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Wat Die Hart: Celebrating a language

Poster design by Jesika Kilian

By David Mann

As part of the student productions being put on during the National Arts Festival, Wat Die Hart seems to be one to look out for. Activate caught up with director Maude Sandham to talk about the show that’s said to be “surreal, funny and ridiculous”.

The title which is a shortened version of “Wat die hart van vol is, loop die mond van oor” (What is in the heart will come out the mouth), sets the tone for a play that is about passion, language and the experimentation of the Afrikaans language in various styles and languages.

Sandham speaks of how the idea for Wat Die Hart came to her and how she wanted the piece to portray a side of the Afrikaans language that isn’t seen by most.

“I read Jan Rabie’s Een-en-twintig which is the anthology that some of the short stories are from and I just realised that there was a real connection for me between Afrikaans literature and theatre and the inspiration came from me feeling sort of despondent about the Afrikaans culture and language and how it’s perceived and portrayed,” says Sandham.

“I felt like this is something I wanted to do, something I needed to do. [Afrikaans] has this beautiful canon of literature that people don’t know about, because there’s this idea that it’s the language of the oppressor and that it’s an old, dying language. I wanted to show the positive side of the language and celebrate the culture and literature of a language that isn’t always really celebrated.”

The piece also features T.S Elliot’s ‘Preludes’ which has been translated into Afrikaans by Sandham and co-director Hancu Louw for the purpose of the play. Sandham explains that by using this translated work of Elliot’s, it reiterates what they are trying to accomplish within the piece; namely exploring and celebrating language.

“The reason we used ‘Preludes’ is because it’s shows that language can be transgressed. The way that the pieces are structured are in such a way that no matter what language you speak, you can identify with the characters and the feelings and the more visceral experience of it all,” says Sandham.

The cast of Wat Die Hart is comprised of English and Afrikaans speakers, dancers, singers and more. Being a devised piece, Sandham explains that the play has a constantly original angle to it and brings in the input and ideas of different people from different cultures and backgrounds.

“There are so many little bits and pieces in a play and sometimes someone else suggests something or comes up with an idea that’s fresher and better and they’re all stepping stones that lead to the bigger picture,” says Sandham, “It’s sort of like puzzling something together in a way that is more interesting, more textured and more real not only for the performers, but for the audience in this play.”

You can see Wat Die Hart on Sunday 30 June and 1, 2, 4 and 6 July at the Library Hall.

For ticket prices and more information on Wat Die Hart see the National Arts Festival website.