Perspectives of tragedy in black South African drama : an analysis of selected plays by Zakes Mda, Mbongeni Ngema and Maishe Maponya
This dissertation focuses on the nature and manifestation of tragedy within African experience in selected plays written by black South African playwrights. The plays under discussion are We Shall Sing for the Fatherland (1973) by Zakes Mda, The Hungry Earth (1978) by Maishe Maponya, and Sarafina (1985) by Mbongeni Ngema. The many conflicting statements regarding the "death" and existence of tragedy in contemporary drama lead one to ask the following two fundamental questions: Can there be tragedy in contemporary South African drama and what structural devices are there to account for the manifestation of this elusive phenomenon? This dissertation works towards defining the concept of an African vision of tragedy by examining the nature and form in which tragedy manifests itself in South African drama. Secondly, it considers the extent to which this phenomenon is similar or different from conventional elements and structural forms of Western tragic drama. This dissertation argues that there exists a distinct and viable vision of tragedy in black South African drama which can be called African. It contends that dramatic texts do not all have the same degree of profundity of tragic vision because their subject matter, techniques and depth of artistic exploration differ, and vary according to their cultural roots. The basis on which old forms of tragedy are used to interpret the version of contemporary tragedy is therefore called into question, and as a result, the analysis of structural forms and thematic preoccupations of contemporary tragedy needs a set of criteria different from that of Euro-American drama. The portrayal of a tragic hero as a common man whose tragic stature is measured in terms of his ability to feel, to be aware of forces closing down on him in The Hungry Earth, the manifestation of tragedy as generated not only by individual volition, but by an economic structure established by those in power in We Shall Sing for the Fatherland, and, finally, the mingling of tragicomic elements of entertainment and communication to accommodate both tragedy and comic elements without destroying the integrity of either in Sarafina, indicate a definite development and imitation of tragedy from emphasis on form to meaning. By asking a question like: "What constitutes tragedy in black South African drama, and how are such processes represented and modelled in the selected plays?" this dissertation enters into a dialogue of global and local perspectives of tragedy in order to contribute to our understanding of an African, and specifically South African, concept of tragedy firmly rooted in its socio-cultural context.
- Humanities