A man in a formal suit steps onto the stage and starts undressing himself with rage. Tension builds in the room: a boy is about to transition into manhood.
Morwa the Rising Son, performed and written by Tefo Paya and diected by Warren Nebe, addresses the complexities of masculine identity, as well as the complex nature of gender, through the discoveries a boy makes on his way to manhood.
The formal suit that Morwa wears on his first appearance represents conventional ideals of masculinity, as well as the presence of his father, whom he describes as a “hard man”. Shedding his suit, he decides to put on his mother’s skirt, even though he doesn’t feel like he relates to her. At this, the audience bursts into laughter, more because of their discomfort at the idea of a man in a skirt than the comedic element of the scene. In this way, the audience is implicated in the various ways clothing perpetuates the performance of gender.
Moving between outfits – the suit, the skirt and male underwear – Morwa explores gendered notions of dressing. The biggest revelation for Morwa comes when he discovers his roommate at university is gay. The roommate is portrayed by a feminine scarf, a prop that addresses the fluidity of gender and interdependence of ideas between male and female.
This minimal prop use is coupled with clever use of traditional Setswana instruments – segaba, moropa and setinkana – and additional vocals from Volley Nchabeleng. Morwa excellently addresses the complex nature of gender, an important theme in the South African
context. Sadly, this was emphasised when a member of the audience shouted out “stabane”, a derogatory term for a gay person, during the performance.