The Joy of bearing witness
Updated: Feb 18, 2021
For this month's Main Baca, we'll be reading South African plays from the apartheid era, taken from the book 'Woza Afrika! An Anthology of South African Plays', edited by Duma Ndlovu.
It has always been a challenge to curate the plays we read, but much more so for this month. The tumult of the year has not ceased. Quite the opposite, actually - Covid cases have surged higher than ever before, barely a week ago our government threatened to institute a national emergency, and on the global front, we anxiously wait on the aftermath of the US election, whatever the result may be.
Among many, many other things.
In all this, what role do stories have, if any? Why read plays at all? The question has haunted me recently, as it has done to various degrees throughout the year. Stumbling upon this anthology, though, has brought some hope to an anxious mind.
As Amiri Bakara writes in his preface, in the struggle for social transformation, when all around is tragic horror, some plays help us to see more clearly, to clarify and redefine. But they also exist to affirm us and our realities, however confusing and contradictory they may be. The "joy of bearing witness", as he puts it. Something, I feel, is as important as ever, as we continue to navigate an escape from this surreal, suspended time.
“...in spite of the poignance and purposeful self-evaluation that the works carry, they also reveal the joy of bearing witness. We are always touched and forced to face humanity. Listening to Manaka speak recently at New York University, one could hear the pain and intelligence, and above all the will to live. To triumph, despite a world controlled by actual monsters." - Amiri Bakara, 1986
(If you're a young actor interested in joining our reads, fill out our application form! All you need is a decent internet connection.)