Shakespeare in Mzansi
Seeff’s final case study is Shakespeare in Mzansi, a made-for-television miniseries, commissioned by the government-funded South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) in 2006. These adaptations of Shakespeare’s texts, using black actors, several of the nine official vernacular languages, and local settings, facilitate an Africanization of the early modern texts for ideological purposes. A multilingual ethos pervades this series, as individual programs—two of Macbeth, one of King Lear, and one of Romeo and Juliet—seamlessly employ several vernacular languages within a single appropriation, code-switching among them to produce identity through language. These programs, for their moment, appropriate the plays to redress linguistic persecution and to reclaim diversity.
In 2008, in a democratic South Africa, the government-controlled South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), a public broadcaster and pioneer of popular public service and the largest African television channel in the country, aired four made-for-television updatings of Shakespeare’s plays, Shakespeare in Mzansi. The published mission statement for the SABC in 2005–2009 was “To heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice, and fundamental human rights.” This was, perhaps, idealistic and, in hindsight, given the SABC’s recent decline into dysfunction and given other changes in the political landscape, unrealistic. However, at the time and under the leadership of Kethiwe Ngcobo as head of drama, programs were authorized to reflect diversity and a shared history (italics mine).1 The SABC’s expressed goals were to make Shakespeare’s texts accessible and relevant to a potential viewing audience of 43 million black South Africans (15 million actually watched the programs); to legitimate the nine vernacular languages recently added to the roster of official South African languages; to project an iconic South African identity into a global entertainment conversation by means of exportable formats and content; and to contribute to nation building. Gert Claassen, chief operating officer of the SABC at the time, said in an interview with the New York Times, “How can we contribute to this thing called nation-building and begin to introduce the various cultures and languages to each other?”2 Funding came from advertising and perhaps 10% from government monies. These programs were funded through a competitive bid process. Therefore, issues of international capital controlling television production do not arise.
Two re-versionings of Macbeth—Entabeni and Death of a Queen—recast the Scottish play, respectively, as a power struggle for control and a vision of the return to originary matrilineal leadership following the murder of a sacred Balobedi queen by her cousin and his seizure of the throne.3 A rendition of King Lear—Izingane zoBaba—reimagined the old king as mining magnate and, borrowing from film noir and news-casting regimes, made visible what “cause in nature … makes these hard hearts” of Lear’s elder two daughters.4 A version of Romeo and Juliet—uGugu no Andile—was set in a township in 1993 South Africa amidst ethnic conflict between Zulu and Xhosa peoples. Four years later in 2012, an adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream—Dream World—appeared, followed by Forced Love, an updating of The Taming of the Shrew. Adopting a “rom-com” approach, including a play-within-a-play in the case of Dream World, both adaptations, according to the website publicizing the programs, sought to teach a moral about the “fickleness of human love” in a world (South Africa) where “faithfulness and commitment take second place to excitement and variety, and it is the rare relationship that goes the distance.”5 Equally, Forced Love is tagged as a transposition into “a modern setting [which] gives the age-old battle of the sexes a modern, African makeover.”6 These formulaic descriptions of rom-coms obliterate the stark fact that South Africa has one of the highest rates of gender-based violence in the world and patriarchal traditions that subordinate women regardless of class and ethnicity.
The first series, which aired in 2008 over six weeks in six half-hour episodes, responded to the SABC’s brief articulated at that time to use only vernacular languages, black South African actors,7 and contemporary South African settings. In fact, when white South African actors do make occasional appearances in the miniseries, they tend to disrupt the viewer’s reception. The choice of Iain Winter as Macduff in Entabeni is a significant example. The white actor brings a different history with him, which plays against the histories of other cast members. Very small ratios of English were permitted, spoken by black and white actors alike. What is striking throughout each miniseries, however, is the use of a mix of several vernacular languages in each of the strands: Xhosa and Zulu in Entabeni and uGugu no Andile, and a masterful, sonorous blend of four vernacular languages—Tswana, Pedi, Sotho, and Venda—in Death of a Queen. All programs are subtitled in English. It hardly needs saying that when English is spoken, there are no subtitles back into vernacular languages. Producers assume that all South Africans, regardless of ethnicity, understand English. These televisual films, then, cross several cultures throughout.
I have written elsewhere on these programs on such issues as the global and the local, race, and how appropriations make meaning.8 Here I focus on Entabeni and Death of a Queen to argue that, for their moment, in light of sixty years of oppressive language policies and ongoing debate about those policies, these programs constitute an emancipatory project with utopian impulses (not always realized), which uses language practice to enact cultural legitimacy and empowerment.9 It is also through language practice that these programs recapture a repressive past. These two foci are the organizing principles for this chapter.
South Africa’s linguistic history is one of politically charged multiplicity, as we saw in Chapters 2– 4. The Cape Colony had a multilingual, multicultural population of approximately 60,000, of whom a small minority spoke English, when English was declared the official language in 1826. A century later, in 1925, Afrikaans was enshrined as a second official language in what was then the Union of South Africa. Under the separatist policies of apartheid engineering introduced in 1948, vernacular languages were relegated to an underclass of workers—domestic or industrial—who lived in townships and whose families lived in remote, barely populated rural areas. Furthermore, rigidly enforced separatist legislation denied the white minority of South Africans access to vernacular languages. In 2008, through the agency of these programs, through the agency of Shakespeare’s texts, at least six of the languages of South Africa’s majority were finally heard, and they were heard in concert on public television.10
According to director and producer Pieter Grobbelaar, nothing quite like this project had ever been done before in the history of South African television since its beginnings in 1976.11 Fifteen million South Africans watched them, and SABC’s market share rose.12 This representation of cultural and linguistic pluralism signaled forcefully the empowerment of South Africa’s black population of more than forty million.13 I could be charged with overstating my claims in relation to this drama series, which, one might argue, constitutes but a small, certainly fascinating, part of the field of South African Shakespeare studies. I would simply state that the Shakespeare in Mzansi series belongs in the worldwide cultural eruption of Shakespeare’s plays appropriated in many guises: it merits inclusion here as uGugu no Andile was included in both Mark Thornton Burnett’s Shakespeare and World Cinema and Kevin Murray’s “World Cinema: A Critical Overview.”14
Shakespeare in Mzansi stages a legitimation of their languages for black South Africans, not a moment before the encounter with European colonization, nor as a reclamation project in the sense that Don Selwyn lays claim to in his Maori Merchant of Venice. The Mzansi project has some similarities with Anita Maynard-Losh’s production of Macbeth, largely in Tlingit but preserving some English.15 She wanted to celebrate Tlingit culture, and, like Selwyn, to reclaim a dying indigenous language. In Mzansi, however, these black South Africans write their colonial histories through representation and through language. In so doing, these works articulate with the politics, ideologies, and cultures of both their pasts and their new contexts. To put this another way, these programs use cultural translation—sometimes several at once—to connect historical pasts to a contested present.
Death of a Queen, for example, deploys a 400-year-old legend about the Balobedu nation to frame a problem of leadership succession, gendered throughout the history of the Balobedu peoples. Because the subject matter was sacred, Tribal Elders refused permission to name the Balobedu nation and so another nation, the Bapedi peoples, was selected as a screen.16 These crossings from nation to nation, from language to language, from culture to culture alert the viewer to the presence of difference that mirrors the distance traveled from the source text to the appropriation.
Shakespeare’s plays, which often so easily accommodate local concerns and local settings, are the vehicle through which this process of South Africanization occurs.17 It is no small irony that Shakespeare, who, as imperial icon entangled in South Africa’s colonial history was for so many years a mechanism for Anglicization, emerges here as an agent for indigenous languages and the rights of black South Africans. Moreover, the project conforms to Shakespeare’s own project in concert with his contemporaries in early modern England to legitimate English as a vernacular for public, neither private nor elite, performance in contrast to Latin and Greek.18
What does appropriating, or Africanizing, a Shakespeare play authorize? To answer that question, I pursue several threads of argument. First, I argue that these programs reclaim multilingualism in the face of centuries of separatist, ideologically driven language policy. Through fluency in several languages at once, including code-switching from one to another, these characters demonstrate an empowerment that informal and formal apartheid denied them.19 They achieve as a consequence what Habermas calls a social grammar of speech acts or discourse action. The linguistic diversity—a cultural, social, and linguistic fluency—is liberatory. These characters demonstrate a verbal power, speaking as they do across cultures and languages. Such power in Death of a Queen, for example, gives Lady Macbeth/Grace’s plea to the ancestors to dry up her milk an ethos that places her on society’s border where the witches are located.
Second, although all the programs question social and racial hierarchies, Entabeni explicitly permits an interrogation of whiteness, in a context where whiteness had been privileged for more than three centuries, and an interrogation of a particular view of blackness, which for centuries had been linked to a system of classification by visual markers20 and had condemned black South Africans to a state of subjugation and humiliation. In this televisual reimagining, the Macduff surrogate also embodies whiteness’s relationship to English.
Third, in all these productions, directors and scriptwriters allow the relationship of fractured historical pasts to a contested present to seep through the characters’ discourse. In Entabeni, the history of apartheid is turned on its head as a character reveals a charged past that brings pressure to bear on a fraught present. For example, a mere seventy years ago, he might have served as indentured laborer working in an Anglo-American gold mine. In the fictive present, he is represented successfully negotiating a multimillion-dollar contract for the only 100% black-owned investment bank in South Africa. In Death of a Queen, a young girl assumes sovereignty over a beleaguered nation through three trajectories: an understanding of the force of the ancestors, the stories of the past that her teacher and guardian transmits (and here the past is providential), and the assimilation of both male and female power to herself. In this particular utopian vision of a restored matrilineal monarchy, the present is enriched by the past.21
Finally, the programs explore and powerfully stage the problem of identity in a “new” “post-racialized” South Africa.22 The speed with which South Africa has had to confront political freedom, social change, and economic opportunity has required many South Africans, particularly in relation to race and class, to reframe their identities as multiple, fluid, and in process.23 One of the most dramatic expressions of identity in South Africa, according to McKinney and Soudien, is language practice.
