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New Play: Olityelwe  (The Forgotten)  Formally known as Ndebele Funeral

Nominated for Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award, 2015
Finalist for the Sustainable Pratice Award, Scotland UK 2015


★★★★ The Scotsman 

★★★★ The Herald 

★★★★ The Fest

★★★★ The Public Reviews


★★★★ Critic's Pick- Time Out NY


This funeral comes fully and furiously alive” -The New York Times


Expertly acted” -The New Yorker"


"If you are not already running to the Teatro Circulo, I urge you to. This masterful piece is riddled with rhythmic thunder not from the choreographed steps or the inspired harmonies, but from the soul. When lights go out on Thabo and Daweti, the black washes over the audience like a cool rain. Be in that rain, folks, it’s that simple." (Thesy Best Bet)


 "...the performances are personal, intimate, and focused"


"...a heartbreaking yet beautiful story."


"...powerful and affecting"


Past Performances

Theater Alliance: Washington DC .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  Sept. 16th-17th, 2017

Summerhall/Edinburgh Festival Fringe .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  Aug. 5th-30th, 2015


Sky Community Centre, Soweto, SA .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . July 30th, 2015


969 Festival; Johannesburg, SA . .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  July 22nd-25th, 2015


The Playhouse Co; Durban, SA .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  July 16th-18th, 2015


Steve Biko Centre; King Williamstown, SA .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . July 4th, 2015


59E59 Theaters; New York, NY .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . Sept. 11th-Oct. 5th, 2014


South Africa Onstage!

(Lincoln Center for the Performing

Arts) New York, NY  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  Jan. 10th-12th, 2014


Fringe Encore Series;

New York, NY  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  Sept. 19th-29th, 2013


NY International Fringe

New York, NY .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   Aug. 16th-25th, 2013


Arts & Advocacy Outreach Workshops   

Theater Alliance: Washington, DC

Africa Tikkun; Johannesburg, South Africa


Kwamashu Community Advancement Projects: Kwa Mashu Twnshp, South Africa


CAMP Programme (Playhouse Company): Durban, South Africa


★★★★ British Theatre Guide

★★★★ The Stage

★★★★ Edinburgh Guide

★★★★ Across the Arts

Featured Videos

Tuelo Minah

Musical Director talks about the music you hear in Olityelwe.

Sduduzo Ka-Mbili

Choreographer Sduduzo Ka-Mbili talks about some of the dance's you will see in the play.

Jonathan David Martin

Jonathan David Martin talks about his character Jan and how he became an actor.

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Winner of the Overall Excellence Award for Best Play at the New York International Fringe Festival and recipient of a Time Out Critic’s Pick, Olityelwe is a hilariously heartbreaking new play that pulls audiences into the music, dirt, and dreams of modern South Africa.  Featuring original music and gumboot dancing from the mines of Jo’burg, Smoke & Mirrors Collaboratives’s powerfully physical production provides a human face to Africa’s HIV/AIDS epidemic.  It is a story of deep love between two dear friends and the humor and the hope that they find in the face of loss. Olityelwe sparks conversations for audiences about themselves, South Africa, and the world we share together, that continue long after the performance is over.



More than just another arts education class, our arts and advocacy workshops invite students to engage with the current events that they are passionate about in their community.  We work with them to create something constructive, creative, and impactful out of issues they are affected with every day.



Written by: Zoey Martinson

Directed by: Awoye Timpo

CAST: Yusef Miller*, Jonathan David Martin*, Zoey Martinson*


Choreography by ................ Sduduzo Ka-Mbili and Cuereston Burge
Musical Direction by............ Tuelo Minah

Production Stage Manager...... Josephine Ronga
Lighting Design..................... Justin W. King
Costume Design................... Lara de Bruijn
Scenic Design........................ Jason Sherwood
Sound Design........................ John Emmett O’Brien
Original Music....................... Spirits Indiginous and Tuelo Minah
Assistant Scenic Design....... Frank Oliva


Consulting Producer............ Carol Brennan
Dramaturg ........................... Ndumiso Khovana
Dialect Coach....................... Ron Kunene
Marketing Director.............. Veronique Ory
Technical Director................ Iris Steven Lasson
Graphic Design.................... Christopher Rodriguez-Bautista

​Inspired by a short play Ndebele Funeral by Ivan Suazo


Running time:
75 minutes with no intermission.

*Members of Actors Equity


Olityelwe is supported by the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation through USArtists International in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


Olityelwe has been made possible through the generous support of Patricia & Bernard McElhone, the Puffin Foundation, and the US Consulate in South Africa.

Archive: Olityelwe 

Formally known as Ndebele Funeral

    Ndebele Funeral was first workshopped in 2009 at NYU's Freeplay Festival and developed into a full-length play in 2010 through residencies in Soweto, at The National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, and at Theatre in the Muze in Cape Town South Africa.  After a successful Kickstarter campaign the play first went up in the 2013 FringeNYC and won the Overall Excellence Award for Best Play. The play was then invited to perform at the Fringe Encore Series. In 2014 the play went up for 5 performances as part of the South Africa Onstage! Festival at  Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and ran Off- Broadway at 59E59 Theatres.  After a returning to South Africa in 2015 for an international tour the name changed from Ndebele Funeral to Oliteylwe (meaning the forgotten)  

SOWETO, South Africa

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