Mandla Rae is a writer, curator, and performer. Diagnosed with selective memory, Rae’s work features themes such as scrambling to piece together a life mostly forgotten in the name of survival.
Mandla explores an LGBTQ identity and childhood migration memories that have been fragmented due to selective memory. At the trailer’s beginning, Mandla states: “my name is Mandla. It means power. I gave it to myself.”
Selective memory is a clinical condition defined as the ability to retrieve certain facts and events but not others. It’s also called selective amnesia, and individuals who experience it might only remember several life events.
We might not remember most of our lives when we were five years old, but we can certainly remember major milestones in our lives or relatively recent events. You might be able to recall what you had for breakfast today, but people with selective amnesia might have a harder time doing so. They might even misremember certain events, making it difficult for them to piece together identities.
These lenses of selective amnesia are what the audience sees Mandla with during the play. Its anachronic narrative display Mandla’s life through snapshots, a new way of storytelling using a living, unreliable narrator.
The title of the performance is a play on words, as watermelons aren’t native to the UK.
Fruits represent comfort, and watermelons, in particular, can serve as cathartic mediums. They can be stabbed, smashed, or represent a certain liberation when Mandla bathes in their juice. Religion and spirituality are also key themes in the presentation, a way of presenting and deconstructing colonialism from the beginning of the play.
Rae uses an autofiction narrative employing poetry and storytelling. Rae uses a powerful auto-fiction narrative set in a sensory performance space. The exhibition describes how Mandla resurrects from the dead to recover misplaced power. Filmmaker Graham Clayton-Chance was the visual collaborator of the act.
Rae is a Zimbabwean writer, curator, and performer.
Mandla is an Associate Artist for Outbox Theatre and has been commissioned by organizations including the FBI, Hope mill Theatre, and the Journeys Festival International for written works. Mandla identifies as queer, agender, and uses no pronouns.
Critics who’ve witnessed the show have called it short, defiant, truthful, oblique, sharp, and nonlinear. It feels as if Mandla is attempting to gather.
This piece of solo theatre explores themes such as belonging, memory, and identity.
You can see the piece of theatre for yourself at the Contact venue on Manchester’s Oxford Road.