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IN countries like South Africa, where there are deep-seated tensions around race, national unity is not easy to achieve.
This year alone, South Africa has seen its fair share of such conflicts, which continue to bubble under the surface. The recent Diwali fireworks saga in Durban is but one example of a dispute that revealed much intolerance in our community.
Such conflicts always have a ripple effect that is felt far beyond those who cause these storms in teacups. The situations also reveal a host of underlying tensions that remain in the country today.
So, with all the talk these days of “social cohesion”, when I read the write-up for a play titled Allegations to be staged at the Mush Fest, I was very interested to speak to the director.
Produced by Almasi Collaborative Arts (Zimbabwe), the play is written by Mandisi Gobodi, directed by Patience Tawengwa and performed by Dan Hargrove and Everson Ndlovu.
In the programme brief, the producers ask: “What does ‘national healing’ really mean to a white farmer and a black rural dweller? Is it possible to just let sleeping dogs lie?”
Allegations examines Zimbabwe’s brutal past and present, and is a true story of the hope, fear and frustration in the country today.
Tonight spoke with Tawengwa to find out her first thoughts when she laid eyes on Gobodi’s script.
“The play was developed in a writers’ and directors’ workshop. I first heard it during a reading and I thought that it was exactly the play I wanted to direct. It was in 2009, just after our 2008 elections, which had resulted in a run-off.
It was relevant, it was edgy, and it called a spade a spade. It was a play that said aloud what was on the minds of most people.”
“The story is about two individuals – Spud, a white farmer, and Reason, a black man from the village. They meet during a recess session of a truth and reconciliation hearing here in Zimbabwe. At first, they are worlds apart. They think they have nothing at all in common, but as they tell their stories, they come to find that they have a whole lot in common. They have both suffered at the hands of the same people and, as someone once said, ‘we all weep in the same language’,” explained Tawengwa.
“Human pain and loss are the same regardless of race or social standing, and indeed this is a very universal story. It was received as a very political piece here in Zimbabwe, and there was a long piece on it in The Herald, which is the leading government-owned newspaper. They attacked the Harare International Festival of the Arts, and the headline was “Who is being indicted?”
With so many similar historical socio-political issues in South Africa and Zimbabwe, we asked Tawengwa how she thought locals would receive the piece.
“I think the play is really relevant in South Africa today, and I am so excited we are able to bring it to Musho. Zimbabwe should serve as a cautionary tale for those who think fast-track land-grabs are the way to go.”
• Allegations stages on January 19 at 6pm.