GUN crime, poverty and civil unrest are, thankfully, issues that Herefordshire residents seldom have to contend with in their day-to-day lives.

But those harsh realities were brought before an audience in the city this week during a tale of one South African mother’s struggle bringing up her family in the Cape Town township of Guguletu.

Set against the backdrop of the country’s post-apartheid era, Mother to Mother was a solo drama charting how one of the title characters coped with the news her son was among a group of young men responsible for murdering American student Amy Biehl.

Delivered in a mixture of English and Xhosa - one of South Africa’s 11 official languages - the hour-long production was a poignant and at times harrowing account of life before and after the news.

Played by South African actress Thembi Mtshali-Jones the monologue often featured conversations the mother would imagine having with the American’s girl mum.

Her own account of life on the Cape Flats, where most of the city’s townships are located, provided the audience with both a background to her own domestic situation (three children, a daily struggle for money) and a wider social commentary as they learned the Afrikaan translation of Guguletu was ‘our pride’, but that residents often referred to it as ‘their pride’ in reference to the low-esteem the authorities, who established the townships, were held in.

There were lighter moments, too. Her journey home on a crowded bus left part of her shopping crushed and led to her daughter being left with a meal of scrambled eggs instead of fried.

But it was the powerful nature of Thembi’s delivery which left the audience both feeling her pain and hoping for light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

The show launched the week-long Afrovibes festival at Hereford Courtyard, with a host of films, shows and concerts running until Saturday, October 20. For full details of the programme call the box office on 01432 340555 or

Click to go to The Courtyard
Hereford Times: The Courtyard - Herefordshire's Centre for the Arts