Questions & Answers

Interviews, Cape Town, March 2006

What did you do when you left STE
I had a much needed rest for about 3 months, smoked myself to death, then finally said, "This is it, I'm downing tools" and I haven't touched a cigarette since. Then I started to process all my experiences and … started writing my play.

Did you always write 'The Veil' with yourself in mind as the actor
No, not really. But I think I've always thought of myself as an actor. Although I left the profession every show I saw or movie that I watched I would be thinking 'I would have directed it like this or played it like that'. It drove me mad. But no, I was going to give it to an awesome actor called Amanda Lane, whom I met when I performed Marat Sade, but somewhere along the line it dawned on me that I could do it myself. So I did.

How did that decision happen …I mean … to do it yourself
It's hard to say exactly … it was more like a progression. I'd seen a couple of movies that I really liked, then one day Dorothy Ann Gould phoned me … she'd heard I'd left STE … and she persuaded me to join The Actors Centre and audition for Marat Sade. Nobody was more shocked than me when I actually landed the role of Simone! Amanda was playing Charlotte Corday opposite me. That's why I originally thought of her. But then it dawned on me that there is no-one that knows the material better than I. So why not? I spent the rest of 2004 writing and tweaking the script, trying to find a director, and preparing myself for performance, which I hadn't done for about 14 years at this stage!

How did you prepare for performance
I had what I call 'my renaissance'. I started singing and playing the piano again. I joined a Latin Dance Studio and started doing the Argentine Tango, and I started to Tap!

Tapping. Tap, tap tapping! As in Gregory Hines … Sammy Davis Junior …the Nicholas Brothers …

What inspired you to tap
I saw a movie that I really liked.

What movie was it
Bootmen … it changed my life ... I looked at it and I said, "That's what I want to do". And I literally tapped my way to health. I was 25 kilos overweight at the time. By the time I started performing in July 2005, I had been tapping for about 6 months already. And I literally exploded onto the stage with 'Veils'. It's great! I believe tapping gave me the energy and the muscle memory. I took my Bronze Tap Medal at the end of last year, 2005. Sweet!

How did you get to perform at the Cape Town Festival
The CEO of the Cape Town Festival, Yusuf Ganief had seen my show at the Grahamstown Festival and invited me, I then applied for funding to the NAC and I got it!

What has your response been like in Cape Town
Awesome. I qualified from U.C.T many years ago and it was surprisingly like a magnificent home-coming. People – even stage hands - from the state theatre (now The Artscape) – remembered me, ex- colleagues from Drama School came to see the show and very good friends. It was just extraordinary.

Is 'The Voice …' going to have a run in the city
Hopefully. There are a number of possibilities. One of which is that it's booked to play at the Liberty Life on the Square but I'm not sure when.

What is your next project
Well there're quite a few in the pipe line, I've just joined up with an agent which I haven't had for many years, quite a strange experience … so apart from auditions that I'm waiting to hear about, my most passionate project is that I'm writing another show.

Does it have a name yet
Yes. Tap Cats 'n One Stray Kitten!

A musical?
Yea … now from the sublime to the ridiculous! I also have someone interested in making the movie of my play. So who knows ... the future is an open book …

Edited transcript of after show discussion, "The Voice Beyond the Veil", Cape Town at the Artscape Arena, 17th March 2006

Jazmine: Good Evening everybody, thank you for waiting behind. If anybody has any comments you'd like to make, suggestions or questions, we're more than willing to try and answer them for you.

Woman at the back of the audience: Are you a Muslim?

Jazmine: I was converted to Islam on my wedding day. I don't know if that makes me a Muslim.

Woman at the back of the audience: You said on the radio that you are an honorary Muslim. What is an honorary Muslim?

Jazmine: … I … suppose it's exactly what I've just said. It's somebody who was converted who was not brought up as that, and who has learnt to understand a little bit about the culture.

Another woman: I don't think you know anything about Islam … because you are depicting a certain home and certain cultures, and I didn't recognize my home in it.

