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The Durban University of Technology’s Urban Futures Centre (UFC) recently launched a series of performances titled ‘The Last Country’ based on the experiences of migrant women establishing themselves in the city of Durban. The performances kicked – off to an impressive start at the Ritson’s Campus Courtyard Theatre.

The play is based on research undertaken by the UFC in partnership with the Democracy Development Program (DDP), the African Solidarity Network (ASONET) and Refugee Social Services (RSS). Funded by the Cities Alliance, the research explores the different experiences of migrant women as they travel from all across the continent to live and work in Durban. The script draws from 30 oral histories collected through the project from African women from the DRC, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Nigeria (among others). The performance touches on the hardships faced by these women as they negotiate life in the city, demonstrating their resilience, their joys and their sorrows. The play is directed by award winning director, Neil Coppen and is co-produced by acclaimed actress Mpume Mthombeni.

The performances ran over 3 days; on  the 22nd and 23rd November four performances were held at the Courtyard Theatre, and on  the 25th November two performances were held at the Dennis Hurley Centre. The audience included students, members of the public, faith based organisations, and non-profit organisations, all of whom were overwhelmed with the 45-minute show.

“Our job was to take these stories and turn them into theatre performances where people could understand and empathize with these experiences, which can help create new conversations on how to make Durban a safer place for women coming from their countries, including those migrating from rural areas. We hope to create a dialogue thorough these performances and shift people’s thinking”, said Mthombeni.

Mthombeni who plays the character of Mathwala, a women from rural KZN who finds it hard to settle in the city, said that being part of the project has been an eye opener for her. She noted that this is an opportune moment for South Africans to speak out about all the hardships faced by women trying to make a living in Durban, regardless of where they come from.

Mthombeni urged the people of Durban to accept foreign nationals in the city, saying that it belongs to everyone and that doing so will move the country forward.

Pictured: UFC’s Kira Erwin, play director Neil Coppen, cast Philisiwe Twynstra, Nompilo Maphumulo, Zinhle Bobi , Sbonelo Mgilane during their performance at Courtyard Theatre, Ritson Campus.

Mbuso Kunene

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