8 March 2016
Saarah Survé, Stellenbosch Department of Journalism
Spier Amphitheatre – The aim of the musical Philida van de Delta is to give a voice to the voiceless and to hear their stories through song.
Organisers of this musical therefore invited members of the Solms-Delta community to take part, giving them a voice in the show.
“Everybody who arrived was allowed to be in the show. Nobody had acted before, but they chose their roles,” said Adriaan Brand, project manager of the Music van de Caab Heritage development. Brand compiled and adapted the story to music. He is also a founding member of the Springbok Nude Girls.
Solms-Delta and members of Babylonstoren guest farm and the multidisciplinary cultural Breytenbach Centre collaborated to present Philida van de Delta.
The musical was inspired by historic documents, their own imagination and the late André Brink’s novel, Philida.
“They read Philida, the historical records and had their own ideas. They told their neighbours the story and we actualised their telling of the story,” said Brand. “We gave them complete freedom to express their voices, but with support; sharing information, drama-training and how to project the voice.
“They first performed the show to people in the valley, because they wanted the ‘home-crowd’s’ approval before performing it to outsiders,” said Brand.
The Solms-Delta music project includes the Delta Soetstemme and Delta Langbroek-orkes. As the music project grew amongst the local community, the idea of making a theatre musical came up.
“Music in the Cape Winelands and Cape folk music in particular, was an organic, self-facilitated process of healing. Historically, songs encoded meaning in a language shared by the owners and slaves,” said Brand.
According to Brand Philida van de Delta is relevant now, because of “the importance of telling stories, especially those pertaining to the era of slavery”. He believes that not enough people are telling their stories during this time of restitution, building a new identity and reappraising South African identities.
“It is particularly poignant, because of a culture of silence. A voice was systematically stolen and people were systematically enslaved,” he explains.
Karina Magdalena Szcurek, the late Brink’s wife, says that “slavery is one of the most important aspects of South African history that has not been explored sufficiently. Philida’s voice is literally reverberating through the centuries, and now it is being heard again through the musical. It says everything about the human spirit, women’s resilience, and the power of storytelling.”
According to Szcurek, while everyone cried, she was the only one who had to leave, sobbing uncontrollably, just after the show. “I am humbled by the experience in all kinds of ways, and grateful. The performance was utterly beautiful in all respects – simply stunning!”