Jazmine: This wasn't actually a play about religion. It was a play about trying to blend two different cultures.

The other woman: Well, you talk about religious issues. You talk about the kalimah being recited on your wedding day. I can't believe that any intelligent person would be in a marriage or religion and not try and investigate how it worked … because you plead ignorance the whole way through.

Jazmine: I don't think it's a case of pleading anything, really. I think it's … based on a personal story, which has been used deliberately to open it up to discuss broader issues within the context of the culture of Islam.

Other woman: Islam is a way of life, there is no culture of Islam, okay! We live our lives according to what the Qu'ran says and whatever you do … I mean you talk about people eating with their fingers, that is not Islamic, that is Indian. You get all different cultures. You get Hindu, who also eat with their fingers

An inaudible debate strikes up between this speaker and another member of the audience

Jazmine: I'm not claiming that it's a religious issue. I also can't claim to be expert particularly on Islam. I'm talking about … inter-cultural relationships whereby people have a very difficult time being accepted … It might be an Italian and a Chinese mix … Greek orthodox and a something else, and coming into that might be very strange or different to somebody who was not brought up with that.

Curly–haired man in black leather jacket: You know to me it was just very confusing … religiously and also theatrically, I think. I am not Islam, I am not Muslim either, but … it felt that you didn't have a choice … like it was too much of an effort for you … there was too much blaming and throwing things around … I think that the title … is also misleading

Jazmine: What would you have expected to see with something of the title of this play?

Curly–haired man in leather jacket: Somebody was trying to find herself … maybe … who was trying to find identity, or who was trying to address identity to a certain extent.

Off-mic an audience member comments that one has to cut the discussion short Jazmine comments also off mic that she knows which is why she can't address everything

Audience woman in a white suit: I always thought that theatre was supposed to be a lens … and that you take from it whatever you want … or understand. So I don't think theatre should be prescribed. I was wondering at any point if you discussed making it into a documentary, and then say it's your life, your confusion and it's not necessarily reflective of … Islam, or living behind a veil or not.

Jazmine: Yes, a documentary was discussed. It also … started off being a novel, a movie script and a play, and I was sort've oscillating between them. And it ended up as the play you now see … But you say it's just one personal journey. I don't think it is. I've actually heard of this story of women having their names changed and being converted on their wedding day happening in places as far afield as Ireland. So I think it's much more widely spread than just my story.

Woman in lime green dress and veil: Hi I must say I enjoyed your acting. I have mixed feelings. Yes, I agree that theatre should be about what happened here tonight, but I was expecting to see something about Islam … there are women out there, as far as Ireland as well who go into this religion because of their love for a new religion. So I'm leaving here with some good experience of acting, but I'm not comfortable with the title because I think it's a controversial headline. Had I known what the story was about, I don't know if I would've come.

Curly–haired man in black leather jacket: Just a final point from me … as a neutral audience member. I think the script needs some tightening, and … direction. Thanks.

Woman barely visible at the back: I was just wondering if there could be some exploration about "The Voice Behind the Veil". Because I think that what you depicted for me was … it's complex … and it was possibly a multiplicity of voices . What I got from the play is that if you wear a veil you're automatically adaptive and make food best. If you don't wear a veil, you are more liberated. In my experience, I've had so much to learn from women with veils, and I had so much to unlearn, and they've had lots to learn from me! And I think there is a particular expectation of what one wanted to almost learn from a play like that. Because it's not just … about religion … I think maybe you just scratched the veneer of what the complexities are. It would be nice for a follow-up in another kind of dramatical art-form, in terms of what you've started by way of conversation here.

Jazmine: Thank you. The themes are complex. But to clarify the voice and the veil issue. I think the voice is really about the speaking voice, the hearing voice, the thinking voice, the voice of freedom and the voice of expression … including the writing of the play. It's a transition. I am here. I am present. I have a voice. I have a brain. Where the veil comes into it is … many veils … the obvious one is the Islamic veil … there's the smokescreen as well. In 14 years I've never heard a conversation about drugs that has happened in a parental home. And I've known, 5 or 6 youths over that period of time who've got serious problems with drugs or alcohol, and the community itself doesn't seem to address that. I'm also talking about the veil of childhood dreams of wanting to get married in a veil and that sort've not happening in the way that you imagined it. And for me, personally, I think it's very apt, because it's the voice beyond the veil … it is not the voice behind the veil.

