Thursday, February 29, 2024

Soweto International Comedy Festival comes to Maitisong

Home grown heavy weights of comedy Modiri Keseabetswe aka MOD and Umbambi Ndiwenyu aka Bambino will join a high profile duo of South African comedians Trevor Gumbi and Kedibone Mulaudzi on Saturday 19th August at Maitisong.

Soweto Comedy Festival is the brain child of Kedibone Mulaudzi who has turned it into an international franchise. The event punctuates the continuation of an ongoing regional tour by South African comedians to share Soweto with the rest of the world. Founded during the mineral revolution in South Africa, Soweto, (acronym for South Western Townships) is a sprawling conurbation of townships in the outskirts of the city of Johannesburg inhabited by predominantly African black people who were forcibly removed from the city centre in places like Sophiatown and Yeoville by the South African apartheid government. The motivation was to make the city centre for whites only and to populate black people far away from the whites, all in one place closer to the mines where they worked as labourers. Domestic workers would travel for long hours to get to work in the Johannesburg suburbs. Accommodation was provided in the form of houses of similar plans in the entire township which were referred to as matchbox houses because if their tiny size, too small to accommodate large extended families which characterised the African family setting at the time. Soweto became the epicentre of the revolution against apartheid with political activists such as Nelson and Winnie Mandela, Walter and Albertina Sisulu and Desmond and Leah Tutu inhabiting the township.

In 1976, it became the focus of the world with the famous student uprisings that gave birth to the iconic picture of the late Hector Pieterson’s little  lifeless body in the arms of Mbuyiseni Makhubo with Pieterson’s sister running by his side. Soweto is also the home of the famous Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital (Bara as affectionately known by the Sowetans and now renamed after the slain apartheid icon Chris Hani) was popularly called Perekwane by many Batswana. The referral hospital was one of the most popular medical centres in Africa. Batswana have generally been terrified of Soweto as it was portrayed in the news as a place of violence by the whites who owned television and radio, but a place and symbol of black resistance by anti apartheid movements. One wonders whether Batswana knew that Baragwanath is in the heart of Soweto, the ‘notorious’ place they feared the most.

Today’s Soweto is a different place. It has transformed beyond recognition. It is now a buzzing tourist attraction area with road and communications infrastructure that carries the Reavaya rapid transport system, electricity, the impressive modern Maponya and Jabulani Malls, Soweto Theatre and two world cup stadiums the FNB and Olando Stadia. The matchbox houses have been renovated beyond recognition, some into posh double storey buildings.

Soweto’s heartbeat is mainly is centred around the world famous Vilakazi Street often referred to as the famous street in the world for having housed two Nobel Peace laureates Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. The hype of economic activity on Vilakazi Street is incredible. It is busy 24 hours a day with restaurants, stalls, tourists, music, vendors selling exclusive Soweto branded merchandise and proudly South African crafts.

Soweto has many stories that must be told to the world.

Bambino and Gao Lemmenyane had the privilege of visiting Soweto on the weekend of the Soweto Derby at the FNB Stadium, two South African soccer giants Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. Bambino’s comedy script writing started at the border where there were a legion of Batswana fans, garbed in Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates gear crossing the border to go and watch their favourite teams live at FNB Stadium. Brace yourself for a set that touches on his being a Soweto tourist from Botswana especially on that particular weekend. Bambino the international tourist from Botswana who visited Soweto met the Soweto natives and was taken around the shebeens and joints, eating skopo and roasted mogodu.

Kedibone Mulaudzi – the founder of Nubreed School of Comedy and Soweto International Comedy Festival, the man who initiated Ribcracker and many other into comedy brings a unique element to comedy. He will share his jokes in 3D – accompanied by pictures and sound. I had the privilege of watching him present this at the Soweto Theatre and trust me you will be blown away.

Trevor Gumbi needs no introduction. He has been to our shores before and is a regular face on South African television. Outspoken and often bursting with energy, he has performed on so many stages, including the Kings & Queens of comedy, Oppikoppi, Blacks Only and Laugh out Loud to mention a few. Recently, he has taken over from DJ Sbu to present Friends like these on SABC

MOD has become the Godfather of comedy in Botswana. With his potent jokes on any topic, his wit is sophisticated and pungent. He delivers intelligent and relevant jokes on any topic. You know how our conservative audiences sometimes become uneasy with certain topics like adult content, sexual orientation and death, MOD goes there and transports audiences with his sensibilities and finishes them off with fantastic punchlines.

Soweto International Comedy Festival will kick start the international tour in Botswana on 19 August at Maitisong starting at 7:30pm. Parental guidance is advised and persons under the age of 15 will not be admitted. Tickets are available at Webtickets, Maitisong, Riverwalk and Spar outlets nationwide.


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