Swan song

I’m not dying, just meant for flying. 

There is an ancient belief that swans burst into song with their final breath. Set in a tiny box flat in Johannesburg, Swan Song is a coming of age tale, tracing the journey of a young Tswana woman from Taung born with a winged scapula, a symbol that mirrors a constant struggle for belonging, of home. Swan Song wrestles with the metaphors of grief and love, mapping the way in which they physically manifest and become intertwined with life. The film draws the audience into her nest, an intimate space where they witness her grappling to tie together past and present, working through her memories as if enduring physical labour, en pointe. As she descends into her final moments; she pivots from the crippling vulnerability that loving demands, to the brazen fearlessness of having loved at all. 

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“It was not her body that was deformed. It was those made uncomfortable by The Other, whose skewed views need untwisting. A deeper read: so many white knights playing rescuer. So many “if it weren’t for XYZ, so and so would never have made it out of the township” narratives. Against all odds! But the wings have already been torn from the fly, so must it just slowly die? Wild ideal: imagine if we changed the odds, deconstructed the system just a little so people could stop being bent to breaking point.”

– Sarah Robertson. Reprinted by Mail and Guardian, 2020

As a result of COVID19, the National Arts Festival had less than 100 days to go from the late stages of planning a live festival to creating an online reiteration. Ngaba and her team saw the #VNaf programme as an opportunity to #adaptorfly and reimagine Swan Song for screen. This migration saw the show undergo metamorphoses in transition to screen, and Swan Song — an intimate and intricately crafted production — was perfectly placed to become a flagship as the National Arts Festival pivoted to virtual mode, was received with roaring success and named one of the “unmissable” shows at festival.


More recently, true to its  #AdaptorFly motto, Swan Song has taken on a new audio form thanks to Fizzy Sherbet Plays; an international platform for womxn writers and directors. Find #FizzySherbet on @ApplePodcasts and @spotifypodcasts to hear Buhle Ngaba performing the radio drama with score and direction by Ilana Cilliers.

Swan Song traces the journey of a young Tswana woman born with a winged scapula - a symbol of a constant struggle for a sense of belonging.

Swan Song Box

Swan Song ceramic

Accessible art is close to our hearts – and this beautiful ceramic can make itself at home with you. Created in collaboration with ceramicist Nazreen Rorke, it’s a reminder of all things simultaneously precious and simple, unsettling and beautiful, delicate and strong. 


#AdaptorFly mask 

Take a piece of wearable art with you wherever you go: our collaboration with Daisy Loves Thread provides hand-embroidered protection and inspiration in equal measure. 


#SkeleSwan mask (Half panel & full panel) 

This hand-embroidered mask, created in collaboration with Daisy Loves Thread, is all about the bare essentials: use yours to stay safe, and let it be a reminder to speak up. 


Meant for Flying pencils

Write a kind note, sketch something beautiful, start planning big things for yourself or write your own story – the options are limitless with this simple pencil featuring a special message.