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Sizwe Bansi Is Dead


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Athol Fugard (b. 1932) South African dramatist

 

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AT: Sizwe Banzi Is Dead A: Athol Fugard, with John Kani and Winston Ntshona Pf: 1972, Cape Town Pb: 1974 G: Drama in 1 act S: Photographic studio and other locations, Port Elizabeth, c.1970 C: 3mStyles, having grown weary of working on the assembly line at the Ford factory, opens his own photographic studio in a black township. Styles tells the audience how he helps people to live out their dreams and gets them to smile, despite all their hardships. Sizwe Bansi, pretending to be Robert Zwelinzima, comes to him for a photograph to send to his wife, whom he has left behind in the barren Ciskei, while he illegally seeks work in Port Elizabeth. After his arrival, he was discovered and given orders to leave at once. He is helped by Buntu, who allows him to stay with him and takes him out on the town. They discover a corpse, but Buntu will not allow Sizwe to call the police. The dead man's passbook shows him to be Robert Zwelinzima and contains a work-seeker's permit. Buntu has the bright idea of taking his passbook, ‘killing off’ Sizwe Bansi, and giving him a new identity. Sizwe can then get a job at a local factory. At first reluctant to give up his name, Sizwe agrees to become Robert: ‘Shit on names…if in exchange you can get a bit of bread.’ Sizwe is afraid he may be found out in the end, for, after all, ‘Our skin is trouble.’

AT: Sizwe Banzi Is Dead A: Athol Fugard, with John Kani and Winston Ntshona Pf: 1972, Cape Town Pb: 1974 G: Drama in 1 act S: Photographic studio and other locations, Port Elizabeth, c.1970 C: 3m

With humour and lively theatricality Fugard the playwright and actors Kani and Ntshona address the serious problem of the dignity and identity of the blacks under an apartheid regime. Sizwe can maintain hope only by acting inhumanely towards a dead stranger: ‘What's happening in this world, good people? Who cares for who in this world?’ It is a question that is relevant wherever people are oppressed.

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards) — Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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