The Othello Project was created by actors in the RSC company. This new writing endeavour seeks to highlight the life and work of five incredible Black and Asian forgotten figures from history. Inspired by Shakespeare’s Othello, as a study of the outsider, they are using art to challenge racism by creating a platform to champion the life and work of their ancestors, whose voices have been largely erased from history.
I was inspired to write about The Mahotella Queens because they represent a peculiar group of women- the girl group, - in a very impeculiar field.
The marketability of a certain type of woman has been a thing ever since Caesar made a big deal about Cleopatra’s nose. Possibly even before that. But for woman like The Mahotella Queens, Miriam Makeba, Busi Ncube, Brenda Fassie, Sarah Baartman and scores of others, some of whom have met and served you in some ordinary mundane capacity, the weight of sacrifice they make in order to live in a world were the scales are deliberately tipped against them - it’s unimaginable.
These women, who are uniquely beautiful, supremely talented, and desirous of the ordinary, yet completely powerless to achieve it, they inspired me to write The Dancing Gogos.
They work hard to secure themselves in a world where African women are the least valued commodity. And they continue working, far beyond the age where they should be sitting down and enjoying the fruits of their work as Gogos. They continue to work because, they put in the work, but someone else collected their ‘fruit’. It’s not a new story. A lot of African artists find themselves penniless at the ‘end’ of their careers. They die abandoned and abused. Beyond use.
I say all that to say this. The image of the African is of someone sitting in the dirt, bowl in hand, begging for rations. These women challenge that image. They call it a lie. And then they crumple your heart because you realise that for all the power they exude, they are incredibly vulnerable. They are such a contradiction to me. So powerful they don’t need rescuing, and so fragile WHO can rescue them. Dancing Gogos.