A story that celebrates the African continent and its unbreakable spirit is set to arrive in South Florida.
Africa Umoja: The Spirit of Togetherness, is an award-winning musical production that tells the social and political story of South Africa.
The show's creators, Todd Twala and Thembi Nyandeni, initially wanted to educate and help the youth in remembering South Africa's rich heritage through song and dance. Umoja means "unity" in Swahili. The production showcases the glory days of South African dance and music even throughout the country's difficult times. The show, which stages early next year, touches on the racist practices of Apartheid and explores the South African people's struggle for freedom.
Since the show's opening in Johannesburg in 2000, it has become a major success internationally, touring in over 50 countries. The ensemble of talented dancers and singers have performed for Kings and Presidents worldwide.
Joe Theron, a longtime producer of the show said after the show's run for all these years, there's still authenticity to the storytelling and approach to showcasing modern South African culture. "As the music changes, we change the choreography to keep up with the times. The traditional dances remain the same," said Theron.
The cast of 33 young adults will sing, dance and drum traditional love songs and lullabies. The show infuses powerful tribal choreography with today's popular gwara gwara dance, kwaito music and other movement styles and musical genres. Audiences can expect to see vibrant costumes, explosive drumming, traditional love songs and a tribute to Nelson Mandela, South Africa and the Zulu heritage.
The production includes the song “Long Road to Freedom,” which was written in Mandela’s honor and performed to visuals of Mandela in jail on Robin Island and his release from Poslmor Prison in 1990. In addition, there is a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.
Africa Umoja carries the audience on a musical journey right up to “Kwaito,” the equivalent of American hip-hop in culture, fashion and expression that is the dynamic club climate of South Africa today.
The production, sponsored by Aetna and benefiting The Embrace Girls Foundation Inc. will be coming to South Florida in February for a two-week celebration. Embrace Girls Inc. provides academic, social, cultural and life skills programming for at-risk elementary and middle school age girls.
“All children should have access to opportunities that will help them thrive academically and socially. The Embrace Girls Foundation fills this need in underserved and low-income communities, ensuring that the students they serve are exposed to important and meaningful academic, wellness and enrichment programs,” said Richard Weiss, Aetna’s market president in Florida. “Aetna is proud to support this organization, while building on our longstanding commitment to celebrate Black history.”
The show will open Feb. 25 and run until March 8, 2020 at the Miramar Cultural Arts Center, which is located at 2400 Civic Center Place, Miramar. Multiple performances are scheduled as follows:
• Evening performances are Tuesday through Sunday at 7 p.m.;
• Matinee performances are Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.;
• Weekends from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., the Miramar Cultural Arts Center will be transformed into the Africa Umoja Family Fun Village featuring free master classes, backstage tours, food, accessories, art vendors, and family friendly games and activities.
All seats are reserved. Tickets start at $40.