The influence of the late Nelson Mandela was felt all over Africa, said performer Jean Pierre Makosso.
Makosso was born the year after Mandela was arrested in 1964 and grew up with the story. When Makosso was 10, he was selected with two of his best friends to read from Mandela's speeches in front ofdiplomats and ambassadors.
"The students knew about apartheid in South Africa," Makosso said. "At that time Mandelawas alreadyin our youngminds. He was close to us. He wasn't someone so far away like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X or Ghandi. No, Mandela was just next door, in our hopes and dreams, so close, so near."
Later when Makosso left his home in the Congo and studied in France, he played the role of Mandela on stage and looked to him as a politician, a leader and a mentor. Sadly he never met him. Mandela could have been released from jail earlier, Makosso noted, but he refused to bow to the conditions imposed on him.
When he was released in February 1990, he was greeted by crowds, and was later elected president in South Africa's first multi-racial elections. He died in December 2013.
Now Makosso brings Mandela alive again through his speeches, adapted for stage and performed by him along with Yvy Bouiti-Makosso and Adelene da soul poet in Tribute to Mandela at the Heritage Playhouse in Gibsons on Feb. 28 and March 2. Also in the show will be dancers from Vancouver and music from a local youth band, Mama's Boys.
"They rock!" Makosso said.
For the last segment of the play, he hopes to have many local people on stage portraying celebrities in the scene that celebrates Mandela's 90th birthday.
"We need 25 people of all ages," he said, inviting all those interested to take on a character and be part of the play.
You don't have to look like the character, but must have the attitude of Prince William or Oprah. It's OK for a white woman to play Michelle Obama, for instance, and a black woman to play Lady Gaga. If interested, contact Makosso right away at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The performance is also in celebration of Black History Month and some of the same performers will be at the Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives on Wednesday, Feb. 26, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. where author and performer Valerie Mason-John will launch the North American version of her award-winning novel, Borrowed Body. All are invited to hear performance poetry at an open mike with refreshments from sponsors More Bakery.
The adapted speeches, Tribute to Mandela, will be performed at 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 28 (doors at 7) and 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 2. Admission is by donation with part proceeds to go to Grandmothers and Grandothers, a group that supports the many African grandmothers who take care of children whose parents have died as a result of war or AIDS. Mandela supported campaigns to battle AIDS, and the disease claimed his own son.
"AIDS is no longer just a disease, it is a human rights issue," Mandela told the world. That's just one of the many aspects of the man that will be explored in Tribute to Mandela.
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