BRETT BAILY: EXHIBIT B
I have been walking around with this pent up anger, and that is unlike me. I usually pride myself in an ability to speak my mind. I often tell people that I am honest and straight forward, that I call a spade a spade. But for the last few weeks I have been walking around with anger, trying each time to speak out but a strange inability enveloping me in a manner that I can’t explain.
Part of the anger has been directed at black artists and arts practitioners, particularly actors and playwrights, (and of course myself included) and part of that anger has been directed at a WHITE MAN called Brett Bailey. Uyabona lowo usijwayela kabi (You see, this one is full of nonsense).
(Brett Bailey is the most provocative theatre director in South Africa, who recently had his Exhibit B in London banned.)
My anger at my fraternity is that we always go silent when someone pokes a finger at us and calls us names and literally shows us up for who we are; Cowards!
How come we have lost the voice that made us speak out towards injustices in the 70’s and those turbulent 80’s? How come we have become bystanders who look away when people constantly humiliate us and make themselves authorities in our culture, art and language? How come these days anyone can be free to attack us, our way of doing things, our idioms, our fables and we do not stand up and defend ourselves? How come our heritage and sacred practices have become playgrounds for zealots and demagogues?
It is because we do not write and we do not express ourselves. We do not have a point of view about who we are and where we come from, so when someone comes and defines us in their narrow nihilistic approach we have no choice but to tug our black little tails and walk away…
Brett Bailey is a racist and a demagogue. How come it took some people in Britain to call his bluff? Not only have we allowed him to prance around our theatres here in South African stages? How come he was only stopped now? Only now that people have called his racist rants. He started his sh*t in 1996 with a play called Ipi Zombi, and then followed with a diatribe called iMumbo Jumbo, literally calling our culture Mumbo Jumbo and then another work The Prophet.
All these works purported to look at the culture and heritage of the amaXhosa from Bailey’s skewed perspective. He has an obsession with black culture that has seen him work mostly with black actors and examining black culture and heritage. I had seen his earlier works and was revolted to say the least. I said as much in a review that I later wrote and in various interviews.
Granted his latest work is not necessarily about black culture, and is supposedly about racist human zoos (I have not seen it and probably wouldn’t). But my massive criticism comes from the work that introduced him to South African audiences, and he was controversial from the word go.
His earlier works, dealt specifically with Black Culture and heritage… Still in this latest work he uses Black actors (as he always does in most of his works). I have never heard of any of his plays when he deals with white subjects and examines racism and exploitation from a white perspective… (I guess white masters will always have actors willing to work with them to portray their twisted views about us)
But why did we let him present those works, even at state funded institutions like the Grahamstown Festival (A subject for another day)? Because we are too nice. Because we are cowards. Because we allow people to talk for us, write for us, describe us and even define us. How can the Department of Arts and Culture look the other way to playwrights who insult black people and their culture…
We ought to take a position and make sure that we do not give space to such works… This democracy has turned us into debating fools, who each time have to debate the merits and demerits of works even when it flies in the face of what is good for us. We sometimes take this freedom of speech nonsense too far.