Play message disappointed me

2015-07-23 06:01

ZOEY Martinson’s Ndebele Funeral­, which I eventually got to see last Friday, reminded me of the celebrated creativity of the “much-ado about nothing” in Athol Fugard’s Boesman andamp; Lena.

I liked the storyline about two friends who met as students­. Now one is successful and the other is wasting away as a result of an Aids -related illness.

I liked the symbolism that is built around the coffin which the sick woman has made out of the supplies from the Department of Human Settlements for informal settlement dwellers to improve their dwellings.

Maybe there was a realistic poetic significance in the unreal portrayal of a dying woman finding meaning in alcoholism and living in a coffin. The poetic meaning seemed to be about escapism and embracing death in the midst of sickness, gloom, morbidity and failure in life.

What’s poverty got to do with failure if there are so many resilient individuals who defy odds and make it in life? Why does the sick woman’s male friend help her die by shooting her as she drifts back to hide her pain in her self-built selfish coffin? How does an artist promote assisted suicide in the context of the HIV and Aids pandemic, given the need to pass the message of hope in a world of improved medical treatment?

In the story of the show that is performed well by three people, the sick woman is obviously preparing for her funeral. She is embracing her doom regardless of the possibility she could get treatment and rebuild her future, especially because she has a supportive friend. She certainly finds being pitied distasteful, like many of us. But maybe I expected too much from a play that has been getting good reviews and is touring countries and cities.

What did I want to see - perhaps more about the HIV and Aids controversies, especially with regards to the supply of treatment.

Why did we have a short supply of drugs recently? What would happen if one day we woke up and we were told that Aids drugs were no longer available - would the millions who are dependent on this treatment perish in a matter of months?

I expected to hear more about HIV and Aids as a potential economic and political disease. Who makes these drugs and who benefits from their production and why can’t my country produce its own drugs?

What did I expect to hear? Why was former president Thabo Mbeki’s so-called denialism stance a smokescreen for what seems to be the thinking that these drugs may drain the resources of developing countries?

When I went to see the play I thought that yes, today I will face social demons and come to terms with our collective plight in so far as the Aids pandemic is concerned. But after watching the play, I did not feel moved as much as I expected to, save for the powerful obsession of the sick woman who is bent on self-destruction and the consequent assisted suicide.

The play did not tell me how the sick woman got the virus and why she won’t rebuild her life. It said nothing about the increasing number of women who get upset by their cheating partners and stop treatment so they can die and be free from the bondage of taking Aids drugs while their partners keep pumping the HI virus into their bodies amid unprotected sex and hypocritical marriage bonds.

When I went to the Playhouse I thought yes, today I will allow the performing arts to make me grieve because nowadays­ we prepare for our funeral in our comfortable beds quietly and make children and youth-headed households in the name of love and marriage.

I expected to see the dance of the HIV and Aids pandemic and listen to songs of death and celebrate the deaths of a million. All I heard was an old song sung in a funny white accent that reminded me of President Jacob Zuma, who mocked those who cannot pronounce Nkandla properly in Parliament.

The cast sang like a broken record: “Angeke ngiye kwaZulu, kwafela ubaba” (I will never go to KwaZulu again because that is where my father died).

Somehow I expected to hear a message that says apartheid killed us and the ANC led us to political freedom. HIV is killing us and Aids deaths will free us from ignorance and the darkness of lust.

I wanted to hear someone say God bless Africa, emancipate her children financially and morally, especially women so they will not depend on their male counterparts who seem to be bent on killing them because of economic dependence

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