Really excited by this – opens next weekend. Productions from South Africa, Kenya, South Sudan, Zimbabwe and Nigeria come to the UK to perform as part of the ‘Globe to Globe’ festival at the Shakespeare’s Globe in London, each presenting one of Shakespeare’s plays in IsiZulu, IsiXhosa, SeSotho, Setswana, Afrikaans (language = ‘South Africa’ on the website), Swahili, Juba Arabic, Shona and Yoruba respectively.
You can find the plays by country/language on the website, here: http://globetoglobe.shakespearesglobe.com/
“These ambitious productions are part of an unprecedented programme of multi-lingual Shakespeare productions. 37 international companies will present every one of Shakespeare’s plays in a different language over six weeks: Afrikaans, Albanian, Arabic, Armenian, Bangla, Belarusian, British Sign Language, Cantonese, Dari, French, Georgian, German, Greek, Gujarati, Hebrew, Hindi,IsiZulu, IsiXhosa, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Mandarin, Maori, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Shona, Serbian, SeSotho, Setswana , Spanish (Argentine, Castilian and Mexican), Swahili, Turkish, Urdu, Yoruba” (Out of Africa UK).
Opening up these language things, and I am embarrassingly and astonishingly monolingual – all the more regretful about it, too, because as a very young child, I apparently had as much Sesotho and Xhosa as I did English. But I feel really excited by the idea of watching Shakespeare without understanding the language it is being performed in – and the kind/s of theatre – surprises, cadences, embodiments – this might afford the experience. I wonder if there will be sur- or sub-titles…and whether they will be a blessing or a curse.
I’d be particularly interested in going to the one in ‘South African’ (Venus and Adonis performed by the amazing Isango Ensemble from Cape Town) and also the Shona play (The Winter’s Tale), primarily because of my relationship to both of those places, as well as my research interests currently being there; when I was growing up in Zimbabwe in the early 80s, so close to apartheid South Africa, the speaking of Afrikaans, at school as well as amongst adults, was deeply politically inflected, often furtive, always troubled and difficult. I was not at all interested in learning it. My relationship to it, though, is now radically changed and I’m delighted by this: it’s almost like welcoming it back, having never had it, and now without the inarticulable distress and rage it once held and represented. I like its sounds now, and how it speaks (in translation only, of course – sadly – Leon de Kock is a wonderful translator of Afrikaans in my opinion, as, I think, is Antjie Krog who translates her own work). And in the freshly independent Zimbabwe, I did not learn Shona, although I still love its cadences as part of my formative years – I was at primary school in Zimbabwe – and this I do not hear now, haven’t for many years. And then there is Shakespeare… a kind of a linguistic diet it wasn’t possible to avoid – school/s (Africa and the UK), university (UK)…
‘Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice’ says Polonius.
For more on the Globe to Globe Festival 2012 see AiW’s An African Play?
AND Huff Post Books for an update – ‘Shakespeare’s Globe Theater takes ‘Hamlet’ around world‘ (posted 16 July 2013)