In addition, however, in Entabeni and Death of a Queen forging a new identity requires an exploration of the nature of male and female power, itself inevitably linked to the place of the supernatural in quotidian life. Are these South Africanized re-visionings about race? They investigate race through linguistic practice, using language and language policy as racial markers to show how identity is constructed through language—always a South African theme.24 These programs dramatize South Africa’s de facto multilingualism, ethnic diversity, and indigeneity which they celebrate, as they celebrate rights for all South Africans.25 Because these concerns are all ideologically driven, the analysis that follows has an ethical dimension, which I weave through my argument as apposite.26
It is commonplace on the part of sociolinguistic scholars who write on linguistic practice to note the power of language as a manipulative tool in statements such as the following: “Integrally associated with language is the speaker’s sense of autonomy and dignity, both of which are diminished when the coloniser [sic] denies the linguistic validity of indigenous languages.”27 In the South African context, this dynamic is particularly loaded because of the pernicious effects of separatist ideology and Bantu education. With the advent of apartheid (built on notions of white supremacy laid centuries earlier), South Africa became one of the most racialized states in the world.28 One tragic result of this racialization for black South Africans was education policy, specifically the Bantu Education Act of 1953, itself preceded by the Christian National Education legislation of 1939 that had advocated separate schools for each of South Africa’s “population groups”–whites, Africans, Indians, and Coloureds–and had mandated “mother-tongue” (a vernacular language) instruction in the first years of primary school in black schools. In 1974, the Afrikaans Medium Decree forced all black schools to use both English and Afrikaans as languages of instruction, beginning in the final year of primary school. These legislative acts tied social and political opportunity inescapably to ethnic identity.29 The Bantu Education policy of separate, inferior, paid township schooling with its mandate of mother-tongue instruction through primary school, was intended to create generations of “hewers of wood and drawers of water” for a white-run economy and society. According to Dennis Ocholla, writing in 2006, “Three and a half million adults [black South Africans] over the age of 16 have never attended school; another two and a half million adults … have lost their earlier ability to read or write. That makes essentially six million South Africans who are essentially barred from the written word, from the whole universe of information and imagination.”30
In the fictive world of Entabeni, this situation is dramatically reversed. In this world, the promotion of multilingualism supports my argument. The program’s demonstration of multilingualism empowers its characters by endowing them with a discourse of action. Entabeni recasts Macbeth in a contemporary corporate setting where issues of kingship, so pervasive in Macbeth, are transposed to dominance of business empires, very relevant in present-day South Africa. Entabeni’s opening mise-en-scène introduces us to a homeless woman pushing her signature shopping cart in a dark city alleyway. She picks up a newspaper and the viewer reads the headlines, “A Scramble for Africa’s Biggest Contract.” This woman is the witch and, in the boardroom scene that follows, the Macbeth surrogate, Kumkani, urges the board members of the investment bank that he has built single-handedly for his uncle, the Duncan surrogate, to bid for the 2010 World Cup Communications contract. Poised, persuasive, fearless, Kumkani treats the boardroom as a War Room: “Ladies and gents, your attention, please,” says Kumkani to the assembled board in English, code-switching seamlessly between English, Xhosa, and Zulu as he performs corporate-speak.31 Onlookers include Tata, the Duncan surrogate, watching passively like his prototype character, and the single white actor on the board, Macduff, smiling admiringly. Around the boardroom table all are nodding approvingly. “They started by taking away our names,” in English. “Then they proceeded to take away our status and tell us how far we can go,” in Xhosa. “Now we have the right to ownership and to dream big dreams,” in English. “This is our divine right. Destiny is fulfilled only when you are bold… So, get in there and take what’s yours,” in English.
Macbeth/Kumkani performs here an egalitarian, democratizing, nonracialized interlingualism (the utopian wish for a creolized society, fractured ethnic differences resutured into a South African identity for all), effacing first Dutch, then British colonialism, three centuries of informal apartheid, and, then, fifty years of apartheid-driven linguistic oppression. During that period, indigenous languages were “minoritized,” even though a tiny majority (13%) of the population spoke English and Afrikaans and a huge majority (76%) spoke several different vernacular languages. As Stephen May observes, “The establishment of majority/minority language hierarchies is not a linguistic process; rather, it is a historically, socially [sic] and politically constructed process and one that is deeply imbued in wider (unequal) power relations. Thus, languages are ‘created’ out of the politics of state-making, not—as always assumed—the other way around.”32 To extend that point further, discourses reflect the social order and are constructed by it.
If “Literacy is a set of social practices that functions to empower or disempower people, and the real literacies of true power, while being understood implicitly by those who use them in commerce and government, are not taught in educational institutions,”33 then this multivalent social literacy is what Kumkani demonstrates in this scene. The great majority of black South Africans, according to de Klerk and Gough, “achieve a functional command of English but lack the empowering cultural and critical literacies which usually operate through more elitist forms of English.”34 Here Kumkani moves so easily and urbanely among three languages that he erases many controversies around language policy in South Africa, particularly, but by no means exclusively, since the introduction of democracy.35 Of course, “destiny” “palter[s] with us in a double sense,”36 as Kumkani will discover two scenes later in his encounter with the witch: she speaks only isiXhosa.
The terms of the language debate in South Africa cannot be understood outside the framework of Bantu Education, an Afrikaner Nationalist apartheid government construction, most ironically linked to UNESCO’s directive about vernacular languages. Not only did Bantu Education doom education for township black South Africans for a period of nearly fifty years (roughly 1948–1990), but it cast a long shadow—and does to this day—over the education of black township children, including the generation of “born frees.” I would argue that it cannot be understood without the knowledge that urban townships were organized by language group. Thus, not only did separatist ideology drive all education policy in South Africa (white South African students could attend only those schools where the medium of instruction was in the mother tongue of those students, effectively driving a wedge between Afrikaans and English-speaking South Africans), but it served to block education for black students by mother-tongue instruction through primary school followed by instruction in Afrikaans and English, as noted earlier. Content was restricted to immediate geography; a population destined for menial employment needed nothing more, according to the legislation.
The Soweto children’s riots focused glaring attention on the resistance to instruction in Afrikaans and drew awareness to the connections between linguistic policies and power relations, oppression, and undemocratic political regimes, all refracted through linguistic policy.
With the opening of Model C schools in the 1990s, the awareness of code-switching in the townships, an essential communication strategy given that language groups were self-enclosed, and then with the advent of democracy, language policy changed on paper. There is a considerable body of work on the language debate starting with Nhlapo, who as early as 1944 was advocating for a standardized Nguni and Sotho language group, rather than preserving vernacular languages as separate; Mazrui, Eski’a Mphahlele, Laurence Wright, and the prolific Neville Alexander, who headed PanSELB, the South African Language Board (dissolved in 2016), for a while. Younger linguists such as Heugh, McKinney, Soudien, Mesthrie, and Foley, among others, published research studies on the effect of mother-tongue instruction in primary schools, the state of black township schools, teacher training, illiteracy, and the lack of proficiency in English: contradictions and fissures in a country already fissured became patently obvious.37
What are the issues? In the early 1990s there was support for the adoption of English as the medium of communication among all South Africans as the universal language that guaranteed access to the world, even though English competencies were so limited and then further limited by language policies.38 At the same time, there was concern for the resultant neglect of indigenous languages. In 1994, during the establishment of democracy, because Afrikaans provoked such hostility, the desire for English increased, ironic as that may seem, given its status as a colonial language; English was seen as the language of liberation and independence.39 The question before politicians and language planners alike was which other regional languages to include as “official” languages. “Harmonizing” or standardizing the Nguni and the Sotho group was recommended yet again. How to strengthen the vernacular languages? Recommendations abounded on teaching, on teacher training (because the abysmal education system in the townships persisted or worsened as senior teachers took buy-outs), on curricula, on the sequencing of language courses, and on parental pressure to have their children receive instruction in English. The literature is replete with recommendations.
The decision to declare eleven official languages in 1994 seemed politically expedient. Planning continued apace, but in fact, nothing was done to implement (had there been available funding) the various recommendations. All the while, there was repeated and continuing emphasis on multilingualism as the norm including Alexander’s statement that, almost without exception, all modern industrializing countries were multilingual, his stress on the invalidity of “one nation, one language,” and on the outmoded notion of “ethnicity” as a “dated Eurocentric paradigm of identity formation.”40 Add to this debate the recognition that many African languages are epistemological constructions imposed by missionaries and the awareness of multiple dialects.
In a 2013 article in which she called for a linguistic policy that would eliminate social stratifications aligned with racial fault lines, Efeoghene Igor commented on the role the SABC had played in broadcasting soap operas that rendered vernacular languages visible nationally. “By creating outlets for the use of African languages in mainstream South African culture, these languages will be used outside specific cultural communities. The SABC already runs soap operas, which code-switch within an episode in order to allow diverse audiences to view the same show at the same time. This … allows South Africans, despite their language, to share in the same mainstream culture, which decreases barriers between communities. … By creating a space for multilingual dialogue there will no longer be a systemic denial of linguistic human rights. In addition, the link between language and identity will, over time, lose its currency—people will be aware on a conscious and sub-conscious level of the constructed nature of identity.”41
All her policy recommendations echo those of earlier linguists, among them the intellectualization of African languages to ensure a vocabulary for Africans to use in academic settings such as the social sciences, natural sciences, technology, and mathematics, a call articulated earlier by Neville Alexander in 1989 in “Language Policy and National Unity in South Africa.”42
In short, Neville Alexander was almost a blueprint for Kethi Ngcobo. His eloquent statement, “The language problem cannot be separated from the fundamental problem of social inequality, national oppression [sic] and democratic rights,” and his support for vernacular languages as official languages regionally, most certainly aligned with the SABC’s brief for vernacular languages in the drama series. His commitment to multilingualism and the modernizing of African languages brings us full circle to Kethiwe Ngcobo and the SABC of 2005.
How is this body of work characterized in Entabeni? Kumkani demonstrates his skills as communicator, arguing in several languages, code-switching43 from one to another, performing South Africa as a fully multilingual, multicultural site in which, furthermore, all languages have the same prestige value.44 He successfully persuades his colleagues to bid for the contract, which they go on to win, and which Kumkani takes as a sign that Duncan/Tata will name him CEO. Multilingualism becomes a defining characteristic of a South African identity, someone who is cross-cultural and who has overcome South Africa’s colonial legacy of separate development in which people historically cited a single language as their home language. In the words of Alexander, language policy and language practice always reflect “oppressive, exploitative [sic] and discriminatory” power relations. He goes on to cite M. Halliday and J. Martin (1993: 10), “The history of humanity is not simply the history of socio-economic activity, it is also the history of semiotic activity.”45 Multilingualism celebrates the diversity of a community.46 Entabeni offers multilingualism as the norm, as one more context in the world where the use of several languages within any exchange is unremarkable.
How ironic it is, then, to watch Kumkani, amidst all the appurtenances of class, status, and corporate advancement, engage in his own downfall. Kumkani’s move from the elite at the center to the margins is the ironic obverse of the witches’ move from the margins of society in Macbeth to a center from which they can challenge the male warrior culture. In similar fashion, the witch in Entabeni, homeless and outside the institutions of democracy, moves from the margins to the business elite at the center. There is a strong suggestion in Entabeni that the witch, following descriptions of early modern witches suspected of having the capacity to harm or heal, is actually an ancestor, the mother of the Malcolm surrogate, combining the maternal with supernatural power.
