By Edward Tsumele

The late township theatre legend Gibson Kente, who was fondly called Bra Gib must be smiling in his grave as his legacy is starting to be embraced and celebrated.

In the first instance in this celebratory journey of the life and times of a legend in South Africa, the City of Joburg is in the process of canvassing opinions about renaming Soweto Theatre the Gibson Kente Theatre.

A notice has already been made public as previously reported. After the publication of this notice, a debate in arts circles ensued, with some suggesting that only a section of Soweto Theatre, for example one of the rooms must be named after him, while the rest of the rooms are named after other legends, particularly female legends, it is unlikely that the City of Joburg will be swayed in its mission to rename the whole Soweto Theatre, the Gibson Kente Soweto Theatre.

That will be an acknowledgement of the work of a legend, who not only used theatre in the township to tell stories of the struggle, as other media of the time, such as newspapers were constrained, but his plays were packed and profitable without state subsidies.

That was during apartheid when especially the work of black playwrights such as him, were not funded.

In the second instance in Kente’s posthumous triumph, a group of artists have planned to honour him at his grave, literally, in November.

A group of artists whose name was inspired by Kente’s works are the people behind this graveside honour.

Together Folks is a group of artists that came together to honour and celebrate the contribution of veteran artists in the country. This group also assists artists who have fallen on hard times and generally supports or intervenes in whatever endeavour a fellow artist embarks upon.

This time around, focus is on the legendary father of black theatre in SA, affectionately known as Bra Gib, the man who coined and popularised the slogan ‘Together Folks’ from which the name of the group derives.

GIBSON Kente, the father of township theatre, has been “Mr Cool” deluxe throughout his life, evolving his own sense of style way back in the 70s. Fashion has changed — but Bra Gib has always remained faithful to his outsized shades and funky headgear. His flamboyance has been matched only by his courage, both as an artist and in his personal life, when he proved himself a role model by announcing his HIV-positive status. With his trademark quirkiness Bra Gib has shown that, in fashion as in life, he’ll do it his way. © Herbert Mabuza. 18/1/96. © ST/ Times Media

7 November marks 17 years since the passing of Bra Gib, and to honour his legacy, Together Folks plans to unveil a tombstone in his remembrance.

This is a token of appreciation from artists whose lives were touched by the legend during his days of hard work and dedication in the industry. Bra Gib trained, guided and mentored some of the most accomplished stage, TV and film performers in South Africa and this tombstone will unmistakably mark the final resting place of the father of township theatre, who during his heyday captured the imagination of South Africa and inspired many young artists with his powerful and dynamic musical plays like Manana the Jazz Prophet, Sikalo, How Long, Too Late, Mama’s Love, The Call and many more.

Some commemorative acts from his plays and music will be showcased. These will be staged at Soweto Theatre, on 7 November.

The programme starts at 8am with a religious service interspersed with acts to celebrate the life and times of Bra Gib. Music, dance and poetry will feature in the programme under the watchful eye of Bra Gib’s protégés, veteran stage and TV performers, Linda Sebezo and Peter Mashigo, while another old horse in the business, Kholofelo “Skroef” Kola of Matiki fame will mesmerize attendees with his flawless impersonation of Bra Gib.

The cortege will leave for the Roodepoort/Dobsonville cemetery, where more grave-site service and arts activities have been planned.

The congregation will return to the Soweto Theatre for refreshments and more entertainment by Arthur Mafokate’s 999 Dancers, snippets from Bra Gibb’s plays and music from his albums, while some of his songs will be performed live by his former artists.

Other artists who are part of this initiative are Dieketseng “Mantuli” Mnisi, Tinah “Flora” Mnumzana, Harriet “Meikie” Manamela, Martin Koboekae, directors Julian Seleke Mokoto, Thapelo Motloung, Lebohang Olifant, Daniel Mooi, Boitumelo Maretele, Chief Mpho Seboa, Germinah Nkadimeng and many more are also involved in this project.

Khaabo Tombstones and Khaabo Media designed and donated the tombstone.

The artists will contribute toward the cleaning services, decor and part of catering on the day of the event. –

Details are as follows:

Venue: Soweto Theatre.

Date: Saturday, 7 November.

Time: 8am.

Dress Code: 1960s outfit.

Programme director:  Seputla Sebogodi.

Seputla Legodi will be the program director

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