Help UCT student realise his dream


A fund-raiser that will include a performer belting out show tunes in drag might not seem like it has much to do with the highly specialised field of chronobiology, but tell that to fourth-year UCT Masters student Denford Banga.

In what promises to be the opportunity of a lifetime, Mr Banga, 25, has been invited to attend the Oxford University Summer School in July, and in order to raise funds for his UK trip he approached well-known Harfield Village accompanist and vocal coach Victor Tichart to put on a show with a difference.

The science of chronobiology looks at how the body keeps its natural timing in terms of sleep cycles and the influence of external factors like light and darkness. UCT is home to the only chronobiology lab in the country.

“My research is applied to health and general well-being. Chronobiology is a very niche field, but I have always been curious about how these things work,” Mr Banga, an Observatory resident, said.

A Masters student in molecular and cell biology, Mr Banga said he would relish the chance to take up the invitation to attend the week-long conference at Oxford.

“I received the invitation in February, but it is expensive, and I will need to cover all my costs. I think what really excites me most about this opportunity is that I will be able to exchange ideas with experts from all over the world. It is my ambition to become an academic and researcher at UCT, and being able to draw on this expertise in later life would be a massive boost for me.”

Although born and raised in Zimbabwe, Mr Banga now considers Cape Town home after enrolling at the university as an undergraduate.

“It was my associate professor, Laura Roden, who has seen my potential. There was a time I thought about giving up, but she always encouraged me, not just in the classroom but outside of it as well.”

Mr Tichart said he had known Mr Banga for several years, and was delighted to be able to stage a show that might help him realise his dream.

“He is incredibly intelligent, and although he is not one of my students, he has always expressed a keen interest in the arts. As it happened, I had not scheduled in my performances for the next few months when Denford approached, so it worked out well,” he said.

“I thought what better opportunity to host a performance and help someone at the same time.”

The show, Comedy in Music, will have an interval. “I will need the interval to change, because I’m doing the second half in drag, as my alter-ego Madame Eva Kwatschkomm. I would tell you what it means in German, but I think it’s better if the public look it up for themselves,” he said.

“The show will feature the music of Victor Borge, full of phonetic punctuation, and we will also be singing Happy Birthday in the style of some of the great composers. Then I will be teaming up with a guest to perform a duet, focusing on the music from Cats. This will be done in drag, of course.”

Comedy in Music takes place at the Chisholm Recital Room at the UCT College of Music on May 1. Cheese and wine will be served. Tickets are R100, or R90 (seniors) and R70 (students/children).

For further information, call Victor Tichart on 072 969 7297