Buhle Ngaba, Ilana Cilliers, Nicola Pilkington, Nicolette Moses

There is an ancient belief that swans burst into song with their final breath. Set in a tiny box flat in Johannesburg, Swan Song is a coming of age tale, tracing the journey of a young Tswana woman from Taung born with a winged scapula, a symbol that mirrors a constant struggle for belonging, of home. Swan Song wrestles with the metaphors of grief and love, mapping the way in which they physically manifest and become intertwined with life. The film draws the audience into her nest, an intimate space where they witness her grappling to tie together past and present, working through her memories as if enduring physical labour, en pointe. As she descends into her final moments; she pivots from the crippling vulnerability that loving demands, to the brazen fearlessness of having loved. Previously staged as a live performance at the Uitkamp Teater at the KKNK , Buhle Ngabe’s transformative performance moves from the confines of a container to the expanse of the screen. #I’mnotdyingjustmeantforflying

  • Genre: Theatre
  • Format: Video
  • Duration: 36mins
  • Language: English and Setswana
  • Ages: PG12+
  • Available From: June 28, 2020

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Swan Song, a Maru Factory Film produced in association with Nicolette J Moses, co-produced by the National Arts Festival, presented as part of the Virtual National Arts Festival 2020

Writer: Buhle Ngaba
Performer: Buhle Ngaba
Director: Ilana Cilliers
Director of photography 1: Nicola Pilkington
Director of photography 2: Matt Griffiths
Original Score: Ilana Cilliers
Original Artwork: Amy Rusch
Video Art: Sitaara Stodel
Choreography: Shaun Oelf
Lighting and Technical Design: Matt Griffiths
Production Design: Ilana Cilliers & Amy Rusch
Post-production & Film Edit: Nicola Pilkington, Ilana Cilliers & Matt Griffiths.

Merle Gideon – Onsite Venue Manager
Moegamat Cloete – Stage Services

Marius Golding – Director of Operations
Yusuf Abrahams – General Manager Stage Services
Liam Cookson – Head of Sound
Faheem Bardien – Head of Lighting
Moegsien Davids – Stage Manager
David van Deventer – front of house manager
David Pamplin – Front of House
Manual Benans – Health & Safety and Security Manager
The original stage production was first performed at Uitkampteater, KKNK (2017)
Producer: Maru Factory
Writer: Buhle Ngaba
Performer: Buhle Ngaba
Director: Ilana Cilliers
Original score: Ilana Cilliers
Original artwork: Amy Rusch
Production Design: Ilana Cilliers & Amy Rusch
Stage Manager: Amy Rusch

The stage production was staged and performed at
The Alexander Bar (2018), The Fugard Studio – Shakespeare For Social Justice Conference (2019), Vrystaatfees (2019)


Buhle Ngaba is a multi-awardwinning South African actor, writer and speaker. She studied Acting and Contemporary performance at Rhodes University and Processes of Performance at the University of Leeds (UK). She performed in the 2014 world premiere of John Kani’s Missing directed by Janice Honeyman at the Baxter Theatre (ZA). The play toured internationally and for her role, she was nominated by both Fleur Du Cap Theatre Awards and the Naledi Theatre Awards for Best Supporting Actress.

In 2016, Buhle was awarded the prestigious Brett Goldin Bursary, affording her an internship at The Royal Shakespeare Company (Stratford-Upon-Avon, UK). During her time there, Buhle began to conceptualise and write her first play, Swan Song. She serves on the Shakespeare Society of South Africa Executive Committee (Theatre portfolio, 2020).

In 2017, she won two South African Kanna Theatre Awards including Best Upcoming Artist for Swan Song. Buhle was nominated for a Fleur Du Cap Theatre Award (2018) for Best Leading Actress for her performance in What Remains, written by Nadia Davids and directed by Jay Pather.

Ngaba was named as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans (2016) and voted number 1 in The Superbalist Top 100 Entrepreneur List (2016). In 2016, Buhle received the Gauteng Youth Premiers Award for Excellence. Through KaMatla NPO, Buhle seeks to promote diversity in children’s literature, aid the development of the arts and promote storytelling. Her book The Girl Without A Sound has been published in all 11 SA official languages.

Buhle localised The New Girl Code, an initiative of serial technology entrepreneur Janneke Niessen children’s author Niki Smit, with illustrator Josselin Bill. Ngaba has been a Dove brand ambassador since 2018 and was involved in the launch of Dove’s international campaign #ShowUs; a collaboration with Dove, Getty Images and Girl Gaze. Buhle was recently awarded the Rising Light award at the Mbokodo Awards for Women in the Arts.