Theatre and Cultural Struggle under Apartheid

Robert Mshengu Kavanagh
With a Foreword by Ian Steadman

New Edition


A pioneering study of South African theatre under Apartheid, exploring the ways in which the stage became an arena for the battle against oppression.
In this book, South African performer and activist Robert Mshengu Kavanagh reveals the complex and conflicting interplay of class, nation and race in South African theatre under Apartheid. Evoking an era when theatre itself became a political battleground, Kavanagh displays how the struggle against Apartheid was played out on the stage as well as on the streets.

Kavanagh's account spans three very different areas of South African theatre, with the author considering the merits and limitations of the multi-racial theatre projects created by white liberals; the popular commercial musicals staged for black audiences by emergent black entrepreneurs; and the efforts of the Black Consciousness Movement to forge a distinctly African form of revolutionary theatre in the 1970s.

The result is a highly readable, pioneering study of the theatre at a time of unprecedented upheaval, diversity and innovation, with Kavanagh's cogent analysis demonstrating the subtle ways in which culture and the arts can become an effective means of challenging oppression.

Author Bio

Robert Mshengu Kavanagh played an active part in the development of South African theatre in the 1970s through his participation in Experimental Theatre Workshop ’71 in Johannesburg, and as founding editor of S’ketsh’, a magazine covering black and non-segregated theatre in South Africa. After leaving the country in 1976, he did his doctorate at Leeds University and then played a leading role in founding theatre arts departments at Addis Ababa University and the University of Zimbabwe. In 2012 he was awarded the Ibsen Prize for a project on negotiating Ibsen in Southern Africa. He has lived in Zimbabwe since 1984.

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • 1. Cultural and Social Relations in South Africa before 1976
  • 2. The Struggle for Social Hegemony
  • 3. Alternative Hegemony in the Making
  • 4. The Develolpment of Theatre in South Africa up to 1976
  • 5. 'No-Man's Land' - Fugard, and the Black Intellectuals
  • 6. 'A Tremendously Exciting Inter-Racial Enterprise'
  • 7. 'A Deep Insight into the Loves and Hates of Our People'
  • 8. 'A Dialogue of Confrontation'
  • 9. Conclusion: 'The Future in Their Hands'
  • Notes
  • Bibliography


'Ground-breaking ... arguably the single most important study of South African theatre.'
Ian Steadman, from the Foreword


Publication Date: 15 June 2017
264 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback 2nd Edition: 9781783609802
Hardback 2nd Edition: 9781786990716
eBook ePub 2nd Edition: 9781783609772
eBook PDF 2nd Edition: 9781783609796
eBook Kindle 2nd Edition: 9781783609789

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