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Karoo Moose: When theatre collides with conscience

Many South Africans often wonder what to do on Heritage Day. The 24th of September presents all citizens with an opportunity to celebrate their true heritage. This day has been unofficially dubbed as “National Braai Day” but this raises many questions as many struggle to understand what South Africa’s true heritage is.

As part of our cultural program, we decided to watch a play at Baxter Theatre directed by Lara Foot. This magnificent play has deservedly scooped numerous awards across the globe. The name “Karoo Moose” rouses very little excitement, because nothing interesting ever takes place in the Karoo. It’s a dry place reserved mainly for farming purposes.  

However, Karoo Moose is not just a play, it’s a reflective journey. It’s like looking at yourself in the mirror and critically analysing all your flaws. It allows society to look back at itself, gives a platform to interrogate how the past terribly collides with the present. It explores the story of a girl with an emotionally-broken father, despondent and often stupefied with liquor. Jonas’ existence is the direct product of a migrant labour system that abducted fathers from their homes for more than 11 months a year, robbing sons of exemplary role models in the home. He is an expression of South Africa’s anger towards unresolved structural inequality. His mother, despite being at an advanced age and her ailing body, she continually works at Madame’s place who pays her very little money, just enough for transport and food.

This is a story, told brilliantly with fascinating creativity, about rape, patriarchy, police brutality, failed parenting, inequality, racism and almost everything South Africans encounter in their daily lives. It is also a beautiful story, crafted with amazing precision and crystallized with musical pieces to arouse the heart. Thozama is a mysterious character, her boldness is enviable, despite all the upsets and obstacles, and she continually rises to show that she is more than just an object and a victim. She leaps onto invisible giants; she inspires the voiceless to recognise the strength within.

As the play concludes, the cast sings a beautiful harmony about travelling to a better place. The stage is illuminated with bright sunflowers. The final words are “we don’t know if this place exists but we are going anyway”. Maybe South Africa’s heritage is a dream about a better place. Wherever that may be, we are going anyway.

-VUYO MAKALIMA (CIEE Resident Assistant)


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