Viewers travel a considerable distance in this appropriation from the report of Macbeth’s valor on the bloody battlefield in Macbeth, 1.2., to the corporate boardroom, but “noble” Macbeth’s valor provides the cue for actor Khulu Skenjana’s performance as Kumkani/Macbeth. In the boardroom scene, Kumkani’s multilingualism is an advantage. He has access to a business elite (albeit corrupt) and the kind of consumer consumption often depicted on television screens. In 2002, almost as many blacks (3.5 million) as whites (4 million) constituted the top socioeconomic bracket in South Africa.47 The fictive representation was based on fact. In those ways, the adaptation is “post-race” as a socially/educationally/politically determining category, which is how apartheid legislation would have constructed race. The adaptation, then, espouses a utopian vision. However, just as Shakespeare’s play is ambivalent about its positions on kingship, male power, the feminine, marriage, the maternal, and the witches, so the adaptation, Entabeni (the name means “mountain”), subverts its own premises. The adaptation looks both ways. Kumkani’s status and affluence, including shots of domestic servants, perpetuates ever-widening economic disparities; his ambition, spurred by his wife, but already residing within him, his ever-hardening tyranny, and his misplaced trust in “juggling” words that “palter with us in a double sense” (5. 8.19–20)48 all demonstrate the program’s kinship with its source play and adherence to Macbeth’s plot schemes. The series opened with homelessness (the homeless witch seen in a deserted, inner-city backstreet), an ever-worsening problem in South Africa, and Kumkani’s end, mourning his wife (an act of which Shakespeare’s Macbeth is incapable), leaves us pondering this “artistic, cultural and linguistic make-over [which] comments on South Africa’s present corporate psychoses and almost tyrannical pre-occupation with the unchecked accumulation of wealth and power,” in the words of black South African poet Don Mattera. According to Mattera, Entabeni did not engage fully enough with “a corporate society which appears to be preoccupied only with the acquisition of wealth, and fails to guard against the public perception of growing misuse of power amid suspicion and charges of nepotism, cronyism and favouritism.”49
The program did engage with its linguistic project, however, which was to repossess a cultural identity that had been systematically destroyed by political events. The series radically dramatized multilingualism as a form of social literacy and cultural hipness because it announces multilingualism as the norm, an ethical choice in a new world order with English as an unmarked variant.50 Furthermore, it suggests, by implication, that monolingualism—or, as in the case of South Africa until 1994—bilingualism (English and Afrikaans as the two official languages until 1994) for white South Africans and unacknowledged multilingualism for black South Africans, leads to a society with blinkers on, “impervious to subjectivities not its own.”51 In Entabeni, identity formation is a “profoundly fraught experience … particularly … with respect to race and class,” observe McKinney and Soudien.52 The language practice of individuals and groups functions as a race/class marker.
I turn now to the other character in the boardroom who commands our attention: the Macduff figure. Appropriately ambiguous, he is the single white actor on the board, watching Kumkani silently but approvingly. He serves to interrogate whiteness and monolingualism and, by means of that investigation, invokes a past that continues to trouble and shape the present. Are we to assume that he can understand isiXhosa, the language of the second largest cultural group in South Africa? He is never represented in the drama speaking isiXhosa (he is, by implication, monolingual) yet he is evidently a trusted member of the Entabeni group, and his allegiance to the Duncan figure is clear.
I have explored elsewhere Macduff’s status as a member of the “settler-invader” group,53 a group that successfully achieved economic, cultural, political, and linguistic supremacy and, not least, “whiteness,” particularly in such a creolized context where white settlers were always a tiny minority.54 Embodied by a white actor, Macduff also personifies the split identity of someone with multiple, competing allegiances. Gilbert and Tompkins accurately capture the settler dilemma, “History is a particularly fraught issue for settler societies because of their ambivalent positioning in the imperial paradigm as both colonisers and colonised [sic]. By their very name, settlers are implicated in the dispossession of indigenous peoples from their homelands and in the (partial) destruction of their cultures.”55 Just as Macbeth registers England’s struggle to absorb Scotland and, equally, the Scottish court’s struggle to absorb England, so Macduff’s “whiteness,” his Englishness, his historical lineage as a member of the settler-invader group, mark him as Other in the boardroom scene: he is identified as colonizer, as attached to a history of colonizing violence. Macbeth inscribes the Scots as Other, but England will absorb Scotland. Will the South African majority incorporate the minority, suspending their claim to prior possession in order to accept the settler-invader? If “rainbowism” at the time of democracy was an optimistic attempt to achieve this political/cultural humanitarian work, is Macduff’s complicity in the Scottish warrior culture, his abandonment of his family, the suffering he has inflicted on his wife and son, and his own suffering—“Not for their own demerits, but for mine, / Fell slaughter on their souls”56—a metonym for the fragility of rainbowism and its promises? “The time is free,” announces a triumphant Macduff, holding aloft on his pike Macbeth’s head.57 Can the country be free even as Malcolm’s acceptance speech focuses solely on securing his own power, and, as James I had done, granting favors to his followers? Is continued tyranny to be Macduff’s legacy?
Writing in another context about Edward Hall’s 2003 production of Rose Rage, a nearly five-hour condensation of Henry VI Parts 1, 2, and 3 at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Francesca Royster argues that Hall’s production, which she describes as a “condensed dramatization of nation building,” “yields new insights about the lived and embodied experience of systems of white supremacy” and invites a consideration of “whiteness … as an often unmarked privileged location of social belonging.”58 Royster theorizes multiple forms of social whiteness: the heroic whiteness of English history, which would inevitably include colonialism/imperialism,59 certainly in the South African case; and the “honorary whiteness” which political power confers. “Honorary whiteness” is inherently unstable relative to other aspects of difference such as gender and class, and it is subject by its very nature to the vagaries of political power. Resembling other racial codes, “honorary whiteness” is thus shifting and situational in nature. The opposite could be argued for blackness in Mzansi; it is not honorary at all, but earned. Black South African identity in Shakespeare in Mzansi is figured as multilingual, multicultural, rhetorically sophisticated, and stable. As a kind of coda to her argument, Royster also insists that no theatrical space—and here I include television—is racially neutral. She sees the theatrical space, particularly Shakespeare performance spaces, as “white” by default.60
Is Macduff’s whiteness figured as “honorary whiteness”?61 Or, does he serve to remind us of centuries of privilege and oppression? The choice of white South African actor Iain Winter reminds the viewer of the arbitrariness of assigning a “racial ontology more truly embedded in individual subjects than arbitrarily embodied in and across an infinite number of other cultural discourses.”62 Much later, a twist in the plot allows Banquo’s murderer to tell Lady Macbeth that “the white man” knows the identity of Banquo’s killer, a reminder that “white” is raced and that “white” Macduff is, indeed, racially marked.
In addition to the arbitrariness of Macduff’s “whiteness” and the relationship of that “whiteness” to power, one might consider, in the South African political context, the history of extreme violence perpetrated by white bodies on white and black bodies and their capacity to assimilate or subjugate other bodies.63 One might then reflect upon Macduff’s “honorary whiteness”64 as inherently unstable—power changes hands or overreaches itself—as subject to the possibility of collapse. In the boardroom scene we witness, Macduff has power as adviser to the Duncan surrogate, but in the play’s terms, through the murder of his wife and son, Macduff will be subject to extremes of cruelty and, at play’s end, as already noted, will find himself anointing/hailing Malcolm as king with one hand, Macbeth’s head on a pike in his other hand. But Malcolm, always an equivocal figure—in the play and the adaptation—rushes over his reference to “this dead butcher and his fiend-like Queen” to arrive at the announcement of his coronation at Scone.65 In fact, if one treats this moment in the play purely emblematically, I would want to follow editor Nicholas Brooke’s observation, “When last seen sleep-walking, Lady Macbeth was anything but fiend-like, and the only visible butcher here is not Macbeth but the ‘heroic’ Macduff with the grotesque head he offers to Malcolm.”66 Director Norman Maake’s casting of Macduff was inspired.
In her essay, “Rose Rage,” Royster notes that director Edward Hall’s casting asks us to consider “how the bodies on stage perform their identities and how these identities are linked to the project of writing history.”67 If not exactly a “writing history” project, Shakespeare in Mzansi is a study on many levels of succession, and it embeds this issue in an extended past.
Macduff is not the only character to perform and transmit history. In Entabeni, Kumkani’s speech to the board ignores his own role in building the company. Instead, Kumkani references apartheid restrictions on job opportunities, economic hardship, and loss of identity. “They (apartheid governments) took away our names,” he laments, describing what the Comaroffs term, apartheid’s “grammar of distinctions,”68 legislated in fine minutiae. These rhetorical moves, articulated in unmarked speech patterns, prevent any erasure of past histories and subjectivities.69 Entabeni’s engagement with the past and the present, and the pressure of the past on the present, all point to bitter frustration and disappointment over economic, linguistic, and political failures that hollow out the promise of democracy. But this is Macbeth, so of course the witch’s amphibology, the Duncan figure’s nomination of his son as CEO over Kumkani, and Kumkani’s own ambition, goaded by his wife, are the spur to his moral collapse and complicity in his own downfall.70 In the adaptation, Kumkani and the Banquo surrogate discuss the prospects for Kumkani’s advancement before the witch appears to them, thus effectively dramatizing Kumkani’s ambition.
History seeps through the characters’ discourse. Those moments in Entabeni when the representation engages directly with a past of oppressive, clandestine surveillance, state-sponsored murder and brutality, job discrimination, and apartheid’s grip on black servitude to white privilege remind the viewer of the politically contingent nature of this new present.71 Kumkani and Ava have servants, and, on one occasion, a shot of a black maid on the rooftop of an apartment building recalls for the viewer not only low-skilled labor, but the rigidities of the Group Areas Act that legislated where different ethnic groups were permitted to live.72 The televisual program’s emotional engagement with the neoliberal present is also represented visually by depictions of extremes of wealth and poverty. Macbeth/Kumkani and Lady Macbeth/Ava, represented as members of the glitterati, exhibit all the extravagant luxury consumer appurtenances of a privileged, moneyed class.73 The enormous gap between their affluence and the homeless, who are dispossessed and cut off from any democratic process (the witch, the bongo player), it could be argued, characterizes South Africa as a second-world country. Homelessness is an ever-increasing problem in present-day South Africa; millions of black South Africans continue to live in sprawling, apartheid-era shanty towns and informal settlements, distinguished by aluminum tubes without plumbing or electricity. Dimly lit, deserted, menacing city streets, with their suggestion of “white flight,” are the background to Lady Macbeth/Ava’s nighttime search for the poison she will use to stage the accident in which Tata/Duncan will die. The blind, wheelchair-bound, homeless bongo player who provides her with the poison reminds the spectator of centuries of marginalization at every societal level. The spectator is shifted between the crush of the past, the ambiguous present, and the relationship between the two. Entabeni registers, to borrow from Laura Podalsky, “an epistemological crisis where the past functions as the site of reckoning for contemporary social breakdown.”74
Through the lens of “Shakespeare,” all of Shakespeare in Mzansi focuses on a troubled present framed by a troubled past. Speaking of South America, Podalsky asks a question equally relevant to South Africa, “[How do you] challenge spectators to engage in a process of self-examination about their own stake in the violence … as well as in ongoing struggles over the myriad of issues left unresolved by the return to democracy?”75 That question remains the central question that resonates through all the programs in the South African miniseries.
