Last week Friday, Nondumiso Msimanga showed the first years in the Film, Visual, and Performing Arts lecture a screening of the live-filmed version of the play, WOZA ALBERT.
When I was still in high school, I saw three plays that completely changed my life… SIZWE BANZI IS DEAD, SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE PALACE, and WOZA ALBERT.
It was quite hectic watching the video.
The image I’ve captured here is a hint of what I regard as the pivotal scene in the play. It’s where a character called Bobbejaan (Babboon") has been denigrated by his white boss, who has reminded him that he can be sent back to "the homelands" at any time, and he can be fired at any time. And then the boss fires him. And calls the cops.
In the apartheid days, this was the equivalent of a death sentence, either metaphorically (when you lost your dompas, you couldn’t come back to the city) or literally (you could be thrown into the back of a police van and beaten to death).
Bobbejaan and his worker buddy have just been discussing the arrival of "Morena" (the second coming of Jesus Christ) in South Africa. They’ve been fantasizing about how he’ll liberate them from the horrors of their lives, how he’ll end apartheid, how everyone will become wealthy, how the bricks they make at the brick factory will be used to build houses for them and their families, not just for the white masters. They also speculate that Morena will merely be arrested and killed by the police.
And lo and behold… Morena arrives at the brickyard. And sits down with them, and has tea. The white boss sees the stranger, curses him, and calls the cops to have him arrested too.
Bobbejaan picks up his knopkierrie (the club I’ve drawn lying on the ground), and takes on the cops.
In the next scene, one of the cops is called into his boss’s office to explain how one Zulu man with a knopkierrie could incapacitate 30 white South African riot police.
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