N.C. Central Students Perform "Sarafina!"
By Diane Varnie -- Black College Wire   

The beat dropped, followed with "Freedom is coming tomorrow." With fists of rage in the air, backed up with vocals in unison and tribal dance steps, "Sarafina!" was moving. "Sarafina!" was amazing.

This past weekend, the N.C. Central University department of theatre started its fall season with the Broadway musical "Sarafina!"

Sarafina is a South African musical by Mbongeni Ngema that tells the story of Soweto students fighting apartheid.

Chi Brown/Campus Echo
The production of Sarafina!
In 1992 the musical, was adapted into a film starring Whoopi Goldberg and Zulu South African actress Leleti Khumalo as Sarafina.

"This play takes us into a world of social consciousness and captures a panoramic view of the complexities of human relationship from mankind's attempt to reach the ultimate concept of world peace to the intrinsic premise of individual self-worth," said director Stephanie "Asabi" Howard, assistant professor of theater.

"Sarafina!" takes place at Morris Isaacson High School in Soweto in 1976, when 200,000 black students gathered to protest a government ruling that exchanged the town's dialect  for the official West Germanic language of Afrikaans as the new medium of instruction in their classes.

Successful through storytelling and singing, "Sarafina!" follows the happenings of fictional classmates, in particular a girl named Sarafina who inspires her colleagues with her commitment to the struggle against apartheid.

Apartheid was a system of legal racial segregation enforced by the National Party government in South Africa between 1948 and 1994.

Under this system, the rights of the majority non-white dwellers of South Africa were condensed under minority white rule.

"Sarafina!" was an impressive production.

The stage, crafted by members of the department of theatre, placed audience members in the middle of the action. A wire fence, used to hold slumped students jailed during a school house raid, created chilling scenes.

In-house designers constructed costumes from scratch.

The musical also features a live band consisting of drums, keyboard, bass and horns. Never missing a beat, the band covered "The Sound of Freedom" soundtrack favorites such as "The Lord's Prayer," "Sechaba," and "Thank You Mama."

Jessica Jones, a senior performance theatre student, as Sarafina, created a convincing Sowetan accent.

"The accent is hard, it's something that takes time and practice," said Jones.

"Most of the cast walks around talking with the accent on a daily basis so we can get that practice."

The performance even put goose bumps on visitors from France.

One of our visitors from Paris included Eleonore Coralie, an actress from performing arts organization Sessions Kwandies.

"The energy, it never stops!" said Coralie. "So much singing and dancing and acting. It never stops!"

"Sarafina!" performances are Oct. 8 and 9 at 8 p.m., and Oct. 10 at 2 p.m., in the University Theater. All shows are $15 general admission and $10 for students and senior citizens.

Diane Varnie writes for The Campus Echo, the N.C. Central University student newspaper, which originally published this article.

Posted Oct. 07, 2010