Township Theater; Woza Afrika!: A Festival of South African Theater

By Nixon, Rob | The Nation, November 22, 1986 | Go to article overview

Township Theater; Woza Afrika!: A Festival of South African Theater


Nixon, Rob, The Nation


Township Theater Woza Afrika!: A Festival of South African Theater

By Anybody's standards, the participants in this fall's Woza Afrika! festival at Lincoln Center have had to survive the most punishing of theatrical circumstances. Of the playwrights, Percy Mtwa (Bhopa!) has been detained for thirty days in the Transkei Bantustan; Matsemela Manaka (Children of Asazi) and Maishe Maponya (Gangsters) have had their work banned; and, when vigilantes from Gatsha Buthelezi's Inkatha movement stormed a performance of Asinamali! seeking the blood of the absent playwright, Mbongeni Ngema, they murdered the show's promoter in his stead. Moreover, one member of the original cast of Asinamali! was sentenced to eight years in prison for his role in the Lamontville rent strike, the very strike which touched off the play itself.

The daily conditions facing black directors, playwrights and actors in South Africa compound the effects of such naked state violence. There is still not one permanent theater or professional theater company in Soweto or in any of the other townships. The atmosphere at performances is often tense because of the presence of informers. State support has been denied to black directors who, in any case, regard such funding as compromising. Black township theater is far worse off than the multiracial theater at venues such as the Market Theatre, which, situated in the heart of Johannesburg, can tap a wealthier, white audience. While a small number of blacks may travel the prohibitive distance to the Market over weekends, it is rare for whites to attend theater in the townships. It is not so surprising then that, according to Maponya, talented but destitute actors have on occasion been lured away from amateur township productions by the state-run South African Broadcasting Corporation, the long arm of apartheid propaganda.

All the festival's plays have had runs at the Market, which has helped to sustain them financially, but most of them were devised specifically for the townships, where a broad renaissance in the performing arts has been developing since the late 1970s. In addition to community and trade-union theater, a tenacious tradition of poetic performance has arisen at mass funerals and rallies. The resistance movement nourishes those cultural forms, which often serve as political catalysts. For that reason, popular performances are particularly threatening to the regime; they can reach where printed material cannot: they require neither literacy nor the money to buy books.

In the townships, it is a short step from the street to the stage and back. The enacted violence, rage, fear and defiance reflect the experience of the communities from which the theater has emerged. In Manaka's words, "Black theater. . . .should not be imported from town, but must be produced and found where black people live. The squatters, slums and ghettos should be its stage. Mampara bricks, corrugated zinc, the mud and stench in the streets should be its costume."

Manaka raises, implicitly, the central dilemma for participants in the Woza Afrika! festival. What happens to the plays when they are exported to the Lincoln Center's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater? There are two dimensions to this dilemma: funding and staging conditions. The financing of the festival has been criticized by those who fear cultural cooptation by companies eager to shore up influence in the arts, education and the unions. Organizations rendered financially vulnerable by apartheid are seeking to benefit from this funding yet simultaneously to preserve their integrity. Accepting funds often requires treading the fine line between much needed support and the kind of manipulative intervention that could ultimately jeopardize organizational autonomy.

The festival's funding dilemma is more easily stated than resolved, particularly as the plays have served the valuable function of giving Americans a wider perspective on South Africa's culture of resistance. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Township Theater; Woza Afrika!: A Festival of South African Theater
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.