Certainly, Shakespeare in Mzansi, largely, but by no means exclusively, through language practice, adopts an ethical stance toward its material. In Death of a Queen, a moving disquisition on a nation’s return to matrilineal succession, the relationship of both the distant and the recent past to the present, the role of the ancestors and the transmission of knowledge of those ancestors to successive generations, and depictions of gender all have significant roles. For the Balubedu peoples, these cultural, political, and temporal matters are all ethical issues.
Indeed, there have been other notable multilingual productions of Macbeth, all with an ethical dimension. For example, the Kennedy Center’s production of Macbeth at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa included actors of Anglo-Saxon, Japanese, and Chinese descent, and one African American. Director Mitri wanted the audience and actors to reexamine their global commitments. The production was “elaborately multilingual, as a way of further creating a multicultural world.”76 Actors, in seeking to reflect the mixed racial heritage of the islands, shifted from English to Spanish to Japanese to Russian, to a smattering of Gaelic spoken by the Gentlewoman in 5.2., and to Arabic spoken by the Doctor. The witches spoke in several different languages. Characters did not code-switch; they stayed within a single language or languages. Duncan and his clan were Japanese and spoke only Japanese. Macduff and his family spoke Russian, the Macbeths spoke in Spanish and English. Beyond the desire of director Mitri to create a “cohesive world populated by remnants of our present world,” I could find no articulated theorizing of multilingualism as I find so persuasively in Shakespeare in Mzansi.77 English was the distraction—as it should have been, given its status as a minority language in this linguistic context with 28.6% of the population identifying as “white.” According to census figures, Hawai’i has the largest multiracial population of any state in the United States.78 This production at the University of Hawai’i parallels current productions in a post-democratic South Africa where staged productions mirror their heterogeneous environment.
I turn now to identity formation. Shakespeare’s play about nationalism is transmuted into, among other things, a play about identity formation. Like its parent text, Entabeni depicts a Macbeth both valiant and barbaric, seduced by prophecy, driven to preserve his own power. In those ways, Entabeni offers a critical perspective on its moment.
Macbeth/Kumkani’s verbal dexterity as a multilingual speaker and code-switcher or crosser has an obvious ethical dimension. It expresses a non-hierarchical, democratic, open communication among and between groups of speakers of different languages, thus immobilizing separatist views of ethnicities and languages.79 It also situates Kumkani in what Jarica Linn Watts has termed a “gateway” into a complex web of identity construction.80
Kumkani’s eloquence and persuasive powers, in such evidence in the boardroom, draw a compliment from the listening Macduff surrogate and find a parallel in Lynn Enterline’s comment on the power of speech “to move the passions so forcefully as to make, and unmake, both racial and gendered identities.”81 Kumkani has many rhetorical devices at his command, code-switching and the power to persuade among them.
There is a substantial literature on code-switching and, especially, its relationship to identity formation or identity production.82 Code-switching announces specific identities, creates certain meanings, and facilitates particular interpersonal relationships. It is a purposeful spoken or literary device (it does appear in literature) that can serve a number of different ends: to establish characters and settings, as an expression of identity (perhaps the most important function second only to communication on a horizontal level) and group membership and belonging, as an invitation, and as a connection to the reader or viewer. It is a practice that in ancient rhetoric acquired such force that it could substantially inflect the emotionally charged, shifting, and intersecting terrain of social distinctions.83 Mixed code or code-switching carries with it social positioning and status. Within this dynamic language repertoire adopted by Kumkani are the qualities of “cool,” “hip,” and “urban streetwise.”84
Differing from “the Latin grammar school, the institution in which Shakespeare and male contemporaries were trained as if they would become orators,”85 Kumkani’s linguistic practice suggests, instead, evidence of a training in a Model C South African school: memorization, recitation, reading aloud, debate, public speaking, all accompanied by verbal and physical skills acquired in high school. “Rhetorical success and social advancement”86 were goals of education. Just as young schoolboys in the Elizabethan period would have been trained to become young gentlemen “for the good of the realm,”87 so Entabeni dramatizes a display of training in eloquence and poise from Kumkani as he argues his case in front of his fellow board members, here functioning as his judges.
Kumkani reminds his audience that he is performing “Europeanness” and “cultural whiteness” at ease at being a citizen of the world, speaking extemporaneously to persuade.88 Perhaps that is why the Macduff figure comments on “his balls of steel.” Kumkani has assumed the role of privilege and power in this public transaction against a background of impoverished educational opportunities for black South Africans, discussed earlier, and the Natives Land Act of 1913, which allocated seven percent of the land to black reserves and legislated separate living, thus setting the stage for formal apartheid.89 Discourse is never merely instrumental; it can exceed its speakers, actors, and its creators, writers, producers.90 Kumkani, in the boardroom, can be viewed as a “gentleman of the realm,” a warrior (exactly parallel to the reports of his warlike prowess on the battlefield in the service of Duncan), in the world of high finance whose use of rhetoric defines him here and ensures his success, however temporary it turns out to be.
These attributes also help account for the fact that Kumkani, like his prototype, can so often elicit sympathy. Rather than any negative identification with the filmic characters that Manthia Diawara refers to in Shakespeare in Mzansi, the process of (South?) Africanization takes over in relation to class, race/ethnicity, and particularly linguistic practice.91 According to cultural critic Soudien, class operates in an extra-race way to recruit new members to an already existing elite. How this operates in filmic terms is articulated by Diawara. Diawara describes the way that “Every narration places the spectator in a position of agency; and race, class, and sexual relations influence the way in which this subjecthood is filled by the spectator.”92 Diawara is particularly interested in moments of “rupture”93 when the viewer resists identification with the film’s fictive representation. Diawara experienced this before racial integration, when degrading, humiliating portrayals of blacks forced the viewer into a position of necessary, resistant, critical distance. The Macbeth surrogate Kumkani may be doomed, but he is always commanding, never less so than when he encounters the witch for the final time. “You never told me that I would have to give up my wife,” (Entabeni script).94 Corrupted as he may be by ambition, he never loses the viewer’s sympathy. Perhaps because of Kumkani’s power (abuse it as he does) in this imaginative space of television, he remains fully a citizen of the world, a relatively recent role for a black South African.
He is positioned, following performativity theory in language, as producing, rather than reflecting, a multilingual identity.95 And multilingualism is positioned as desirable and natural whether or not everyone understands everything. Code-switching enacts a model of multicultural community that is both local and international.96 Always shaped to a certain extent by one’s audience (and Sekar and Low are writing about a French Canadian hip-hop community), it may sometimes be intended for an in-group only, in which case learning to understand the code-switching is an essential part of becoming a full member of that speech community. Kumkani’s audience is clearly at ease with his code-switching from one vernacular African language to another. When he speaks in English, he uses one variety only.
Furthermore, Kumkani’s rhetorical skill recalls the efforts of those rhetoricians and educated men in the early modern period who, in the final quarter of the sixteenth century, sought to endow upon the vernacular the status of Greek and, especially, Latin. As Ian Smith has so compellingly argued in “Barbarian Errors: Performing Race in Early Modern England,” speaking English eloquently was “the rhetorical signature to the actual production of the English works” that were composed in the Elizabethan period.97 An entire generation of writers, Shakespeare self-evidently included, “wrote” England as a nation, thereby conflating this writing project with a nationalist project. Thus, argues Smith, “on both the local and, more strikingly, the national scale, speaking English amount[ed] to a performative act of being English, a performance of the nation.”98 Kumkani, too, is performing his newly acquired South African citizenship.99 In Shakespeare in Mzansi characters perform their newly acquired identities, identities that are shaped by the relationship of the lived past to the lived present.100
As in Entabeni, Death of a Queen reclaims multilingualism, code-switching among an unusual group of languages: to quote Don Mattera, “the sonorous Pedi language at its most beautiful and replete with se-Sotho and se-Tswana and vha-Venda phrases that are music to the initiated ear.”101 The cross-dialogue interaction—linguistic fluency—is freeing.102 As in Entabeni, an engagement with the mythic past as a resource for ameliorating the present and the open future drives the narrative. And shaping a “new” indigenous identity and a new kind of leader required a transformative aesthetic process based on careful attention to local folklore and ancestral myth, to the role of the ancestors in quotidian life, and to the nature of female and male power. Death of a Queen, a South Africanized appropriation, is committed to an ideal of powerful female leadership enabled by the intercession of the ancestors. This is an ethical model of sovereignty, and several female characters exemplify this, making the contrast with the Lady Macbeth surrogate striking.
Scriptwriter Marina Bekker and director Pieter Grobbelaar followed the injunction to educate and to heal, according to the SABC’s published mission statement in 2008, which was “To heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice [sic] and fundamental human rights, and to lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by the law.”103 This mandate required a rewritten ending that allowed the Fleance surrogate, the young child Puno, to assimilate both male and female powers to herself, while offering the Macbeth surrogate the chance to live.104 Reconciliation in a new social, political order was required, not vengeance and retaliation. Death of a Queen follows the plot schemes of the Macbeth play text quite closely, taking as a point of departure the sudden death in 2005 of reigning Rain Queen Makobo Constance Modjadji VI in a hospital at the age of twenty-seven under mysterious circumstances. She was widely rumored to have been murdered by her ambitious brother, one of her councillors, Prince Mpapatla. The Prince then succeeded her as regent for her daughter, thereby ending 200 years of peaceful matrilineal lineage. For the Balobedu peoples in Northern Limpopo, the loss of their Queen was a reality. Death of a Queen, a modern-day transnational Macbeth, proposes a recuperation of both Bekker’s sources—Shakespeare’s play and the 400-year-old legend.105 At the time of writing, there are reports in the media that the Prince will restore his late sister’s daughter (currently twelve years old) to the throne when she turns eighteen. A restored benevolent Fleance rather than the missing Fleance in Shakespeare’s play?
The pressure of the past—the known legend and its power—is brought to bear on the scriptwriter’s desire to recuperate the murdered Rain Queen’s daughter, Puno, as female leader, and the desire to represent the legend of the African Rain Queen as a way of healing the real, tragic rupture in matrilineal succession in Balobedu history that had occurred in 2005, just a few years before these programs were commissioned. Having flipped gender for Duncan/the Rain Queen and Malcolm/Puno, scriptwriter Bekker proceeds with her gender-bending: The three witches are male, among them a young boy. And Macduff is transmuted to an unambiguous MaModumedi, teacher and guardian to Puno and transmitter (almost a choric figure) of the legend of the Rain Queen, the originary story of the Balobedu people. This switch allows Bekker to explore gender relations as power relations (matrilineal and patrilineal routes to sovereignty) and also allows her by implication to comment on gender relations in the South African context.
