Imbawula | Intimate stories of our shared humanity

Imbawula Hlubi Mboya

Another intimate night at the Bassline in Newtown Johannesburg at the last Imbawula of 2015, saw four extremely different storytellers come together to share some really personal stories in an effort to raise money for the Quarphix foundation – a youth development NGO that gives a leg up to disadvantaged youth. MS ALUWANI RATSHIUNGO was there.

“Don’t be fooled by the energy babe, I’m trying to conceal the nerves” said actress and activist Ms. Hlubi Mboya just two hours before the show kicked off. The petite, ebony skinned and insanely energetic woman who many came to know as Nandipha Matabane – the character she played on Isidingo for 10 years – was one of the four storytellers at Imbawula on the 25th of November. Ms. Mboya shared how she came to Johannesburg to pursue her dreams to be in the creative arts after she dropped out of varsity – a move that left her parents unimpressed.

“But you are a performer, why would you be nervous about this” I posed the question, to which she swiftly responded to by reminding me that as much as acting was a form of storytelling, it was all just a portrayal of a fictional character. Telling a story about yourself required a certain level of honesty and vulnerability.

Honesty and vulnerability is exactly what writer Ms. Afrika Lethabo Bogatsu brought to the stage with her story about the difficulties of being a daughter to a single mother. Looking around the intimate Jazzroom venue, one could see people nodding in agreement, for it is a story that many can relate to. “Don’t call us strong black women when you put us through so much shit we have no other choice but to be strong,” said Ms. Bogatsu. “I hate the fact that people glorify single mothers without quite understanding what it means to be a single mother; what it means to be raised by a single mother.”

As a fourth generation South African of Irish descent, Mr. Liam Lynch’s story mainly drew the parallels between South African and Irish culture, one of which is the tradition of storytelling. Mr Lynch also talked about the oppression of Irish people who are basically “the Blacks of Europe” because of the racism they suffered and still somehow continue to at the hands of the English. “I would never have thought that it would take a group of white English police men in England to teach a white South African just how fucked up racial profiling and racism as an institutional mind-set can be.”

Don’t call us strong black women when you put us through so much shit we have no other choice but to be strong,

The actor and comedian Mr. Ntosh Madlingozi tells stories for a living, and the room went silent when he shared how he almost hit an ex-girlfriend during an argument. He decided to move out the following day and left the relationship before it could consume him and turn him into a domestic abuser; a “statistic”. The timing of the story was particularly interesting because it coincided with the first day of the annual 16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign. It was an important reminder of the need to have more open conversations about gender-based violence.

The resident performer, the underrated Melo B Jones accompanied by her amazing musical director V the Vowel as always, blew the crowd away with their beautiful set which included Melo B Jones’ originals and a medley of covers of some classic tunes.

If you would like to tell a story at Imbawula please mail

Go to to find out how you can donate your resources – monetary or otherwise.

Check out to hear more of Melo B Jones’ music.

Image by Mr. Trevor Ndobela

Audio edited by Mr. Chris Martiens

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