About the Trilogy
Anthem of Life is Edmonton Playwright Tololwa Mollel's adaption of South African Poet Laureate Mazisi Kunene’s Anthem of the Decades: A Zulu Epic (AOTD). Driven by a diverse ensemble of performers from various artistic disciplines, the trilogy will include a fluid mixture of African-style storytelling, Odissi Dance and Odissi-inspired movement; live Hindustani music, choral speech and animation of large-scale Zulu-style God-masks and creatures.
The heart of Kunene’s epic is a Zulu creation myth. In it, the Supreme Creator sends to earth the slow chameleon with a message: “Mankind shall live forever!” Later, he sends the fast salamander to say: “Mankind shall die!”. Kunene grew this into a saga of vast cosmological quests and conflicts, ultimately resolving into a balance between The Creator, the Gods, Humanity, the Ancestors and the Cosmos. Anthem of Life Part 1 explores the creation of humanity, debates and intrigues between Goddesses and Gods over whether to destroy or empower us and trials and triumphs we undergo because of their actions.
Anthem of Life Part 1 will headline the 2022 Thousand Faces Festival.
About the Playwright:
With his roots as a theatre actor and dramatist in Canada where he lives and Tanzania where he grew up, Tololwa is a theatrical performer of stories he writes for the stage. At times he performs solo, other times with co-performers. A mix of the storyteller’s art and that of the actor-performer characterize Tololwa’s performances, which he does through enactment, audience engagement, selective use of props and costume pieces, movement and at times song.
More on Tololwa:
Tololwa on adapting
Anthem of Life:
My fascination with Anthem of the Decades, and inspiration decades later to adapt it, grew out of my introduction, eons ago, to contemporary African literature and oral literature and poetry. I was a fresh undergraduate at the University of Dares Salaam in my native Tanzania. We were shifting focus from a Euro-centred educational system to an Africa-centred one, to go with Tanzania’s independence from British colonial rule. I was restlessly foraging for African literary texts when I came across Kunene's AOTD. Its narrative and poetic power and Kunene's incredible facility with language captured me. I truly admire the ingenious artistry behind it and its unique content. Who knew that our Africa-centred refocusing, and my ‘discovery’ of AOTD decades earlier, would eventually lead me to my 2017 Anthem of Life play and now to Trilogy Anthem of Life Part 1, in preparation for Parts 2 and 3? A wonderful journey, despite – or perhaps on account of – not knowing the destination!
Artistic Director Mark Henderson on producing
Anthem of Life:
I've long admired Tololwa Mollel breadth of vision, playfulness, sense of humour and his unflagging interest in finding the universal in stories from different cultures.
In 2016 he recommended I read Mazisi Kunene’s epic, Anthem of the Decades. Its language, images of nature, animals, the earth; the plays of light, wind, sound, water, space, darkness, movement and silence; the characters’ precise movements of ego, mind and heart were unlike anything I had read. I found in it a union of the best aspects of Shakespeare and the Mahabharata, with a cosmic scope worthy of the best Science Fiction.
These factors, in junction with Tololwa’s passion for and skill with the story and the story’s universality within a very specific Zulu nature, inspired me to see Anthem of Life grow on the stage.
Theatre Prospero presented a workshop production of Anthem of Life at the 2017 Thousand Faces Festival.
Playwright: Tololwa Mollel
Directors: Mark Henderson & Jennifer Spencer
Choreographer: Enakshi Sinha
Production Designer: Randall Fraser
Lighting Designer: Ami Farrow
Composer & Live Musician: Srijan Chatterjee
Stage Manager: Jennie Emms
Performers: Jessy Ardern, Barry Bilinsky, Sarah Culkin, Joel Dinicola, Enakshi Sinha, and Bill Yong.