Womb of Fire
Performer & Writer: Rehane Abrahams
Director: Sara Matchett
Designer: Craig Leo
Womb of Fire is the starting point for an examination of the performing female body as the site of disruption where the body itself challenges the borders and boundaries of the body politic. The play uses a non-Western mythical frame. Personal, historical and political intersections flesh out and localise the myth of Draupadi from the Mahabharata, expanding the moment featuring Queen Draupadi that began the epic war. The title pays homage to Mahasweta Devi’s re-rendering of the figure of Drauapdi as a tribal activist in a story that forms part of her collection, Agnigharba (Womb of Fire).
In the original myth, Draupadi stands before a court of men who attempt to deprive her of her humanity and strip her naked; through divine intervention she remains clothed. In Devi’s retelling however, the tortured Draupadi uses her naked body to challenge the might of the Indian army. Stripping herself, she stands naked and laughs in the face of the army general, who in that moment fears her. She does not lament, she roars.
The Mothertongue Project was started in 2000 by Sara Matchett and Rehane Abrahams with the production What the Water Gave. Since then, both Abrahams and Matchett have been separately researching the body as a site for personal and political agency and embodied performance as a practice of freedom. Now, some 17 years later, the two return to see how their explorations intersect in a production that focuses on the female body in performance as a site for disruption and decolonisation. Blending new methodology, new research with a wealth of experience the two are set to explore a new lexicon in performance practice.
Presented by The Mothertongue Project in association with UJ Arts & Culture (Fada) and supported by the University of Cape Town
Photos by Rob Keith