Re-envisioning a female leader for the Balubedu people, Bekker uses Lady Macbeth as a representation of a failed (Mark Thornton Burnett regards Lady Macbeth as transcendent)106 female leader. Lady Macbeth, here Grace, neck coiled seductively as she circles the Macbeth surrogate Prince Malôrô, tries to persuade him that it is time for men to rule, that it is the wish of the ancestors that he murder the Rain Queen.107 Warrior, wife, witch, she is driven to adopt the warrior codes of her society. Macbeth explores the attempts of a woman to self-actualize by embracing the dominant discourses of patriarchy. She “is harmed by patriarchy in her manipulation of female roles and in her efforts to find a voice, to be heard, and to become an authentic subject.”108 Burnett argues that she is a victim of culture, not biology, and that the play celebrates her. Her death, according to Burnett, is triumphant.
How does Bekker write her so that her last scenes commemorate her integrity? Her identity as would-be queen is conditioned by the three roles she plays in the drama: warrior, wife, witch. Critical interest in children and babes in Macbeth is so pervasive that there is no need to rehearse it here. This appropriation allows Grace a pregnancy, but the pregnancy produces no offspring. In a visit to the dead Rain Queen’s grave, Grace miscarries and the Macbeth couple, similar to their Shakespearean prototype, remains sterile. If we agree with Poonam Trivedi that “Pity, as the naked babe, remains an unborn child in the play Macbeth, emphasizing the sterility of the Macbeths … [Its] embedded meaning is released to force a final moment of anagnorisis, a self-realization of the futility of a life of bloodshed.”109
“I call on you who have gone before me, to thicken my blood and still my fear–
ke kgopela go lena ba le tlieleng pela gaka, gore le mphe maatla, ke tloke boi, le tiise madi aka ke be le sebete—ke hloke letwalo.
Give me the cruel heart of a man, dry up my milk and still my heart until this deed is done–
Omisang matute matswleng aka, go fihlela ke hwetsa seo ke senyakago.
You took my unborn child, my baby!
O tsere ngwanaka le go belegwa a setso belegwa.”
(film script, courtesy Marina Bekker)
Dramatizing “Come to my woman’s breasts/ And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers” (1.5.43–4), Bekker and the team of scriptwriters engaged in the Sediba process answer the skeptics who engage in what Barbara Hodgdon calls “archeological excavation” to determine what has been lost. Since the 1990s, Shakespeare without his language has assisted the worldwide travels of the texts.112 This particular chilling moment leaves the viewer in no doubt about the force of communication; language and translation are merely two elements among many modes. Grace dies in her trebled corporeality as warrior, witch, and wife, maintaining integrity in all three but at the same time laying bare the conflicts and vulnerabilities engendered by her assumption of these three roles.113
In Joubin’s words, “Translation involves artistic creativity, not a workshop of equivalences.”114 Appropriation “speaks to the power of Shakespeare’s words—not bound within the limit of one language and historical period but open to a wide spectrum of possibilities.”115 This argument is in line with the move during the later twentieth century and early twenty-first century toward a post-textual Shakespeare.116 In other words, the skeptical, outdated view that textual proximity is the standard whereby one judges whether the appropriation is authentic seems like another version of the fidelity argument. In the space between cultures, the text speaks anew—separate and autonomous.
That these programs took place at all is testament to the vision of Kethiwe Ngcobo, then head of drama at the SABC.117 She resisted the arguments of various academics who insisted that such an ambitious, expensive project should be founded, not on Shakespeare, but on the work of indigenous writers such as Can Themba. They objected to Shakespeare as imperial icon, a long tradition in Africa that cannot be disentangled from colonialism, English nationalism, English literature, and Englishness. Both Shakespeare’s value and Englishness, they argued, had been localized to the culture and should be resisted. Nevertheless, Kethi’s conception of a Shakespeare cut loose from colonial/post-/neocolonial moorings overcame the objections of local academics as she argued that Shakespeare’s “stories were out there in the world and they were not his to begin with so the SABC was simply following in Shakespeare’s footsteps.”118 Fortunately, she prevailed. The SABC’s funding at the time, which underwrote the development of each of the four six-hour programs—scripting the adaptation of the particular Shakespeare play in English, translating the adaptation into the specific contemporary vernacular languages, translating that version back into English to develop an interlinear cultural translation that had been tested with the actors—is unlikely to be available again in the foreseeable future. The Sediba process demanded a degree of cultural ventriloquism that was both time-consuming and expensive and that probably rivaled the making of Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt.119 The rewards are enormous. It was a luxury to provide indigenous actors with the opportunity to achieve independence by “speaking” their cultures and languages through Shakespeare’s texts.
I began this chapter with the assertion that Shakespeare in Mzansi is an emancipatory project that uses language to legitimate identity and writes history as a way of wresting full citizenship from a traumatic past. I have not addressed the question of the aesthetics of appropriation except by implication.120 Desmet defines appropriation as implying “an exchange, either the theft of something valuable … or a gift.”121 Certainly, in these televisual appropriations, there is exchange between both terms: Shakespeare’s text and the appropriation. Each term, Shakespeare’s text and the appropriation, is changed by their encounter; appropriation is rarely “uni-directional,” to borrow Burt’s term.122 We are speaking here of embodied texts, both Shakespeare’s (and these may, of course, exist in plural states) and the appropriation as a new text. The question of the relationship of these texts to social reality and the relative representativeness of particular texts is a complicated one. In a South Africa, haunted, if not still trapped, by its past, these appropriations claim their power by acting as agents of change in a system burdened by notions of difference and by violence. Those histories are extremely difficult to tell, but the ever-widening reach of all forms of screen media allows for a process of dramatized self-inquiry, facilitated by the early modern dramatist, whose texts are now so fully represented in world cinema.
I close with words from the “Afterword” to The Foreignness of Film, edited by Atom Egoyan and Ian Balfour. Ian Balfour wrote the “Afterword” and, were there space, I would quote the entire piece. Speaking of Godard’s film Contempt, he writes, “The near ubiquity of translation from one given tongue to another alerts us to the presence of an almost vertiginous series of translations from one genre, from one thing to another.”123 In the case of Shakespeare in Mzansi, there are several translations: from theater to screen, from early modern England to twenty-first century South Africa, from early modern English to twenty-first century Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho, Venda, Pedi, and Tswana.124
In these pages I have attempted to show how multilingualism, translation, and code-switching work together to help us understand these Shakespeare appropriations. Writers, directors, and actors reworked (translated, if you will) the process that Shakespeare used of translating (from sources), mixing languages, and switching registers as he employed dialects. In other words, the English dramatist code-switched among various Englishes. “Rewriting is manipulation, undertaken in the service of power, and in its positive aspect can help in the evolution of a literature and a society,” say Bassnett and Lefevere.125 Rewriting, as I have stressed throughout, reflects ideology. Each of the terms—multilingualism, translation, code-switching—bespeaks an ideology. In the case of Shakespeare in Mzansi, Shakespeare’s text performs entirely different cultural functions in different contexts, a reminder of the depth of Shakespeare’s engagement with the political transitions of his own age that renders his texts available to the manipulations of later ages.
In his 2008 review of Entabeni, poet Don Mattera commented, “Television and film are there to teach and educate society—warts and all, and to simultaneously entertain and provide space for critical thought about those non-negotiable norms, values and ethics that are intended to shape and guide individuals.” From his weblog entry dated Mon., 05-05, 2008, http://nfvf.co.za/blog/don-mattera?page=1, accessed November 2013 (site discontinued). In 2017, however, an ad hoc committee charged with looking into the fitness of the SABC found evidence that “the SABC’s primary mandate as a national public broadcaster had been compromised by the lapse of governance and management … and flouting of governance rules, laws, codes and conventions including … purging of highly qualified, experienced and skilled senior staff members” who were replaced without regard to proper hiring procedures. The report stops short of charges of corruption but describes the SABC as “financially unsustainable” as a result of irregular procedures. See online SABC Editorial Policies Review, http://web.sabc.co.za/sabc/home/editorialpolicies/policies/, accessed September 2017. In 2016, the Mission statement read as follows: “The SABC1 brand is grounded in youthful, contemporary South African culture and the ability to deliver cutting edge, local content as Mzansi’s (a synonym for South Africa) official storyteller,” http://www.sabc1.co.za/sabc/home/sabc1, accessed November 2016.
“The Voice of Apartheid Goes Multicultural,” New York Times, 25 July 1995, http://www.nytimes.com/1995/07/25/world/the-voice-of-apartheid-goes-multicultural.html, accessed September 2017.
See Scott L. Newstok, “After Welles; Re-Do Voodoo Macbeths,” in Weyward Macbeth, Intersections of Race and Performance, ed. Scott L. Newstok and Ayanna Thompson (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 91–100. See 91 for how Welles’s 1936 voodoo production established Macbeth as the most popular Shakespearean play for contemporary US black repertory and Historically Black Colleges and Universities’ drama programs.
William Shakespeare, King Lear, ed. Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen (New York: The Modern Library, 2009), 213.
TVSA, “Dream World,” https://www.tvsa.co.za/shows/viewshow.aspx?showid=1880, accessed 15 September 2017.
TVSA, “Forced Love,” The website notes, without irony, that Kate does not need a man to tame her, an intrinsically chauvinistic idea, https://www.tvsa.co.za/shows/viewshow.aspx?showid=1844, accessed 2 August 2016.
Up to this point, black actors and directors had been notably missing from television programming, most of it imported. See Israel Motlhabane, “The Answer to Theatre Blues,” The Star, 4 May 1995 (Johannesburg newspaper). The Shakespeare in Mzansi series, according to Kethiwe Ngcobo in a private email to me of 4 November 2017, resulted in the training of nearly 200 television producers, writers, directors, and editors. At that time, 2008, everyone imagined that more adaptations of Shakespeare’s texts would be produced.
Adele Seeff, “Indigenizing Shakespeare,” in The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare and Performance, ed. James C. Bulman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017); “Race, Post-race, Shakespeare, and South Africa,” in Borrowers and Lenders: Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation, special issue, “Global Shakespeares in World Markets and Archives” 11, no. 1 (2017); “Shakespeare on the International Screen: Macbeth” (Presented at the International Shakespeare Association Meeting, Prague, July 2011) in Shakespeare on Screen: Macbeth, ed. Sara Hatchuel, Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin, and Victoria Bladen (Rouen: Presses universitaires de Rouen and du Havre, 2013), 171–202.
