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South African theatre urges youth to avoid crime

Members of the theatre group are shown here in rehearsal.


A group of homeless South Africans are using theatre to encourage Switzerland's young people to avoid violence. Muka is touring Switzerland to spread hope among deprived youngsters.

"The Muka project started in 1995 and was established by former homeless boys and girls who were already on the streets," Peter Ndebele told swissinfo. "We came together and decided to do something productive which was theatre."

Ndebele said the group did not want to "waste" their time doing "senseless things or committing petty crime - which most of the homeless people do," he continued.

The ensemble's approximately 25 members use theatre to show what life on the streets is like. Through dance, song and storytelling, in their play, "The Chain", they share the reasons they left home and their current lifestyle.

Muka member Virginia Maubane, explains that they also want to educate the audience about homelessness: "We are trying to stop young people from leaving their homes no matter what, and as a reference we have names and addresses of institutions where they can go if they feel the need to leave home."

Like South Africa

Maubane admits the situations portrayed are more indicative of the situation in South Africa, but she says many stories apply to people in other countries.

The aid organisation, Terre des Hommes Switzerland, believes that people in Switzerland can learn a lot by watching Muka perform.

"Our main goal is to empower young people where they are and not merely offer them a cup of soup, but encourage them to make something of their life," said Sonja Matheson from the humanitarian organisation.

She explained that delinquent violence in Switzerland is a problem and that through Muka's performances, discussions could be held on tackling violence stemming from homelessness.

"Terre des Hommes Switzerland came up with a campaign on youth and violence a year and a half ago," Matheson said. "We initiated a few projects on that issue and we really wanted to work with the youth and not just for them and telling them what to do."

Muka also host workshops to help children turn from violence. Once again using acting as a tool, Ndebele says it has proved very effective for helping youngsters.

Theatre as therapy

"We have community theatre workshops where we take on the homeless and those from disadvantaged communities. They come and tell their stories. To them it's like therapy," Ndebele said.

Mathseon said there is growing concern about youth violence in Switzerland. "We've had several cases lately that have been quite severe where youths have become perpetrators and not only victims of violence," she told swissinfo.

Muka opened their tour with a performance of "The Chain" in Basel last week. Their hectic schedule takes them to Solothurn, Zurich, Aarau, Pfäffikon and St Gallen.

Ndebele believes they are on a mission to spread hope to destitute youngsters.

"At the end of the show we have this message of hope. We want to encourage the youth that even with nothing, you still have to represent yourself in a positive way. Because you can wait for manner from heaven or to wait for someone to come to help you yet you don't help yourself."



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