Cantos of a Life in Exile

Writer, performer, director: Makhaola Ndebele
Where: Theatre Arts, Methodist Church Hall at Cnr Milton Road and Wesley Street, Observatory, Cape Town
When: August 16-20, 2023  (eight performances – scroll down for dates and times)

Huge news is the much anticipated season of Makhaola Ndebele’s one-person show, Cantos of a Life in Exile, which will be on at Theatre Arts in Cape Town from August 16-20, 2023. Cantos of a Life in Exile is performed, directed and written by Ndebele.  Caroline Calburn of Theatre Arts, urges that piece this is “NOT TO BE MISSED”.

There are only eight performances. It is the first time that this legendary creative, will be on stage in Cape Town, since his days of studying drama at UCT. He is a Renaissance arts person – theatre maker, writer, director and star of TV and film, academic and arts administrator – and more. A privilege to see him on stage in Cape Town at TA. Tickets are available for purchase at Due to the limited seating capacity of the venue, early booking is advised. More to follow about Cantos of a Life in Exile – for now info as supplied:

Unmissable: Makhaola Ndebele’s one-person theatre show, Cantos of a Life in Exile at Theatre Arts in Cape Town for a limited season

Theatre enthusiasts and culture aficionados are in for a treat as Theatre Arts proudly presents the deeply poignant one-man theatre show, Cantos of a Life in Exile. Written, directed and performed by the remarkable Makhaola Ndebele, this tale promises to take audiences on an unforgettable journey of self-discovery and belonging.

Inspired by the South African experience of being born in exile and yearning for a place to call home, Cantos of a Life in Exile, weaves together a tapestry of diverse theatre and performance styles.

Prepare to be taken in by the power and inspiration of this awesome story, which skillfully combines storytelling, poetry, and healing rituals to capture the hearts and souls of its audience.

Performance schedule:

– Preview: Monday, August 14, at 6:45 pm

– Opening night: Tuesday, August 15, at 7:00 pm

– Wednesday, August 16, at 6:45 pm

– Thursday, August 17, at 6:45 pm

– Friday, August at 18 at 3:00 pm

– Saturday, August 19m at 3:00 pm & 6:45 pm

– Sunday, August 20 at 4:30 pm

About Makhaola Ndebele:

Makhaola Ndebele is an actor, theatre director, and creative consultant with an illustrious career spanning over 25 years across theatre, television, and film. As a research associate at the University of Johannesburg, Ndebele’s work in Performance Auto-ethnography explores how the self, as an archive, can inspire liberatory agency through theatre and performance. This season marks a significant moment for Ndebele, as he returns to Cape Town after two decades, filled with anticipation and excitement.

Theatre Arts director, Caroline Calburn, shares her enthusiasm for the upcoming show, stating, “I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am that Makhaola Ndebele is bringing his Cantos of a Life in Exile to Theatre Arts in August.”

Personal politics of identity and liberation

He has worked as a story consultant and screenwriter on a diverse range of projects, which include situation comedies, television movies, drama series, soaps, and variety-comedy shows. As a dramatist his own work mainly focuses on the personal politics of identity and liberation, and familial struggles within a broader South African context. 

In 2001, Makhaola founded a multi-media communications company, AuthenticImages Multi-Media Productions (AI). Under his eight year creative leadership, the company used theatre as the primary tool for strategic human relations and marketing interventions in South African Corporates. In 2005, Makhaola created and co-produced Nomzamo, a situation comedy about the trials and tribulations of a professional single mother in contemporary South Africa. 

He has served as a dramaturge at the South African State Theatre in Pretoria and at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg. From 2010 – 2016 he served, part-time, as a Performance Studies and Dramatic Writing lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand School of Arts (WSOA). He was the Artistic Director at Joburg City Theatres, in Johannesburg from 2016 – 2021. 

Makhaola is currently a research associate at the University of Johannesburg. His research is in the field of Performance Auto-ethnography and explores how the self, as archive, can inspirit liberatory agency through theatre and performance.

Reviews of Cantos of a Life in Exile- 2015 – in Johannesburg

When one attends a play where there are no gimmicks but the entire production has to depend on the power of the actor to draw you into his space then you can be assured that you’re watching greatness. Master student Makhaola Ndebele’s performance in CANTOS OF A LIFE IN EXILE at the Nunnery Theatre at Wits Theatre is mesmerisingly engaging. His auto-biographical performance of a life in exile could easily have floundered into a romanticised roller-coast of love, laughter and pain but instead, Ndebele embraces his audiences and engagingly narrates his tale with such deep honesty and integrity that you hold onto his every word. And while his chronicles are painted with such intense passion, it is his ability to use his voice as his most powerful tool. His voice flows along gently with every ebb and flow of his incredible life journey. And even when there are potholes in that journey, Ndebele shows how on a rainy day after a drought the little pothole can be a reservoir of hope for a thirsty bird. This play is so transportable. Radio drama departments should be jumping the queue to want to record it. As for an international tour, I hope that this outstanding production gets scouted by the Afrovibes Festival.  Ismail Mahomed, Facebook, February 28, 2015

On Thursday I watched Makhaola Ndebele’s magnificent play which was part of his Master’s exam. I have always thought he is a brilliant actor, probably one of the best in the country. A bare stage, a chair, a mic and the sublime skill of an actor at the height of his profession. His story is simple…a recounting of his life in exile…no big crisis moments, no tumultuous cathartic moments, just an even telling of a life journey. For 70 minutes, I sat locked into this relationship that is unique to live theatre. It was the most pared down to the bones performance I have ever seen. Each beat, every word an inexorable movement forward …no attempt to be the characters he refers to…just a telling of a tale, restrained, conscious and real. Apart from his consummate skills, Makhaola has presence…the softly modulated voice coupled with an ability to stay supremely conscious, he crafted a performance that despite its evenness, created a visceral reaction in the audience. I was blown away. Every student of performance should see it…not because  he has an exciting story to tell, it’s his rite of passage, particular to him. They and we all should see it because he tells that story simply and encapsulating exactly what great theatre is about. Conscious, staying in the moment, absolute control, authenticity.  Gita Pather, Facebook, February 25, 2015

✳ Featured image of Makhaola Ndebele. Supplied.