Kevin Murray, “Shakespeare and World Cinema: A Critical Overview,” Literature Compass 10, no. 4 (2013): 369–82. This is a very useful overview of the critical issues involved in understanding Shakespeare adapted for world cinema.
See Alexa Alice Joubin, Chinese Shakespeares: Two Centuries of Cultural Exchange (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009). See esp. 69, for Joubin’s comment on the aesthetic, ethical, and political points of contact between the Shakespeare text and the culture in which the appropriation is sited. See also 10–12, for a discussion of language.
Karen van Schalkwyk, “Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble,” ScreenAfrika 19(November/December 2007): 14. I should note that the SABC had had African Language programs since the 1980s, many of which used code-switching. This drama series dedicated to Shakespeare plays was new. Television was introduced to South African as late as 1976, thereby revoking what one writer has described as “the most extensive act of preemptive censorship by a regime notorious for curbing free speech.” These are the words of Rob Nixon in Homelands, Harlem and Hollywood: South African Culture and the World Beyond (New York: Routledge, 1994), 43. See Nixon, 46, for his comment that the fear of “cultural miscegenation” prevented the apartheid regime from introducing imported television programming from abroad. Initially, programs were in English and Afrikaans only. Six years later, in 1982, two additional services were introduced: TV2 in Zulu and Xhosa, and TV3 in Sotho and Tswana, both services aimed at a black urban audience. In 1996, after the advent of democracy, the SABC reorganized its three TV channels with the aim of making them more representative of the various language groups. These new channels constituted SABC 1. Programs in Afrikaans and other languages are now subtitled in English, but programs in English are not usually subtitled in other languages.
Diane Henderson writes of the “wider reach and potentially democratic possibilities of screen media … [that] broaden access to Shakespeare.” See Diane E. Henderson, ed., A Concise Companion to Shakespeare on Screen (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006), 2.
Eighty percent of South Africa’s population in 2008 was black.
Mark Thornton Burnett, Shakespeare and World Cinema (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 198–99, https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511760211.011, accessed 26 October 2016; Kevin Murray, “Shakespeare and World Cinema: A Critical Overview.”
See Anita Maynard-Losh, “The Tlingit Play: Macbeth and Native Americanism,” in Weyward Macbeth: Intersections of Race and Performance, 127–31. See 130, for “Shakespeare could be considered the ultimate “white” playwright, and thus a symbol of the dominant culture that stripped away so much from the Tlingit. … In this cultural context … [It] became a mission, an invocation of the ancestors, an event that bridged art, culture, history, and community. Native audience members spoke of how moving and healing it was for them to see that their culture ‘made Shakespeare better.’” Maynard-Losh, too, had to seek the permission of the Elders of the community. I am not drawing a parallel between the use of Tlingit and the use of vernacular languages in South Africa.
See Ian Balfour, “Afterword: Filming Translation (The Most Exemplary Film),” in Subtitles: On the Foreignness of Film, ed. Atom Egoyan and Ian Balfour (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004), 532, for his comment on the effect of multiple ongoing translations from genre to genre in Godard’s film, Contempt.
It is also true that adaptations often smooth rough edges and reduce complexity.
See Jenny C. Mann, Outlaw Rhetoric: Figuring Vernacular Eloquence in Shakespeare’s England (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2012); Richard Foster Jones, The Triumph of the English Language (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1953); Richard Helgerson, Forms of Nationhood: The Elizabethan Writing of England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992); Walter D. Mignolo, The Darker Side of the Renaissance: Literacy, Territoriality, and Colonization (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995).
I am using the term code-switching, rather than code-meshing, throughout this chapter because it is the term South African sociolinguists use to describe switching from one vernacular language to another within a single exchange to facilitate communication. Chapter 4 discusses bilingual code-switching in the working-class community that originally comprised District Six. Kay McCormick’s 2002 Language in Cape Town’s District Six is the first detailed study of this language use. Henry Trotter in “Trauma and Memory: The Impact of Apartheid-Era Forced Removals on Coloured Identity in Cape Town” also deals with this topic. The practice I describe in this chapter arose in the townships where interlocutors might try several languages before arriving at a linguistic solution to ensure communication. In Soweto, a huge township outside Johannesburg established in the 1930s, at least nine (and this figure is probably low) of the vernacular languages were spoken. The move, from code-switching in the Johannesburg townships to television production, most of which took place in Johannesburg and led to SABC’s relatively early policy of multilingualism, is an easy one. See Temple Hauptfleisch, “Citytalk, Theatretalk: Dialect, Dialogue and Multilingual Theatre in South Africa,” English in Africa 16, no. 1 (1989): 71–91. The author cites lines from the play, Sophiatown, to illustrate the richness and vitality of code-switching between different languages and identities, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40238634, accessed 12 June 2017.
See Deborah Posel, “Race as Common Sense,” African Studies Review 44, no. 2 (2001): 87–113, for the Member of Parliament who commented that he had never had any difficulty distinguishing between Europeans and Non-Europeans. She cites as her source, House of Assembly Debates (HAD), 13 March 1950, col. 2782. See esp. 95.
At time of writing, the young Rain Queen is once again in the news. She will be crowned in six years when she is eighteen. News24, “It’s Education First for Queen Modjadji Because the World Is Modern,” http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/its-education-first-for-queen-modjadji-because-the-world-is-modern-20170611, accessed 19 September 2017.
In practice this dream has not been realized and colonial power relations have not been vanquished. See Kate Manzo, “The National Question: South African Identities at Home and Abroad,” Transition, An International Review 5, no. 4 (Winter 1995): 116–32. See also Deborah Posel, “Race as Common Sense,” for the stubbornness with which “racial” categories persist in a democratic South Africa. See also Natasha Distiller, “Surviving the Future: Towards a South African Cultural Studies,” Cultural Studies 22, no. 2 (2008): 273–83, for the difficulty of building a new identity in the face of apartheid’s continuing legacy.
Carolyn McKinney and Crain Soudien, “Editorial: Language, Identity, and English Education in South Africa,” English Academy Review: A Journal of English Studies 24, no. 2 (2007): 1–5.
Isabel Hofmeyr, “Building a Nation from Words: Afrikaans Language, Literature and Identity, 1902–1924,” in The Politics of Race, Class and Nationalism in Twentieth-Century South Africa, ed. Shula Marks and Stanley Trapido (London: Longman Group UK, 1987), 95–123. See also Neville Alexander, “Language and the National Question,” in Between Unity and Diversity: Essays on Nation-Building in Post-apartheid South Africa, ed. G. Maharaj (Cape Town: Idasa and David Philip, 2000); English Unassailable but Unattainable: The Dilemma of Language Policy in South African Education (PRAESA Occasional Papers, No. 3, Praesa/University of Cape Town, Cape Town, 2000); “Language Politics in South Africa,” in Shifting African Identities, Volume 2: Identity? Theory, Politics, History, ed. S. Bekker, M. Dodds, and M. Khosa (Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council, 2001); “Majority and Minority Languages in South Africa,” in The Other Languages of Europe: Demographic, Sociolinguistic and Educational Perspectives, ed. G. Extra and D. Gorter (Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, 2001). Alexander was almost a blueprint for Kethi Ngcobo to follow in terms of linguistic practice. See South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid, Building Democracy. http://overcomingapartheid.msu.edu/sidebar.php?id=65-258-2. Accessed 2 August 2016. See also Zakes Mda, “South African Theatre in an Era of Reconciliation,” in Words and Worlds: African Writing, Theatre, and Society, ed. Susan Arndt and Katrin Berndt (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2007), 77–88, for the need for theater in vernacular languages. See also HED Policies/Language Policy Framework for South African Higher Education, “Language Policy Framework for South African Higher Education,” dhet.gov.za/, accessed 28 August 2016.
I realize that the source text, Macbeth, forecloses the notion of celebration. However, the appropriation serves its own interests.
See Alexa Alice Joubin and Elizabeth Rivlin, “Introduction,” and Christy Desmet, “Recognizing Shakespeare, Rethinking Fidelity: A Rhetoric and Ethics of Appropriation,” in Shakespeare and the Ethics of Appropriation, ed. Alexa Alice Joubin and Elizabeth Rivlin (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).
See Helen Gilbert and Joanne Tompkins, Post-colonial Drama: Theory, Practice, Politics (London: Routledge, 1996), 165.
See Deborah Posel, “Race as Common Sense,” 87–113, for the “panoptic scope” (89) of racial classification and its reliance on a conception of race as a socio-legal construct rather than on a scientifically measurable biological essence. The latter, however, had considerable currency among many white South Africans.
See Mamokgethi Setati, “Researching Mathematics Education and Language in Multilingual South Africa,” The Mathematics Educator 12, no. 2 (Fall 2002): 6–8, for a detailed account of instruction in township schools. Children were schooled for three hours per day. Thirty percent of black schools did not have electricity, twenty-five percent had no running water, and less than half had plumbing. Education for blacks, Indians, and Coloureds was not free. In the 1970s, the per capita government spending on black education was one-tenth of the spending on white South Africans. Slight changes in policy followed three years after the 1976 children’s riots in Soweto. Parents were not given a choice about language instruction for their sons and daughters until 1990, when Nelson Mandela was released from prison.
See Dennis Ocholla, IFLA/FAIFE Theme Report 2006: “Libraries and the Fight Against HIV/AIDS, Poverty and Corruption,” 15–27, launched at a press conference in Seoul, Korea, 22 August. IFLA/FAIFE World Report series, vol. 6. Ocholla is citing Nassimbeni and May, who attribute these statistics to a former Minister of Education, https://www.ifla.org/faife/the-theme-report-2006, accessed 8 May 2016.
Xhosa and Zulu are two of the nine official vernacular languages in a post-democratic South Africa. There are, however, eighty-five vernacular dialects.
See Stephen May, “Language Rights: Promoting Civic/Multilingualism,” in Routledge Handbook of Multilingualism, ed. Marilyn Martin-Jones, Adrian Blackledge, and Angela Creese (London: Routledge Taylor & Francis, 2012), 133.
Vivian de Klerk and David Gough, “Black South African English,” in Language in South Africa, ed. Rajend Mesthrie, rev. ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 356–78. See 373.
According to A. Foley, “Language Policy for Higher Education in South Africa: Implications and Complications,” SAJH 18, no. 1 (2004): 51–71, the policy reinstating English as one of the 11 official languages poses a problem for a majority of the population, who are not proficient in English and cannot benefit from the English language as a valuable international resource.
PanSELB’s intiatives included setting up postgraduate studies in language, interpreting and translation, and language research and development centers to focus on nine of South Africa’s eleven indigenous languages: seSotho, sa Lebowa, seTswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, and isiZulu. See A. Foley, “Language Policy for Higher Education in South Africa”; Carolyn McKinney and Crain Soudien, “Editorial: Language, Identity, and English Education in South Africa”; Kathleen Heugh, “Contesting the Monolingual Practices of a Bilingual to Multilingual Policy,” English Teaching: Practice and Critique 8, no. 2 (2009): 96–113, http://education.waikato.ac.nz/research/files/etpc/files/2009v8n2art5.pdf, accessed 6 October 2017; and Rajend Mesthrie, ed., Language in South Africa, rev. ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).
