Haunted by Matlakala – My View by Robyn Sassen


Robyn Sassen

A freelance arts writer since 1998, I fell in love with the theatre as a toddler, proved rubbish as a ballerina: my starring role was as Mrs Pussy in Noddy as a seven-year-old, and earned my stripes as an academic in Fine Arts and Art History, in subsequent years. I write for a range of online and print publications, including the Sunday Times, the Mail & Guardian and artslink.co.za and was formerly the arts editor of the SA Jewish Report, a weekly newspaper with which I was associated for 16 years.
Robyn Sassen

Mama I want the black that you are production image

MY beautiful child: Matlakala (Puleng Molebatse) with her mother, Anna (Boitumelo Mothabela). Photograph courtesy of the Market Theatre.

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THE PLIGHT OF melanin-deficient people came under the medical marketing spotlight in South Africa through the month of September, which made the brief staging of Arthur Molepo’s contemplation on albinism Mama, I want the black that you are, particularly prescient. It’s a complicated work told with a hand that is often crude, and while it has a great deal of didactic value, it ultimately lacks a message of hope.

It’s a strange time in the life of the Market Theatre. Advocacy theatre in a range of manifestations seems to be finding its way to the iconic stages of this theatre complex, in a similar way that it did in the 1970s and the 1980s in the name of protest theatre, shining a light in the eye of apartheid and giving voice to the anti-apartheid struggle. Mama is no different. It aims to explore and explain the underbelly of bias against…

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