Our Lady of Benoni

  • Publication Date: 2012
  • Dimensions and Pages: 200 x 130 mm, 144 pp
  • EAN: 978 1 86814 567 6
  • Rights: Africa
  • Recommended Price (ZAR): 120.00
  • Recommended Price (USD): n/a

Our Lady of Benoni teems with anecdote and incident, pulses with desire and frustration, juxtaposes disparate cultural norms and plays exuberantly with fantasies and truths that cluster around the subject of virginity. Its tone is zany, its subject weighty.

— Sarah Roberts, Skye Chair of Dramatic Arts, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Through five colourful characters, three of them living out their very individual lives in an unnamed public park in Johannesburg, Zakes Mda explores the plight of women and children in a patriarchal and male-dominated twenty-first century world.
Lord Stewart mourns his virginal companion (and regrets he didn’t try a little harder to change her state). He turns to another virgin, the eponymous Lady of Benoni, to help him find his lost love. Professor mourns the loss of his wife,Thabisile, humiliated and driven out of her community because she was believed not to have been a virgin before her marriage. MaDlomo mourns the fate of her child, raped as a three-month-old by a man seeking a cure for his HIV-positive state. And running in the background is the court case of a spiritual leader accused of rape and defended by the indomitable MaDlomo because of his support for the reintroduction of virginity testing.
Stylistically adventurous and unafraid to deviate from conventionally accepted norms, Mda is iconoclastic in his handling of the ways in which attitudes to power, superstition, ethics and sex are    constructed.The discourse of patriarchy and its ‘regime of truths’ that define female sexuality, its obligations and its custodianship, are the focus of the play.

Zakes Mda’s satire is a kaleidoscopic display of the extremes to which men (and by implication women) are prepared to go in terms of valuing what is ‘virginal’. Mda presents us with the consequences of transgression: that which is seen as polluted and judged to be dangerous to the good health and purity of a group, a society, a culture. Taboos, superstition, customs and moral ethics become the subjects of inquiry and are, at times, subjected to ribald satire. This play cuts into a virtuoso style of theatre that can in no way be confused with the objectives and methods of conventional realism. Mda establishes a unique style and tone that is innovative, entertaining and challenging. It fuses satirical elements derived from classical poetry with a modernist sensibility that synthesises Brechtian and Absurdist features of theatricality, using characters as types and montage. Above all, in this work there is a profound exploration of what it means to operate in the politically charged landscape that defines post-apartheid South Africa with its cultural pluralities and differentials in access to resources and agency. Stylistically adventurous and unafraid to deviate from conventionally accepted norms, Mda is iconoclastic in his handling of the ways in which attitudes to power, superstition, ethics and sex are constructed. The cultural discourse of patriarchy and the ‘regime of truths’ regarding ideals and taboos defining female sexuality, its obligations, and its custodianship are the focus of this play.

Written with ribald wit and trenchant satire, Our Lady of Benoni is suffused with laughter and pathos, leaving readers with much to ponder.

 

Zakes Mda is a South African writer, painter and music composer. He has published nineteen books, nine of which are novels and the rest collections of plays (including the anthologies And the Girls in their Sunday Dresses and Fools, Bells and the Habit of Eating); poetry, a monograph on the theory and practice of theatre-for-development, and an autobiography titled Sometimes there is a Void: Memoirs of an Outsider. His books have been translated into twenty languages and have won a number of awards, including the Amstel Playwright of the Year Award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Africa, the M-Net Prize, the Sunday Times Literary Prize, the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Legacy Award and the American Library Association Notable Book. He commutes between America and South Africa, working as a Professor of Creative Writing at Ohio University, a beekeeper in the Eastern Cape, and as Director of the Southern African Multimedia AIDS Trust in Sophiatown, Johannesburg. He is also a Patron of the Market Theatre in Johannesburg.

Our Lady of Benoni teems with anecdote and incident, pulses with desire and frustration, juxtaposes disparate cultural norms and plays exuberantly with fantasies and truths that cluster around the subject of virginity. Its tone is zany, its subject weighty.

— Sarah Roberts, Skye Chair of Dramatic Arts, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

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