Tollefson, 1991, 7, cited in Alexander, English Unassailable, but Unattainable.
Kathleen Heugh, “Contesting the Monolingual Practices of a Bilingual to Multilingual Policy,” 96–113.
Neville Alexander, “The Political Economy of the Harmonisation of the Nguni and the Sotho Languages,” Lexikos 8 (1998): 269–75, http://dx.doi.org/10.5788/8-1-957, accessed 15 September 2017.
Efeoghene Igor, “The Illusion of Race Neutrality: Re-thinking Poverty in Post-apartheid South Africa,” Research to Practice Strengthen Contributions to Evidence-Based Policy-Making (2013): 1–24. See 11.
Alexander Neville, Language Policy and National Unity in South Africa (Cape Town: Buchu Books, 1989).
Code-switching, according to Slabbert and Finlayson, symbolizes the values of democratization: coming together, equality, mutual understanding, and respect. See S. Slabbert and R. Finlayson, “Code-Switching in South African Townships,” in Language in South Africa, ed. Rajend Mesthrie, 235–57.
In practice, there is a hierarchy among these languages: Zulu and Xhosa vie for first place as the most important, most prestigious of the vernacular languages, Venda and Pedi are denigrated. Hierarchies persist. Instead, Shakespeare in Mzansi valorizes the vernacular languages it uses equally. Death of a Queen boldly, as already noted, includes Pedi and Venda in its language mix. According to poet Don Mattera, the Xhosa heard in Entabeni was too “high-toned” for the average speaker of Xhosa. Weblog entry dated Mon., 05-05, 2008, http://nfvf.co.za/blog/don-mattera?page=1 (site discontinued), accessed 9 May 2013.
Neville Alexander, “Language, Education and Race Relations,” Paper prepared for the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) Conference on Racism and Public Policy, September 2001, 3; M. Halliday and J. Martin, cited in “Language, Education and Race Relations,” 3.
See Mela Sarkar and Bronwen Low, “Multilingualism and Popular Culture,” in Routledge Handbook of Multilingualism, ed. Marilyn Martin Jones, Adrian Blackledge, and Angela Creese (London: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2012), 403–18, for their comment on the “ordinariness” of multilingualism, 412. Sarkar and Low cite Alastair Pennycook’s observation, “Difference and diversity, multilingualism and hybridity are not rare and exotic conditions to be sought out and celebrated but the quotidian ordinariness of everyday life,” 413. See Sinfree Makoni and Alastair Pennycook, “Disinventing Multilingualism: From Monological Multilingualism to Multilingua Francas,” in Routledge Handbook of Multilingualism, 439–53, for their argument that multilingualism is Africa’s lingua franca (446). This article is provocative for its attack on English as a lingua franca and an ideology. See 448, for the urban sophistication that multilingualism confers on speakers who “are children of two worlds” seeking a register, a “linguistic bricolage” in which to express this duality. See also Alastair Pennycook, Language as a Social Practice (London: Routledge, 2010) for his view of language as an instrumental practice, rather than a structure. See also B. Ruby Rich, “To Read or Not to Read: Subtitles, Trailers, and Monolingualism,” in Subtitling: On the Foreignness of Film (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004), 153–69. See esp. 164, for her comment that monovocalism imposes blinders that “create a nation prone to global illiteracy, bound by leashes to a univocal universe.”
See de Klerk and Gough, “Black South African English,” 370, for their source for these figures: The Financial Mail, 13 June 1997.
William Shakespeare, Macbeth: Texts and Contexts, ed. William C. Carroll (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s 1999). All quotations are taken from this edition.
Mattera blog, Weblog entry dated Mon., 05-05, 2008, http://nfvf.co.za/blog/don-mattera?page=1 (site discontinued), accessed May 2013.
See Carolyn McKinney, “If I Speak English, Does It Make Me Less Black Anyway? Race and English in South African Desegregated Schools,” English Academy Review 24, no. 2 (2007): 6–24. She notes the extent to which accents and varieties of English are used to make judgments about an individual’s racial or ethnic “belonging.” She also notes that listeners expect (italics mine) to identify “race” from audible features such as accent and the variety of English used. She theorizes identity as performative and follows poststructuralist notions of discourse and subjectivity. Identity, for McKinney, is multiple, fluid, and always in process. See Ayanna Thompson, “Practising a Theory/Theorizing a Practice,” in Colorblind Shakespeare: New Perspectives on Race and Performance, ed. Ayanna Thompson (New York: Routledge, 2006), 1–24, for a discussion of the nature of racial identity in performance.
See B. Ruby Rich, “To Read or Not to Read: Subtitles, Trailers, and Monolingualism.” Scriptwriter Bekker accomplishes a liberatory multivocalism in Death of a Queen. Laurence Wright describes Yael Farber’s production of Julius Caesar, which used Sol Plaatje’s Tswana translation of the play approximately half the time. See Laurence Wright, “Confronting the African Nightmare: Yael Farber’s SeZaR,” commisssioned production, Grahamstown National Festival of the Arts, 2001, Shakespeare in Southern Africa 13 (2001): 101–104.
Carolyn McKinney and Crain Soudien, “Editorial: Language, Identity and English Education in South Africa,” 1–2. This is an important article because it argues for the way race and class have become mutually constitutive for middle-class black South African students in schools that were formerly “whites-only” schools.
See my “Race, Post-race, Shakespeare and South Africa,” Borrowers and Lenders: The Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation 11, no. 1. See Elleke Boehmer, “Where We Belong: South Africa as a Settler Colony and the Calibration of African and Afrikaner Indigeneity,” in Studies in Settler Colonialism: Politics, Identity, and Culture, ed. Fiona Bateman and Lionel Pilkington (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 257–71. See particularly pp. 257–60.
Anna Johnston and Alan Lawson, “Settler Colonies,” in A Companion to Postcolonial Studies, ed. Henry Schwartz and Sangeeta Ray (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2000), 360–76, particularly, 362. See Tess Salusbury and Don Foster, “Rewriting WESSA identity,” in Under Construction: ‘Race’ and Identity in South Africa Today, ed. Natasha Distiller and Melissa Steyn (Sandton: Heinemann South Africa, 2004), 93–109, for the shifting positions occupied by whiteness in post-apartheid South Africa.
See Helen Gilbert and Joanne Tompkins, Post-colonial Drama: Theory, Practice, Politics (London: Routledge, 1996), 113.
Francesca Royster, “The Chicago’s Shakespeare Theater’s Rose Rage: Whiteness, Terror, and the Fleshwork of Theatre in a Post-Colorblind Age,” in Colorblind Shakespeare: New Perspectives on Race and Performance, ed. Ayanna Thompson (New York: Routledge, 2006), 221–39, esp. 221.
I say this in spite of Jyotsna Singh’s much-cited comment in her essay, “Othello’s Identity, Postcolonial Theory, and Contemporary African Rewritings of Othello,” in Women, “Race,” and Writing in the Early Modern Period, ed. Margo Hendricks and Patricia Parker (New York: Routledge, 1994), 287–99. In the context of African readings and revisions of the play, she remarks: “… the end of Shakespeare’s play cannot foresee [sic] the violence and conflict of colonial history” (291). Shakespeare could not have foreseen imperialism’s violence.
Royster, “The Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Rose Rage,” 230.
Ibid., 221. See also Peter Erickson, “Black Characters in Search of an Author: Black Plays on Black Performers of Shakespeare,” in Weyward Macbeth, 223–32; Margo Hendricks, “Gestures of Performance: Rethinking Race in Contemporary Shakespeare,” in Colorblind Shakespeare: New Perspectives on Race and Performance, 187–203; Angela C. Pao, “Ocular Revisions: Re-casting Othello in Text and Performance,” in Colorblind Shakespeare, 27–45; Sujata Iyengar, Shades of Difference: Mythologies of Skin Color in Early Modern England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013); Ayanna Thompson, ed., “Practicing a Theory/Theorizing a Practice,” in Colorblind Shakespeare, 1–24.
Arthur Little, Shakespeare Jungle Fever: National Imperial Re-visions of Race, Rape, and Sacrifice (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005), 1. Cited by Royster, “The Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Rose Rage,” 231.
See Zine Magubane, Bringing the Empire Home: Race, Class, and Gender in Britain and Colonial South Africa (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004) for her observation that blacks associate whites with extreme cruelty.
See Royster, “The Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Rose Rage,” 221, for her argument that “honorary whiteness” is attributed to some persons as a consequence of their support of “the status quo of power.” See also Francesca Royster, “Riddling Whiteness, Riddling Uncertainty: Roman Polanski’s Macbeth,” in Weyward Macbeth, 175, where her project is to make whiteness visible rather than unmarked and privileged, and to nuance it rather than to see “white embodiment and white culture as a neutral category.” She is interested in the ways that the notion of whiteness as “stable” or “idealized” is undermined in representation. I argue here that the choice of a white actor to play Macduff undermines whiteness as “stable and “idealized.”
William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Macbeth, ed. Nicholas Brooke (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), 6.
Royster, “The Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Rose Rage,” in Colorblind Shakespeare, 2.
Leon de Kock, “South Africa in the Global Imaginary: An Introduction,” Poetics Today 22, no. 2 (Summer 2001): 278. De Kock is citing John L. Comaroff and Jean Comaroff, Of Revelation and Revolution: The Dialectics of Modernity on a South African Frontier, vol. 2 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 25. Kumkani’s words are from the Entabeni script.
See Margo Hendricks, “Gestures of Performance,” 189–90, for her reaction to her students’ observation in a class on race that a blind person might have to rely on speech patterns to be initiated in “racial consciousness and ideology” (189). She lists dialect, tonal timbre, pronunciation, vocabulary. She counters with the argument that you cannot “tell” a black person by voice and speech because that assumes a singularity in voice for all blacks; variables in speech are as distinct between black people as they are among non-black people. Although speech patterns among a large segment of the African American population in the United States might have contributed to relatively easy racial identification, she cites Angela Pao’s comment that inferring a “racial” or “ethnic” voice in performance spaces is a “highly problematic proposition” (Hendricks, 189). See Angela C. Pao, “False Accents: Embodied Dialects and the Characterization of Ethnicity and Nationality,” Theatre Topics 14, no. 1 (2004): 353–72. In apartheid South Africa, however, ethnically and syntactically marked languages patterns and dialects were heightened by separatist, inferior Bantu Education, as noted earlier. South African director Janice Honeyman, in an interview with me in January 2010, cited the example of an Afrikaans-speaking actress playing Cleopatra who, after a visit to the Royal Shakespeare Company, England, completely changed her speech patterns from Afrikaans-accented English to received British pronunciation. This practice is discouraged in South Africa today. Drama departments and theater companies encourage mixed-language productions.
