Issues surrounding manhood and masculinity were central in the address by revered actor and master of theatre – Sello Maake Ka Ncube who took the reigns as keynote speaker at the first Men’s Parliament to be hosted in Kimberley last week. The session is hosted by the department of Social Development and falls in line with a number of programmes dedicated to fighting the scourge of Gender-Based Violence (GBV).
Men from all walks of life gathered at the Mayibuye Multipurpose Centre, to address issues along the spectrum of drug and alcohol abuse, teenage fatherhood, lack of guidance and support and a multitude of longstanding social ills that plague society. One of the urgent issues that men addressed was their masculinity and the effects of patriarchy. Sello Maake Ka Ncube used his standing as an actor and purveyor of the arts to address the issue of masculinity as a tool in Gender Based Violence. Once a partaker of GBV, Maake says he stopped abusing his partner when he realized that he was “Human before he was a man”, this eventually led him to question maleness.
“I listened to that little voice and it set me on a journey of interrogating my masculinity and my manhood. And it was only in 1998 when I met with a group of young men who were part of an NGO that dealt with domestic violence called Adapt. They were pioneers in having men as partners in the fight against gender based violence.” Maake showcased a play to further solidify his stance on GBV and masculinity. “I created this play – Komeng with these four young men who wanted to show people that they have changed and when I met with them my question was change from what? And basically we started painting a picture of what masculinity has been all about.”
Themes of patriarchy are central to the play Komeng. Maake added that it was important for artist to use their creativity as weapons in slaying the beast called adversity. For the master of Theatre, an artist has a social duty to fulfill – creating works that would disrupt societal norms. “Komeng is a Sotho word, it means right of passage. It all has to do with enduring physical pain. In this play we use that as a metaphor for psychological pain and the characters are basically going through emotional and psychological pain and discovering their humanity at the end. Art has always been a tool for change. It was a tool for change even during the Apartheid era, we used to do plays at the time called protest plays. And even this one deals with masculinity but it is protest against the scourge of domestic violence. Instead of outward looking, the characters are undergoing their own make up and confronting their own issues.”
Dialogues like the Men’s parliament are important in changing the way we think. Maake says they start uncomfortable conversations about identity. “They are starting a conversation. There will be those who basically are themselves caught up in the space of being violent towards their partners, but at least from now they are not going to leave the same way. They are going to find themselves questioning. And that for me is the beginning of the journey,” Maake concluded.