Since the first time I read ”Master Harold”.
..and the Boys, it had a big impact on me.
It personally reached me since I have also experienced an injustice because of being a person of colour in a country where the white race is dominant. I chose to focus on this play because the question of racial injustice leading to social inequalities is very important to me as it affects so many people’s lives. This led to the building of my research question: How does Fugard use metaphors in his play ”Master Harold”..
.and the Boys to awaken the audience and criticize unjust social and racial structures? In this paper, I shall attempt to answer it by examining the metaphors as the images describing the social and racial unjust structures in the play. I will introduce Apartheid as the play is written during this period, but since the focus of this paper will not be on the Apartheid itself as a movement, I will not further explore it. The paper will examine two main metaphors – the kite and the dance symbolizing the racial and social inequalities . Several related ones will also be further investigated. Along with the information about the playwright – Athol Fugard,this paper will also include brief information about Willie Bester. The Apartheid context Apartheid was a system of racial segregation in South Africa between 1948 and 1991. This system used discriminatory laws to obtain extreme racial separation.
It divided people into groups – privileged and non privileged. It created a big disharmony of the coexistence between black and white people. The core of Apartheid policy was to distinguish humans from each other. People’s rights were dictated by their race. Apartheid created a segregation of people according to their skin colour. The idea for this movement was created by the white minority in South Africa during this period, most likely due to fear of financial and economic dangers. The white minority wanted to take over the economic, social and cultural control (Cruden and Bryfonski, 2010).
Apartheid: the artist and the resistance Throughout history, it has been seen that art cannot be stopped even in the hardest moments of the history. Many artists have found their inspiration in some of the hardest periods of the history such as Apartheid. It is commonly thought that most of the art during Apartheid was considered as a protest against the movement and disagreement with its policies.
Some artists expressed their strong opposition with their art, others focused more on affecting the audience in ways in which they will feel like they are not the only ones to experience the social and racial injustice during the unfair policies. Other works were even not exhibited because it could have led to prosecution for the artists. Two such artists, whose work showed opposition to the Apartheid system are Willie Bester and Athol Fugard. Willie Bester is an example of how works of art could be presented as a resistance; as a ”tool” for making people aware of the immorality of the Apartheid policies. He explains what his art could be used for, ”I was angry … so I used my work as a tool against apartheid. I didn’t care if it matched your curtains or not.
My art was a chance to be heard… I am sometimes tempted to go to the seaside and paint beautiful things from nature. But I don’t do it, because my art has to be taken as a nasty-tasting medicine for awakening consciences” (New African Magazine, 2017). He is also quoted saying: “People have built up a resistance to anything that addresses the psyche of mankind or people or themselves. I believe that we must protest against that which is wrong. There is no form of escape; remaining apolitical is a luxury that South Africans simply cannot afford.” (CAACART – The Pigozzi Collection, 2017) This shows the impact on people’s mindset and the forming of their worldviews.Athol Fugard the Activist Athol Fugard is a South African playwright, novelist, and director whose plays challenge his audience to stand up against the addressed social injustices during the Apartheid in South Africa. He was raised by an Afrikaner mother and Irish father in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
He has been awarded with an Obie Award, Drama Desk Award, Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement and two New York Drama Critics Circle Awards (Lajollaplayhouse.org, 2017). In 1958, Fugard became a member of the clergy at the Native Commissioner’s Court. However, this did not last too long as Fugard could not bear with the injustices of the Court towards black people disobeying the Pass Law, which was limiting their movements in South Africa, during the Apartheid. (Profile Theatre, 2017) In an article by Hilton Als in the New Yorker (Als, 2017), Fugard is quoted by Mel Gussow 1982, saying: “It was just so awful and ugly.
We literally disposed of people at the rate of one every two minutes. There was no question of defense—the evidence was rigged. It was like a sausage machine.” This is how people were treated at the Native Commissioner’s Court. In 1961 Fugard writes the play ”Blood Knot” while being a stage manager for South Africa’s National Theatre Organization.
Around this time his popularity started spreading around the world. An interesting fact is that Fugard actually performed the play together with actor Zakes Mokae with whom he would collaborate again on the play this essay will focus on – ”Master Harold”…and the Boys. This literary work won Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play in the early 80s. However, his anti-Apartheid plays were criticized and, as a result his passport was taken by the South African government with his movements being unfairly limited just as the black people at the Native Commissioner’s Court.
(Profile Theatre, 2017) My research question aims to further explore how does Fugard criticize Apartheid in his plays. I formed this question as many of his plays reflect the social and racial injustices during Apartheid. In particular, one of the reasons I focused on”Master Harold”..
.and the Boys is because some of the aspects of the playwright’s life are reflected in the play. Aspects such as the main characters are black servants; Fugard also lived with black servants during Apartheid. My research question was also inspired by Fugard’s view on Apartheid policies as he is a white person keenly criticizing a movement against black people. This inevitably resonates in the development of the play and the personality of the main character.