The play that made white peo­ple leave

CityPress - - News - PHUMLANI S LANGA phumlani.sithebe@city­

Con­fes­sions of a Black­listed Woman was one of the high­lights of this year’s Na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val in Gra­ham­stown. The pow­er­ful play was cre­ated by ac­tress, singer, com­poser and scriptwriter Zimkitha Kum­baca, who you might know for her role as Non­tle Sanqu in’s Matatiele.

Upon ar­rival at the Graeme College the­atre, a lav­ishly dressed black woman with a weave greets the au­di­ence warmly and wel­comes them into her place of plea­sure.

She’s the madam, and the stage is set up like a gen­tle­men’s club with the all-black, all-fe­male cast dressed like hu­man dolls, there to pro­vide all “gen­tle­men” with the joys of the flesh. With their blonde wigs and red la­tex suits, they rep­re­sent what has been his­tor­i­cally seen as the ideal woman: white, sexy and with one pur­pose – to sat­isfy men.

By the time the show ended, all the white peo­ple in the the­atre had left. As it pro­gresses from its open­ing scene, you see the dolls be­gin to rebel.

At the back of the stage is a black woman with nat­u­ral hair, “the essence of black­ness”, called Mama. She is dis­missed by the madam as a “mon­key”. She blows pow­der on the dolls, open­ing their eyes to the way they’ve been moulded to suit the white, sex­ist ideal. They start to ques­tion their blonde wigs and why the madam refers to black peo­ple as “the other”. They fling off their wigs to re­veal their own nat­u­ral hair, they kick off their heels and start speak­ing Se­sotho in­stead of English.

The di­a­logue must have been too much for some peo­ple to han­dle. Slowly, ever more white peo­ple got up and headed for the door. With each men­tion of a mon­key or hat­ing black­ness, skin bleach­ing, or be­ing a yel­low bone, more white peeps (mostly in an older au­di­ence) got up, shook their heads at the stage and left.

As they left, mem­bers of the cast shouted at them: “You’d bet­ter sit down and lis­ten to what we have to say!”

At the end of the play, the madam her­self re­alises her black­ness. She turns on the re­main­ing black au­di­ence, scream­ing at us “gen­tle­men” for what we have forced her to be­come. Home­girl lit­er­ally brings the show to an end by kick­ing ev­ery­body out of the the­atre. “Get out, get out!” she screams as we leave. I was ap­plaud­ing her and the cast when I no­ticed some other poor fool get­ting shouted at by the madam for do­ing so. I quickly stopped.

All us black peo­ple con­gre­gated out­side af­ter­wards, shaken by what we’d just seen. I have not been more un­com­fort­able and en­gaged in my life, and I loved it.

“To have ap­plause at the end would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate. This was not a cel­e­bra­tion. It would be a lie to ap­plaud af­ter such an hon­est ses­sion,” Kum­baca told City Press a day later.

“The show is hon­est and the au­di­ence re­acted in an hon­est way. Those who weren’t having any of it, left. I do ap­pre­ci­ate those who stayed, though. Very brave.”

She said she was proud of her cast and how they seemed to el­e­vate their per­for­mance as each per­son left.


HON­EST The cast of Con­fes­sions of a Black­listed Woman

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