A group of UKZN Drama students – under the supervision of visiting academic from the University of Missouri in the United States Professor Niyi Coker – performed the acclaimed Broadway production: A Raisin in the Sun, at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival (NAF).
A Raisin in the Sun, which debuted in 1959, is the first play written by a black woman to be produced on Broadway. The play is a critical cultural document that examines race matters in the United States and how racially oppressive circumstances can, and do, thwart dreams. It also explores the invisible internal struggles that exist within family structures and in homes in reaction to these oppressive external factors.
The UKZN production- a South African adaptation by Lorraine Hansberry- was part of the Main Student Theatre Festival programme at NAF. Set in South Africa in the 1980s, it illuminates the complementary struggles of systematic racism and segregation in both this country and America.
Said Coker, ‘The inspiration in creating this play came from articles I read about housing segregation and discrimination in South Africa and this production is pretty relevant to that,’ adding that he was aware of socio-political ills and housing segregation faced by black communities to this day.
‘First of all, the cast is from UKZN and they are looking at their own immediate society in Durban. In terms of Durban, Pinetown is the cutting point you look at from when a lot of black people started moving into areas that were not predominantly black. The first black person moved into Pinetown in 1984,’ said Coker.
Production Assistant, Ms Kamini Govender, said, ‘It is important for students to be given the opportunity to showcase their talent and to bear witness to the talent and opportunities around them,’ whilst also advising students, ‘Start looking for or creating your own opportunities in the arts. Soak yourself in the artistic works of others as well as nurturing your own talent.’
UKZN Drama students perform A Raisin in the Sun at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.
Photographs: Hlamvu Yose