Woman in white: I get the feeling that because I cover my hair I'm also covering my brain. And … where were you when Pagad were around – People Against Drugs – that was Muslim people leading the marches against drug-dealers. As a woman, you do not have to be converted to Islam on your wedding day. There is no compulsion … no-one can force you to follow a religion you're not happy with. That is un-Islamic. So as a woman you should have been stronger and resisted. You must have been very in love with your husband.

Jazmine: You're bringing up a lot of issues here in a very patronizing kind of way. You're missing one very important point and that when this time-frame that this story takes place, it (was) in the Apartheid period of time … white communities were kept separately … people were not necessarily that tolerant about other cultures. So me crossing the Rubicon, so to speak, was probably quite an unusual situation. It was not the norm.

Young woman in a black veil just leaving: Hi, I think your narrative was very good. I think actually you're a very good actor, and you go into your characters very well. My only concern with the play is that … it's my concern with the media in general … and that's that there is a stereotyping of Muslim women and I think that's a very narrow-minded perspective. I understand that your play is a slice of life and it's a very personal experience. But at the same time there are Muslim women who are active journalists leading the struggle. So I think your effort was brave, but I think it's dangerous, just with the stereotyping.

Audience erupts into applause.

Jazmine: I actually think that's a great comment. …But …I was not addressing those kinds of women. I was addressing the kind of pressure that one feels under, when you move into a different culture. And, in fact, people look down their nose at you! As if you don't have a brain! As is you don't exist! As if you are not worthy because you don't come from the same group or culture that they come from. So I was looking at it from the other aspect entirely.

Somebody starts talking without a mic almost inaudibly

German guy: I think you, tonight, were very good, because I'm from East Germany, with my girlfriend from Zambia.

He gets given mic still doesn't use it properly – virtually impossible to transcribe

German guy continued in broken English: And the thing is … I see a lot of hope … more ways in the kind of faith and political things … I could never get out of the country – East Germany … that is quite a thing … and to start to get into another culture, I'll be honest, I don't remember about as much about Islam as I should … but I have traveled . And we have so many things that doesn't touch under the face of it. It's just this experience tonight … I experienced that there are things very much deeper. … It's such a big opportunity. It's great. Thank you very much.

Sudan man: Hi, first I want to say thank you … it was wonderful. Second, I'm from Sudan, and I've been to a lot of Muslim countries, Islamic countries, and it really is what you have said, "Behind the veil". It's like that. Actually … it's as the German guy said now, it's political, the whole of Islam. I believe it's that. But the veil, it's something that effects the psychology, the person, I think. When a woman starts to wear a veil …

Unfortunately – the tape runs out and not being an official recording - the rest of the discussion was not recorded. Jazmine remembers the man from the Sudan talking for a long time. He couldn't believe that this story had occurred in the Apartheid period of time. He spoke about the veil effecting people minds. That in his view, the covering was the start of the repression and that he felt that both sides had been targeted, not just Islam. The discussion ended very late.

Jazmine comments later: In reference to Pagad, bombing drug-lords houses is definitely not what I'd consider 'dealing' with the drug issue. I was thinking more in the line of talking to their children, listening to them, putting them in rehabilitation, actually finding out why they feel the need to indulge, is it repression or is it rebellion? I wish they could hear that. But I'm so grateful that people stayed behind to have their say! It must be a first in the history of South Africa with regard to Islamic audiences. And that's exactly why it was written - to open discussion. So I think I achieved what I set out to do even if there were negatives. A belated thank you to everybody who participated.

(There was a woman in a white suit that suggested a book for Jazmine to read. Because they were striking the set and very tired she didn't write it down. Jazmine asks that if that person reads this site, please to re-send the information regarding suggested reading.)