Greetings from Cape Town, South Africa!
On the fourth day of our adventure we explored the role of art as resistance and renaissance during apartheid in South Africa. Our morning began with a lecture from Charlyn Dyers, an English professor from the University Western Cape and a former resistance theater actress. She spoke about the significance of resistance theater and her personal experience as a colored actress during the years of apartheid. Dyers lecture was an essential preface for our plans that day.
During the struggles of apartheid the average man could be found in the theater. I feel like the theater today is associated with the sophisticated upper class, where you would not expect the everyday man on the street to be found. Dyers explained that the average man will go the theater in times of true and extreme diversity. Under the oppressive rule of the apartheid government the average man and woman could be found at the theater. The oppressed flocked to the theater in order to realize their own life stories and to come to grasps with their own reality.
Dyers then introduced us to a form of theater, known as protest theater that arose during the era of apartheid. “Protest theater makes a statement of disapproval or disagreement…which addresses itself to the oppressor.” (Mda 15) This form of theater poked fun at and satirized the laws and leadership of the apartheid government. Dyers made sure to point out that although protest theater provided a form of true entertainment for the suffering, its real value could be found in its aim of mobilizing the oppressed to explore ways of fighting against the oppression.
Dyers then spoke about the form of theater that arose in the 1990’s during the post-apartheid era. This form of theater is known as liberation theater. “Liberation theater strives to free the audience from the psychological legacy of oppression.” (Mda 21) Such theater provided a form of escapism from the harsh reality of life during apartheid rule. It was characterized by musicals and dancing. Dyers explained that although she understands the psychological want and need for liberation it resulted in the avoidance of countless issues that still needed to be resolved.
Not until Professor Charlyn Dyers lecture did I realize the significance art in times of struggle. In the absence of resistance theater would the oppressed eventually learn to accept the status quo of life under the apartheid rule?