When you hear the name Mandela you may think of many things: South Africa, the Apartheid or, if you’re like me, you immediately hear Chris Tucker’s voice scream each syllable. Whatever you think of, Nelson Mandela’s name has become synonymous with the fight for freedom and equality. But for many of us, the name “Madiba” is somewhat unfamiliar.
Derived from his Xhosa clan name, Madiba is the South African title of respect for Nelson Mandela. Madiba The Musical is a tribute to Mandela’s amazing philanthropic life and his sixty-seven-year fight for social justice.
Grok spoke to Australian singer-songwriter and dancer Tim “Timomatic” Omaji, who is playing Sam Onotou in the upcoming production at the Perth Crown Theatre.
“This musical is special because it’s based on facts and celebrates a really important man who did a lot for humanity and the world,” he says.
Timomatic explains that Onotou is an activist who first met Mandela when they were both in prison. Mandela helps Onotou through a transitionary period, teaching him how to protest peacefully.
“I really like this character because he’s the only character who really calls out Mandela and asks him ‘where is your fight, your anger?’,” says Tim. “This is a meaty role, it’s my meatiest character, there’s a lot of depth and dimension to him.”
“The accent was a bit of a struggle,” he laughs, “but I had a lot of help with my accent from Perci Moeketsi ‘Tshepiso’, who is playing Mandela. He’s helped me understand the climate, what it was really like there, from his parents who lived through it.”
Timomatic says he likes that his character represents the anger and the angst that the people on the streets were feeling at the time. His character represents South Africa’s people—the activists.
“[Sam] learns from Mandela that violence is not the way to bring about real change. Real change starts from within,” says Tim.
“Madiba’s about being valued for who you are, and my parents gave me that belief of who I am in the beginning. Growing up different was always a thing for me, being the only black kid in school and Madiba’s story is confirmation and reaffirmation of that value.”
According to Timomatic, the biggest thing he learned from being involved with this musical is “the notion of freedom”.
“In Mandela’s opening speech he says: ‘I was not born with the hunger to be free, I was born free’,” he says. “It’s scary that it’s something you feel you have to work at and earn. People who are born free—we take it for granted, and it’s truly a blessing.”
Timomatic says we should experience Madiba The Musical for three reasons: a deeper understanding of Mandela and his life; to celebrate moving in the right direction of equality for all people; and to see him personally.
“I kill it, so it’s worth spending the money to come see it,” he says chuckling, “I’m very humbled to perform it”.
Madiba The Musical is playing at Crown Theatre from the January 2 to 12. Tickets are available now through Ticketmaster.