From the 1st to the 2nd of February, Masai Sepuru’s one man show, Its all the sane, will be showing at the State Theatre in Pretoria. We had a young chat with Masai about the show.
Congratulations on your one-man show. Tell us more about it, what can we expect?
‘Its all the sane’ is a story about me and my experiences that came with the culture, belief, gender shock, and many other concepts that came in question as soon as I was exposed to the abundance of ideas and cultures that the city life provides. A lot of things about me were changed and a lot more other things about the city, and I suppose the world in general were being interrogated. So what you are going to experience is the journey of a village boy experiencing the city and all its many vicissitudes at the same time guarding his sanity. And, of course, great poetry told with a wonderful musical background.
How would you describe your body of work? What is your poetry about and why is it important?
The reconstruction and deconstruction of ideas of what a black contemporary man is supposed to be; obviously I don’t have all the answers, but I can only tell my story in the most honest way possible. To add to that, though the idea of gender seems to be the most tackled in my work, I do speak on racism, religion and especially classism.
I feel like a lot of black writers are ignoring classism because it doesn’t only put white supremacy under a microscope, it also questions our participation in our own shortcomings, and people simply don’t want to admit that they, too, can be perpetrators. My poetry, especially in ‘Its all the sane’, will also be looking at the life of a student in varsity, out of varsity and that space between graduation and employment or rather, the lack of.
Concepts like unemployment and addiction will also be touched on. It seems like a lot now that I’m thinking out loud, but also life of a black man my age in this generation can be a lot, and with masculinity being in question, a lot of other weight that we carry is ignored.
Which is why the show is called ‘Its all the sane’ – I am dealing with guarding with one’s sanity in this wave of uncertainty and deconstruction of what, for the longest time, we believed to have been true.
What has been the most challenging parts of putting the show together?
I usually perform with two or three other people – vocalists and maybe other poets sharing a stage with me. The difficulty that came with putting the show like this together is the number of people that suddenly all demand your attention. The band, the crew, marketing, management, people needing to be paid, me needing to be paid. All of a sudden, you are a commander and chief of this ship that won’t move without you; that time all you want to do is recite. But fortunately, because I studied theatre and television production, working with people is one of my traits, but never before on my own production.
The show is part of the State Theatre’s Incubator program. How does it work? How did you get your own show?
The State Theatre sends out a call for young creatives to apply with proposals of shows, showcase and exhibitions every year. They then choose the most promising, based on their potential and previous works. Sometimes the theatre goes as far to scout potentials, either by research or recommendations from previous “incubatees”, and this is how I was contacted. I was recommended by Clear, who is also a poet and had a poetry showcase the previous year.
You recently tweeted: “The scary thing about chasing your dreams is letting other career opportunities pass by because you believe you were meant for something else”. Last year you gave up an opportunity to slam at the finale – was it worth it? What else have you had to give up for your art?
In our country now, with such a high rate of unemployment, these are scary times to act brave and turn down opportunities in the name of passion. But it is also even scarier to accept a job in the name of stability. So honestly, you cannot blame anyone for choosing either route. Me giving up the job, I was driven by passion, the eagerness to create and give myself a chance to see how far I can go with this gift bestowed unto me. Since then it has been the most uncertain roller-coaster but also the most fulfilling and I respect anyone who dares takes on poetry as a career path.
Lastly. What’s up with the hands, guy? Every performance, there is a certain dance they do. Can you tell us more about this?
A magician never reveals his secrets