'Let The Blind Sing' to showcase talents of artists with disabilities

Zakhele Mabena feels that the theatre space has been missing productions that speak to people with disabilities, with little intervention in creating inclusive content and prioritising such artists.

"Lifted - Let The Blind Sing”, a production by Zakhele Mabena, will take feature at the The South African State Theatre as part of the 2022 edition of the annual Mzansi Fela Festival. Picture: Thobekile Shoba

JOHANNESBURG – As the world marks International Day of People with Disabilities on Saturday, the Mzansi Fela Festival (MFF) aims to also celebrate them in a special way.

The 2022 edition of the festival (MFF) takes place at The South African State Theatre (SAST) from 01 to 18 December.

And one production art lovers can look forward to is "_Lifted - Let The Blind Sing", _a production by musical director Zakhele Mabena of the critically acclaimed Marikana - The Musical and Shaka Zulu- The Gaping Wound.

Aimed at creating a professional platform for persons living with disability, the production is a musical celebration show that embraces the talent of artists living with different forms of disability.

Mabena hopes the production will enable audiences to see outside the perceived limitations of people with physical challenges.

“I want the audience to see beyond their physical challenge and realise that they can just put up a professional show just like any able person. We also want people to be educated and learn more about the reality of PWD community,” Mabena told Eyewitness News.

“We should be intentional by involving them in everything we do, we should accommodate them and judge them on what they can do rather than their disability,” said the award-winning musical director.

The musical theatre production features a cast of 12 artists with different disabilities and a five-piece band consisting of musicians such as The Ga-Rankuwa Requesters - a sextet of blind people.

They are accompanied by mainstream artists such as SnowWhite, Tshepo Nkadimeng, Khwezi Sondiyazi, Maira and Sebenzile “Sebeh” Kuzwayo, and the award-winning songstress Nhlanhla Dube as narrator.

“The community is slow in integration because of perception and lack of education even deliberate efforts of inclusion,” said Mabena on why society is slow to change when it comes to seeing people with disabilities as equals in workspaces.

READ: Artists with disabilities 'gravely marginalised': Babsy Mlangeni

It also helps to create awareness of the contributions that people with disabilities can make in the workplace.

Mabena feels that the theatre space has been missing productions that speak to the community of people with disabilities. There has been little intervention in creating inclusive content and prioritising such artists.

“They are easily forgotten. People see their condition before their talent. The industry thinks they are a burden,” said Mabena.

Commenting on the cast selection, Mabena said the journey went as far as searching for musicians from the streets.

“We’re talking about blind musicians that we pass by every day at the street corners and other public spaces, who use their voice and musical instruments. The production is lifting them to a professional level as they are lifting the audience with a song.”

This is a family show aimed to entertain, inspire, educate and to give hope.

“Let’s get Lifted by the song and let the blind sing,” said the multiple award-winning producer, song- writer and director.

READ: We can arts festival: showcasing the best of SA's disabled artists