performing arts, music, theater, we will have dialogues and master classes.”

HerStory International Festival will take place over 7-days at the Soweto Theatre, in line with their 10-year celebration. Tickets are available from Webtickets at R150.

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