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New Territories

Theatre, Drama, and Performance in Post-apartheid South Africa


Edited By Greg Homann and Marc Maufort

South African theatre, drama, and performance is a vibrant and rapidly developing area of contemporary theatre studies. In this critical anthology of essays and interviews, some of the world’s most respected scholars and practitioners writing and working in the area of South African theatre today share their detailed examinations and insights on the complex and contradictory context of post-apartheid society. Loosely grouped into the categories of Theatre, Drama, and Performance, the essays collected here offer a sampling of work being staged, produced, and written in the country today. The contributors document, contrast, and analyse significant case studies, representing examples from site-specific performance to new South African plays, from traditional indigenous performance practice to the reimagining of Western classics. The anthology takes the year of South Africa’s first democratic election, 1994, as its departure point and includes a broad range of topics that capture the current paradigm.
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Spectacles of Participation: Performing amaXhosa Authenticity at the National Arts Festival of South Africa


← 288 | 289 → Spectacles of Participation

Performing amaXhosa Authenticity at the National Arts Festival of South Africa1


Rhodes University

I. Introduction

The National Arts Festival [NAF] of South Africa takes place every year in the small university town of Grahamstown, which is named after its founder, Colonel John Graham. In 1811, Graham was sent from the United Kingdom specifically commissioned to clear the land for English settlement. He went about this task by evicting 20,000 amaXhosa, burning down their farms and killing women and children, before building a barracks on which he then founded the town which was to bear his name. Graham’s campaign was unapologetically brutal, and he once wrote that “The only way of getting rid of [the amaXhosa] is depriving them of the means of subsistence and continually harassing them” (Smith 45). Lt-General John Cradock famously praised Graham for succeeding in his mission by having employed “a proper degree of terror” (Thompson 55).

In 1966, just over 150 years after it was founded, Grahamstown became the heart of the 1820 Settlers Foundation, and an arts festival was created to celebrate the English settlers and their culture (Grundy 387). In 1980 the festival added the word “national” to its title, even though, as Grundy points out “the programmes were hardly representative of the cultural richness and diversity of South Africa” (389). A survey taken in 2006 showed the following breakdown of...

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