Sizwe Banzi, alive + kicking, at Johannesburg’s Market Theatre

Get to the Market Theatre in Newtown really fast for “Sizwe Banzi is Dead” [Last show is on Sunday]. Last night we saw an exhilirating performance of this South African classic first performed in 1972. I saw it first about 20 years ago when this country was a very different place and the tragedy of it all resonated so deeply [I was a total drama school groupie then and let me ‘fess up here to always  having had a penchant for the dramatic]. It’s an outstanding piece about identity, about what it means to be a man, about dignity, and about what’s in a name. Then it was also more a piece about the bleakness of being a black man under Apartheid, of having every aspect of your life circumscribed by cruel and petty laws and even more cruel and petty enforcers. Interestingly the play has not dated at all and yet the response to it now is so different. Last night in a packed Laager Theatre you could have been mistaken for thinking the piece was written as comedy – the audience laughed and laughed, Continue reading

Zimbabwean writing

#110. Go to a book reading and be enchanted by a Zimbabwean writer who has everybody talking. Her name is Petina Gappah and her book is “An Elegy for Easterly”, a collection of short stories that has garnered gushing reviews comparing her to writers as diverse as  Anton Chekhov and Chinua Achebe. Continue reading

Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe stars in The Wizard of Oz

#40. Wonder about the future of South Africa’s neighbour, Zimbabwe. Yesterday a historic power-sharing agreement was signed in Harare between Zanu PF’s Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change and of Zimbabwe (only if one takes votes into account, which Bob clearly does not).  Not to be stopped by the “details” of an election, Robert Mugabe said some very strange things including  –  in reference to SA President Thabo Mbeki’s mediator role – “I wish I was young again and proposing to girls. I would say give me some tips”.

Robert Mugabe speaks at the signing of the historic power sharing agreement in Harare, Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

Continue reading

Writers in trouble, or just living in troubled times

#14: Attend the Sunday Times Literary Awards dinner. The Sunday Times book awards were held at Summer Place on Saturday night. I used to be an organiser and now have joined the ranks of the guests — which I have to say  is infinitely more pleasant as I didn’t have to sweat any of the detail. The theme of the night was “Writers in Troubled Times” and it left me wondering why South Africa’s writers seem so dislocated from the place, mostly unable or unwilling to engage with this country or to attempt to define some part of it. Continue reading