Democratic Actors and Post-Apartheid Drama: Contesting Performance in Contemporary South Africa
In anti-apartheid South Africa, performance culture was dominated by one institution: the Market Theatre. Opening in June 1976, just before the Soweto uprising, the Market provided a venue for plays that expressed the urgency of the anti-apartheid struggle. While other, shorter-lived theatres — from the Space in Cape Town (1972–81) to black institutions in or near Johannesburg such as FUBA (Federated Union of Black Arts) or Soyikwa (honoring playwright Wole Soyinka) — staged critical drama, it was the Market that provided space, support, and marketing for one of apartheid’s most visible exports: anti-apartheid protest theatre. Although some lamented the packaging of protest as ‘theatre for export’ in plays like Sarafina (1986) that flattered overseas spectators’ sense of their own political correctness (see Mofokeng, 1996), all agree that at its best, in plays from Survival (1976), to Woza Albert (1981), to Born in the RSA, and Have you seen Zandile? (both 1986), anti-apartheid theatre bore witness to both the atrocities of, and the resistance to, apartheid. As the primary venue for this genre of performance, the Market offered not only a stage but also a safe haven for performers whose work and whose very selves might have otherwise been banned or harassed by the apartheid state.
KeywordsCentral Business District Performance Practice African National Congress Soap Opera Democratic Actor
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