UNYOKO is a musical piece centered on the role of women in society.
Conceived by South Africa-based writer and director Bonginkosi Madondo, the first performance took place last June in Johannesburg with musical direction by Siphiwe Sip Nkabinde and choreographed by Sabelo Sakhile Maphumulo.
Through an evocation of a matristic perspective, UNYOKO posits a commentary on the effects of patristic ideology on society.
Using text, dance, and music, the production creates an ideal world where the female energy guides both the spiritual and physical worlds to rid them of violent divisions, deep darkness, gender warfare, class hierarchies, and patrilineal dominance.
The piece is a long prayer for harmonious living where the “systems of the womb” are replicated.
“From its inceptions,” says Bonginkosi Madondo, “UNYOKO was aimed at educating a boy child on the role of the female figure in this life and beyond.”
“When I look around in our society and the world at large, women are not recognized for who they really are but are rather a prop that can be dominated and exploited.”
For the director, this lack of recognition and a misleading narrative rooted in religion and spirituality are a leading cause of chaos and femicide worldwide. It is motivated by a lack of awareness, as if “someone contaminated and derailed the essential knowledge for their own gain.”
Therefore UNYOKO “is created to restore the sense of purpose to humankind.”
In the Zulu language, the word unyoko means mother as opposed to uyihlo, father. Uyihlo literally means eye.
“Mothers are creators,” says Madondo, “and fathers are eyes to look after the creation. When we refer to our creator as humans, we are made to think that we are made by someone who lives in the sky. But indeed, your mother created you for nine months with her body. All humans are birthed by a woman. She is the passage of all existence.”
The piece was conceived on a Thursday night in 2018. “It was one of those days when a son misses his late mother,” says Madondo. “My three brothers and I were raised by a single mother, so on that day, as I navigated through the memories we had as a family, it came down to an introspection. I felt she was never celebrated enough as she managed to raise four boys to men without formal employment.”
In a world of UNYOKO, God is a woman; she replicated earth as her green womb and is called Mother Earth and Mother Nature. “So the womb beneath the woman is for the sacred initiation of an extension of all her species; the existence of all her creation comes from the womb.”
Produced by the Evezikhono Arts Projects, this independent piece is foreseen to be staged again in August 2022 during South African Women’s Month and again in the future, depending on locally available financial support.
The show featured performers Dikeledi Modubu, Phindile Nkosi, Sabelo Sakhile Maphumulo, vocalists Mpendulo Sipho Mhlanga & Siphiwe Sip Nkabinde, musicians Volley Nchabeleng & Stompie Selibe. The music is composed by The Cast & Ensemble.