Masello Motana and the politics of personality

Masello Motana as Julia Malema. All photos by Sibusiso Tshabalala.

Sibusiso Tshabalala

20 February 2014

A year ago, Masello Motana introduced us to Cyrilina Ramaposer, a rich diva with political and business ambitions. Now she is back as Julia Malema, a lady with a liking for pink dresses, flaxen weaves and pseudo-revolutionary talk.

The two-part comedy titled 7 Colours with Julia Malema is set during a political rally where Julia Malema introduces her new party, the BFF – Babes Freedom Fighters. The BFF is set on providing flaxen weaves for everyone and promoting the flamboyant lifestyle enjoyed by self-styled diva revolutionaries like Julia.

The cast consists of Motana and three men who together make up the Babe Command Team.

Photo: Julia Malema and her fellow Babes Command Team member

In her speech, Julia is slick and rhetorical. She moves from the grand promises typical of politicians to remarks about race and class in post-1994 South Africa. Among other things, she promises to nationalise the weave and declare it a public good.

Everyone deserves a flaxen weave, she says. But on one condition. While everyone should have a flaxen weave, not everyone can have her weave. “Diva revolutionaries need to be distinguished from the rest”, says Julia Malema.

Photo: Julia Malema speaks to the audience

On entering the hall, members of the audience find a bucket filled with cake flour ready for them. The intention? Julia wants everyone to be white. A few members of the audience refuse, and it is clear that they’re outcasts during the play.

Photo: Mhlanganisi Madlongolwana smears his face with cake flour.

The performance is also rich in slogans. During the rally, Julia supported by the other members of the Babe Command Team, chants: “Viva Diva, Viva. Long Weave Julia Malema, Long Weave.”

Elsewhere, Rhodes academic Siphokazi Magadla has argued that Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters movement marks a return to the politics of the hyper-masculine ‘warrior revolutionary’.

Motana’s choice of a female satirical character is a sharp contrast to this.

Her performance is an imaginative critique of crass materialism, gender, populism and its relation to politics. The script is carefully crafted, with commentary on labour relations, patronage, race and economic inequality.

7 Colours with Julia Malema is more than just a satirical swipe at the EFF and the politics of populism: it is a candid reflection of what our politics has become.

7 Colours with Julia Malema is part of Masello Motana’s newest body of work,‘Masello’s Crossing’. Performances from 17-21 February at the Theatre Arts Admin Collective studio in Observatory, Cape Town.