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Staging Transition in Post-Apartheid South Africa - The Bastardisation of History

Wednesday 11 May 2016
African Arts and Literatures Today
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

Staging Transition in Post-Apartheid South Africa

Dr. Astrid Van Weyenberg (Leiden University) 

This lecture will focus on Yael Farber’s play Molora (2003), a South African adaptation of Aeschylus’ Oresteia trilogy, the only full trilogy of Greek tragedies known to us today. Molora dramatises the challenges South Africa faced after the end of apartheid: how to move beyond vengeance, how to reconcile a nation torn apart by decades of injustice, and how to change a system of apartheid into a non-racial democracy? We will discuss Farber's explicit references to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), established in 1995 to avoid the bloodshed that was expected after apartheid officially ended and to facilitate the transition to a new democratic South Africa. We will investigate how Molora explores various aspects of the TRC, as well as how the Commission’s reconciliatory process relates to Aeschylus’ Oresteia trilogy. This will lead us to a number of interrelated topics, ranging from storytelling to theatre, from memory to justice, from truth to forgiveness, and from amnesty to reconciliation.

The Bastardisation of History: Mythology in Tertius Kapp’s Rooiland

Dr. Hanneke Stuit (University of Amsterdam) 

This lecture will focus on the relation between story telling, mythology and history in the play Rooiland, which is set in a South African prison run by prison gangs, rather than by the warden and his staff. In this lecture, Hanneke Stuit will analyse the fortunes of the play’s protagonist Frans, who is about to be initiated into one of the prison gangs. She will look closely at the mythological structure of the stories that the different characters tell each other, with a special focus on the way the prison gang’s myth of origin is transferred and exchanged between members. Attention will be paid to mythical elements in the tales, and to how the tales embody ideologically charged processes as described by Roland Barthes in Mythologies (1957). The interpretation of the play thus makes clear how certain myths can function as a selection process for cultural membership in historical discourses.

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