‘Standing here staring down at my feet/knowing that’s where my children will meet paradise/I devise/that what I see is journeys/maps made of silk/and routes to freedom that have not yet been built’. – At Her Feet
Award-winning writer and director Nadia Davids’ acclaimed play, At Her Feet, performed by celebrated theatre, film and television actress, Quanita Adams, returns to the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio, from 22 November to 8 December 2018, for the first time in 14 years.
This is last time that Adams will perform the work, making this an unmissable chance to see the powerful, landmark production in its original form.
Written in 2002, At Her Feet evokes the experiences of four Muslim women in Cape Town whose lives are touched by the events of 9/11 and by the honour killing of a Jordanian girl. These women – a secular student, a tough-talking auntie, a Che Guevara-worshiping slam poetess, a recently married religious travel agent – narrate their lives, offering vivid, affecting, bitingly funny, deeply moving stories that speak to race, love, faith and belonging. Through monologue, song, and poetry, they offer the audience an intimate glimpse of their world.
“At Her Feet was born in and out of a moment of global chaos, in those turbulent months after the terrible attacks on New York City and in the horror of the build-up to the invasion of Iraq,” explains Davids. “I wrote the play as a response to the ways in which Muslim women were being portrayed in the media and the ways their bodies were being turned into ideological battlegrounds. I wanted to make a piece of art that reflected my experience of growing up Muslim in Cape Town – the ordinariness of it, the love, the joys, the difficulties, the complexities and to write about the women I knew. None of whom were being reflected in these veiled, mysterious figures who were suddenly everywhere, all the time. Quanita and I had known each other since high-school, we’d met up again at university and we knew, instinctively, that this was a work we wanted to make together.”
From its first staging as a student production at UCT’s Arena Theatre the play has earned glowing reviews and has described as ‘brilliant’, ‘triumphant’, ‘unforgettable’ ‘timely’ and ‘a production that will touch you, shift you and never really leave you’.
Winner of two Fleur du Cap awards (for Best New Director and Best Actress), nominated for a Noma and a Naledi, At Her Feet has travelled throughout Southern Africa and has been staged in New York, London and Holland. Davids and Adams believe that the play, written about Cape Town and for Cape Tonians, will always, at its deepest level, belong to its home-town.
“It brings me such joy to be able to bring these women home again,” says Adams. After all these years, their stories feel as important, moving, gut-wrenching, urgent, poignant, funny, warm and resonant as ever. I love that I get to work with Nadia again, and that, together we get to share this work with Cape Town. The play is very much about our city, our community, but we’ve always been thrilled about how diverse our audiences have always been; I’ve never looked out and not seen a multi-racial, multi-generational, multi-cultural audience looking back at me. That’s rare in theatre and rare in Cape Town and it’s something to be cherished.’
It is precisely this ability to be once specific and inclusive that moved Professor Njabulo Ndebele, former UCT vice chancellor, to write, “…an unforgettable theatre experience… Wherever it is seen it will challenge and move without evoking rancour; it will reveal at the same time as it ennobles; it will provoke laughter as it accords respect. The play’s ability to work with such contradiction in its special ways places it at the centre of the search for global peace through the kind of transcendence offered by art of the highest order.”
The media and audiences also raved about the production. Mail and Guardian described it as “a brilliant theatrical achievement” while Cape Times said, “Davids and Adams are a triumphant combination” and O Magazine called it “A vivid inner circle view into a sisterhood of contemporary Cape Town women.”
Davids made a return to South African theatre last year with her new work, What Remains, directed by Jay Pather. The play, telling the story of the unexpected uncovering of a slave burial ground in Cape Town, debuted at the National Arts Festival and went on to scoop seven 2017 Fleur du Cap nominations and win five, including Best New Script, Best Director, Best Ensemble and Best Actress. Davids is currently an Associate Professor at UCT’s English Department.
Adams has recently transitioned from working fulltime as an actor into writing for television. The success of her first show, Vinkel & Koljander has led to a new series currently in the making, The Riviera, based on her own childhood in Lotus River.
Though Davids and Adams now work in and across different creative mediums, theatre continues to hold space of special significance for both of them. Davids says,“At Her Feet gave Quanita and I our first real home in theatre; a place to tell our stories, to see ourselves accurately reflected, to feel directly addressed and seen. The play allowed us to declare loyalties and question allegiances, to ask difficult questions while refusing easy answers, to seek out what was funny and humane and beautiful in some of the hardest, most unforgiving places. It was a profound experience to make the work together back in 2002 and it’s a wonderful feeling to be able to bring it home after all these years, to reconnect it with its original audience and to introduce it to a new generation of theatre-goers. It’s also so meaningful to bring it to the Baxter again. This feels like a homecoming.”
The play is studied at a wide range of South African, British and American school and universities; it is understood as one of the most important theatrical works to emerge around Islamophobia, Muslim women and Islamic Feminism post 9/11 and is considered one of South Africa’s most significant post-apartheid works.
At Her Feet runs at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio from 22 November to 8 December at 8.15pm, with matinees at on Saturdays at 3pm. Ticket prices ranges from R100 to R180 and booking is through Webtickets on 086 111 0005, online at www.webtickets.co.za or from selected Pick n Pay stores. For discounted school or group block bookings, fundraisers or charities, contact Sharon Ward on 021 680 3962 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or Carmen Kearns on 021 680 3993 or email her at email@example.com. There is an age restriction of 12 years.