My Koek is Moeg was written and first staged as a play in 2012. At the time of writing My Koek is Moeg, I think I wanted to tell a story made up of different stories reflecting womanhood in the contemporary Namibian society. As a young black man, I have witnessed events that I signified as degrading for both younger and older women.
Writing this play was a natural response to the endless abuse and objectification of women in Namibian society. I cannot quite recall how the entire storyline came together. I do however know that I did not stop writing until I was done. It took me about three days to put the script down on paper. Also, I can’t say I was entirely conscious of the kind of play I was writing. I was merely inspired to write a story that was as local as possible. As a writer, I allowed myself to tell it like it is without censoring myself. The late Augusto Boal said that theatre is the art of looking at ourselves and this is what My Koek is Moeg did to everyone who experienced it. It gave us the chance to ask ourselves important questions pertaining to the injustices that women are subjected to in our society.
The title My Koek is Moeg has been one the most remarkable elements of the production. This catchy line is what made people want to see it. It made it easy for people to join the dialogue. The humour attached to the rather serious subject matter attracted people to come and see the work and engage with it.
The character of Poppie Plaaitjies is loveable and saddening. She is bubbly, funny and ambitious but on the other side, we get to see how dark she really is. She has survived abusive relationships and abortions. She comes from a dysfunctional home and she also suffers an identity crisis. Her coloured identity is a liminal state of being, layered with many cultural and historical complexities. This stereotypical representation is what makes the audience recognise and relate to her struggles.
My Koek is Moeg is an experimental work. It keeps changing every time we stage it. As writer and director, I have always opened it up to interpretation. It was always crucial to have the performer’s contribution to the playing of Poppie. For example, Helouis Goraseb’s portrayal of Poppie was the most humorous, I would say. She was the first to bring Poppie to life. Brümelda English’s translation was also unique and had a power of its own. Her clever use of dark humour took the story to the next level. Our rehearsal processes were deeply introspective. The process pushed us to reflect on our vision(s) and the actual subject matter(s).
With the comedy for example, the vision was to create a satire that would portray the blatant truths of how society responds to Gender Based Violence. The additional material that was devised made the entire production ironic. We wanted to showcase the realities on the ground. We wanted to show how our leaders, andsociety at large, justify the inequalities faced by women. We wanted to engage with how most societal perceptions and behavioural patterns contribute to these inequalities. It was not an easy show. The audience had to respond with uncomfortable laughter to get through it. The comedy enhanced the fearlessness of the original script.
People often ask me how I am able to represent women and coloured issues so well. I say that I write and create from experience. As an artist, my subjective experience is central to what I am creating. The stories that I tell are based on what I see in my daily life, and this is the essence of My Koek is Moeg.
Some insights from the actress Brümilde English about My Koek is Moeg:
These are real issues that every single person both male and female, rich and poor, old and young are dealing with. I wanted to be a part of what I knew was going to be a revelation and mind-blowing art piece. The issues found in the story are relatable to everyone; we might not have gone through the kinds of abuses Poppie faces, but we know of someone who has. It was a challenge for me as an actress to fully envelope her story. I wanted to be a voice to so many women who go through these issues. Jacques wrote the play many years ago and it was initially done by a great Namibian actress Helouis Goraseb, so I had to recreate another Poppie. We did a lot of workshop styled therapy, it was very personal and made me unlock parts of myself in order to allow Poppie in. It was a scary yet exhilarating process, I discovered issues that have hampered me as a woman, but also enhanced my acceptance of who I am. For some times it was as if Poppie was taunting me, it was a case of ‘Are you good enough to tell my story?’ I first had to deal with issues in my life, so that Poppie’s life could be showcased through me.
Throughout the performances audience members responded to everything in Poppie’s life and that was what I had hoped for. Every time they laughed I knew I had touched a nerve, we often laugh at situations too close for comfort. As nothing about her life was funny, I had to make it a bit comedic so as to keep the audience throughout. As long as it gets people thinking about the subject, I feel the impact is great.
One cannot force ideas on people but if they start walking out of their little boxes there is change. I went through a depression whilst rehearsing for Poppie, but as I was faced with her story, I worked through what was hampering me. Of course Poppie’s story won’t make woman stop baby dumping, men using women as sex objects, women using themselves as objects for money, but it is therapeutic in allowing you to deal with the reasons behind why we do what we do. Poppie is a therapist and she doesn’t even know it.
Jacques Mushaandja is an Artist, Theatre Maker and Drama Educator
Brümilde English acted the part of Poppie Plaatjies in My Koek is Moeg