28-year-old Chase Rhys, a writer and performance artist from Ocean View outside of Cape Town, was announced the winner of the inaugural Adam and Rosalie Small Award for Debutant/Debutante Writers for his submission of his play KINNES. The Adam and Rosalie Small Award for Debutant/Debutante Writers was launched in November last year in partnership with Distell to honour the late poet and writer, Adam Small, and his wife, Rosalie, for their contribution to South African literature, philosophy, education, and advocacy against social injustice. Aspirant writers were required to focus their scripts on South African themes that support diversity in language and promote social cohesion. Ayiba’s Sanet Oberholzer caught up with the writer to find out more about KINNES and the inspiration behind the piece.

What is the story that you’ve captured in your play KINNES and what themes have you brought in to the script?

KINNES (KIDS) is about four young people with big dreams: Nicole plans on being a doctor to heal children in her community, Anwaar knows all about films and wants nothing more than to be a star, Dericks writes devastatingly beautiful poetry, and Rolanda wants to be a Cape Kardashian. But life on the Cape Flats serves our kinnes extreme and unusual challenges.  I explore how our young people realize their dreams, while navigating one of the most violent cities in the world.

What do you hope to accomplish through sharing KINNES?

I wrote KINNES to honour the lives of all the children we’ve lost to gang violence in our communities. I hope when we see that our stories matter, we will recognize that our lives matter.

How – and to what extent – do you feel your roots and your community have shaped you as an artist?

I live in the same home I was born in. I only moved away from my community to go study acting at the University of Cape Town.  As a drama student, I was exposed to mostly European texts and characters. And then one day I discovered Professor Adam Small’s work. He made me realize that our stories as ignored people in the periphery of South African society are just as important as anyone else’s. I was inspired to pay closer attention to my people. After I graduated I moved back home, with an insatiable desire to give an account of what I experience and witness in my community. Accurate, meaningful representation is always important.

How is winning the Adam and Rosalie Small Award going to impact your career into the future?

I have never taken any writing classes, and no one had access to my writing before. So when I entered this competition I didn’t know if my work was any good. Winning the prestigious Adam and Rosalie Small award validated my skill; I can confidently call myself a writer. I am now incredibly motivated to continue creating. I am open to exploring every opportunity this award brings. This is just the beginning for me.

Do you expect the Adam and Rosalie Small AWARD for Debutant/Debuntante Writers to have a lasting impact in continuing the legacy they left behind?

This award will hold up Professor Adam Small and Dr Rosalie Smalls legacy well. I am the first winner of the award. The other texts selected by Distell as finalists spoke of transgender identity, slavery in South Africa, and love in a township. These stories excite me. A space is being prepared for our voices. It is clear, our time is now.

Credit: 4EVA PRODUCTIONS

When can audiences expect to see your script come to life on stage?

KINNES opens at US Woordfees on 3 March, 2018. It then moves to the KKNK Festival and will have a run at Artscape in Cape Town in April. Tickets can be booked through Computicket. If there is interest and people watch the show, further runs will definitely be included.

What are the next steps you hope to take in your career?

I am writing more plays and am keen on getting involved in producing and directing. I have recently started writing short stories and would love to challenge myself to write a longer piece – perhaps a novel? I am also working on an idea for a sitcom right now. You’ll hear a lot more from Chase Rhys in 2018.

Follow this Dropbox link to hear more about Chase Rhys’ story: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/4do mfvhgcwr9gsg/AAC9V18y0z-YKZQNx mIB-17ca?dl=0

Photo and Video Credit: 4EVA PRODUCTIONS