The depiction of Lady Macbeth/Ava, who has a doppelganger lookalike, is compelling. It is the doppelganger who gives commands: Lady Macbeth’s introject.
Adele Seeff, “Shakespeare in Mzansi” in Shakespeare on Screen: Macbeth, ed. Sarah Hatchuel, Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin, and Victoria Bladen (Rouen: Presses universitaires de Rouen et du Havre, 2013), 171–202.
This is a reference to the notorious “location-in-the sky” that required all black South African domestic servants to live in dwellings on the rooftops of apartment buildings where they worked. All visitors were forbidden.
Shots of their apartment, their wedding, and clothing all convey the lavish lifestyle associated with a powerful corporate elite.
Laura Podalsky, “Affecting Legacies: Historical Memory and Contemporary Structures of Feeling in Madagascar and Amores Perros,” in Screening World Cinema: A Screen Reader, ed. Catherine Grant and Annette Kuhn (London: Routledge, 2006), 198–215. See esp. 201.
See William C. Carroll, “Multicultural, Multilingual Macbeth,” in Weyward Macbeth, 137–41. See esp. 138.
The black South African population is diverse. The nine major ethnic groups are Zulu (the largest), Xhosa, South Sotho, North Sotho, Tswana, Venda, Ndebele, Swazi, and Tsonga. The percentage of the South African population who speaks each of the 11 official languages is derived from the Republic of South Africa, Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, 2003: isiZulu (23%), isiXhosa (18%), Afrikaans (15.1%), Sepedi (9.8%), English (9.1%), isiNdebele (1.5%), Setswana (7.2%), Sesotho (6.9%), Xitsonga (4.2%), isiSwati (2.6%), and Tshivenda (1.7%). Another 2% speak yet other languages.
Jarica Linn Watts, “Colonial Language and Postcolonial Linguistic Hybridity” (PhD diss., University of Utah, 2011), http://cdmbuntu.lib.utah.edu/cdm/ref/collection/etd3/id/455, accessed 21 October 2016.
Lynn Enterline, “Eloquent Barbarians: Othello and the Critical Potential of Passionate Character,” in Othello: The State of Play, ed. Lena Cowen Orlin (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014), 149–75. This is a brilliant analysis of the use of Latin models by Shakespeare’s characters, notably Othello, as we saw in the previous chapter. See esp. 151.
See Sarkar and Low, Routledge Handbook of Multilingualism (2012), 411.
See Joan Argenter, “Did Our Ancestors Code-Switch? Inferring from Written Records,” in Proceedings of the 4th International Symposium on Bilingualism, ed. James Cohen, Kara T. McAlister, Kellie Rolstad, and Jeff MacSwan (Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press, 2005), 84–93; James Adams, Bilingualism and the Latin Language (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003); James Adams, Mark Janse, and Simon Swain, eds., Bilingualism in Ancient Society: Language Contact and the Written Text (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002); Celso Álvarez Cáccamo, “From ‘Switching Code’ to ‘Code-Switching’: Towards a Reconceptualization of Communicative Codes,” in Code-Switching in Conversation. Language, Interaction and Identity, ed. Peter Auer (London: Routledge, 1998).
Stephanie Rudwick, “Township Language Dynamics: isiZulu and isiTsotsi in Umlazi,” Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 23, no. 3 (2005): 305–17.
Enterline, “Eloquent Barbarians,” 153.
For Model C schools, see Carolyn McKinney and Crain Soudien, “Editorial: Language, Identity and English Education in South Africa,” 1–5. The apartheid government allowed white schools to admit children of color in 1991. White parents were given a choice with regard to the admission of children of color. In 1991, a school could retain its current and exclusive status, and be designated a Model A school. Or, the school could open up partially, continue to receive state financial support, and be designated a Model B school; or, the school could open its doors to all South African students regardless of ethnicity and continue to receive state subsidies for teachers’ salaries but assume responsibility for some expenses. These schools earned the designation Model C school. By early 1991, more than 200 English and Afrikaans schools had opted for Model C status. To do so, they required 75–80% support from their parent body. Race was abolished as a category in 1996 (South African Schools Act), but racialized categories persist in post-apartheid South Africa. All schools are now open. However, race has not gone away but has been significantly modified by social class. Permitted to charge school fees by the South African Schools Act, former whites-only schools—Model C schools—in particular have reconstructed themselves as schools for the new and expanded South African middle class. They have become racially diverse, which is an important development, but most of them have retained their elite identities. “It is in this new school system that the country’s experimentation with difference is now taking place” (Soudien, 2). It is only since the 1990s with the collapse of institutional apartheid, the opening of “whites-only” schools to all students, and the repeal of the Group Areas Act, that one cannot “tell” “race” as marked by accent and intonation.
See Enterline, “Eloquent Barbarians,” 158.
Ibid., 160, citing Ian Smith, “Barbarian Errors: Performing Race in Early Modern England,” Shakespeare Quarterly 49, no. 2 (1998): 175.
Many, many pieces of apartheid legislation were enacted over the course of the second half of the twentieth century that sharply reduced opportunities for black South Africans and radically restricted their movements, confining them to an unskilled labor force. These legislative acts tell a story over the course of the twentieth century of systematic and progressive economic exploitation of black South Africans by white South Africans. The interested reader should consult Sampie Terreblanche, A History of Inequality in South Africa, 1652–2002 (Pietermaritzburg: U. Natal Press, 2002).
I am grateful to Lynn Enterline for her scholarly insights in her article, “Eloquent Barbarians.”
Crain Soudien, “‘Constituting the Class’: An Analysis of the Process of ‘Integration’ in South African Schools,” in Changing Class: Education and Social Change in Post-apartheid South Africa, ed. Linda Chisholm (Cape Town: HSRC Press, 2004), 89–114.
Manthia Diawara, cited in Bell Hooks, “The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators,” in “The Black Performative Body,” in Movies and Mass Culture, ed. John Belton (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1996), 249.
Compare Macbeth’s speech in 5.6.17–28.
For an interesting debate about the consequences of ignoring the “corporeality and materiality” of the black body on stage in multicultural and colorblind productions, see Ayanna Thompson, “Practicing a Theory/Theorizing a Practice,” in Colorblind Shakespeare: New Perspectives on Race and Performance, 1–24. It hardly needs noting that Entabeni is not a colorblind production. Through the device of registering history, the audience is always aware of the violence written on the black bodies in this rendition. Thompson’s essay also offers interesting perspectives on the performativity of identity.
Mela Sakar and Bronwen Low, “Multilingualism and Popular Culture,” 411.
Ian Smith, “Barbarian Errors,” 169.
Ibid., 172. See also Ian Smith, Race and Rhetoric in the Renaissance: Barbarian Errors (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). See also Enterline, Eloquent Barbarians, 158, for “barbarism” as a term associated with the vernacular tongue. See Enterline, 156, for how Latin eloquence, initially yoked to ideas of national self-definition, was replaced with English. See also Smith, Race and Rhetoric in the Renaissance, 101 and Chapter 4, for the shift toward a language of “oure owne” (100). Smith is citing Edmund Spenser in a somewhat different context.
It bears remembering that the elections of 1994 were the first time that black South Africans had ever voted.
Writing in an entirely different context and theorizing the nature of a theatrical event, authors Gina Bloom, Anston Bosman, and William West remark that “performance stretches the event open, such that it is simultaneously a preservation of the past and a preparation for the future.” Performance is an “opening of history rather than the closing gates of its departure.” See Gina Bloom, Anston Bosman, and William N. West, “Ophelia’s Intertheatricality, or, How Performance Is History,” Theatre Journal 65, no. 2 (2013): 165–82. See 4.
Ntlolerole—Death of a Queen (an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth–Review), a weblog entry by Don Mattera dated Tues., 03-24, 2009, http://www.nfvf.co.za/content/ntlolerole-death-queen-adaptation-shakespeare, accessed 22 March 2010 (site discontinued).
See The Observer: Language on TV for a wry complaint that, in an act of language discrimination, Zulu, Xhosa, English, and Afrikaans dominate on SABC 1. The author praises “the Shakespeare in Mzanzi series [which] offered perhaps the best display of talent beyond the big four, when the show was anchored by a cast of Pedi-speaking actors, who delivered beyond anyone’s imagination. It was an excellent portrayal of the queen of rain story with a twist…. LOVED IT!” The author complains that he rarely hears Pedi on SABC. Written by The Observer: Language on TV from the blog “The TV Observer” on 19 November 2008, https://www.tvsa.co.za/user/blogs/viewblogpost.aspx?blogpostid=16698, accessed 23 September 2017.
2005–2008 SABC Mission statement, SABC Charter, 9, accessed 1 June 2010.
See Adele Seeff, “Indigenizing Shakespeare in South Africa.”
The parallels between the legend, its embodiment in the present, and the Macbeth legend with all its proximate sources, clearly offered a feast of creative opportunities to screenwriter Bekker. See Eileen Jensen Krige, The Realm of a Rain Queen (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1943) for a full account of the Rain Queen and her secret power to make rain. For the curious reader, a quick Internet search yields further information, including a photograph of Queen Makobo Constance Modjadji VI at her coronation, and further information on the deceased Rain Queen’s daughter.
See Mark Thornton Burnett, “The Fiend-Like Queen: Rewriting Lady Macbeth,” Paregon 11, no. 1 (1993): 1–19.
Shoki Sebotsane is compelling as Lady Macbeth/Grace. She has performed in several SABC soap operas.
Mark Thornton Burnett, “The Fiend-Like Queen: Rewriting Lady Macbeth,” 1.
Poonam Trivedi, “‘Mak[ing] Strange/Even to the Disposition That I owe’: Vishal Bharadwaj’s Maqbool,” Borrowers and Lenders 4, no. 2 (2009), http://www.borrowers.uga.edu/1420/show, accessed 12 November 2012.
A ritual usually performed at 3:00 a.m., when the supplicant summons the ancestors to ask for assistance or for permission to perform an action.
See The Observer: Language on TV. See especially the associated blog in which participants complain about the dominance of Zulu.
The work of Bassnett and Venuti, as well as Douglas Lanier, “Recent Shakespeare Adaptation and the Mutations of Cultural Capital,” Shakespeare Studies 38 (2010):104–13, and Richard Burt, “All That Remains of Shakespeare on Indian Film,” in Shakespeare in Asia: Contemporary Performance, ed. Dennis Kennedy and Yong Li Lan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 73–108, all theorize translation, particularly in relation to Shakespeare’s language.
Carroll speaks of doubled corporeality as “fiend-like queen (5.11.35) and as woman but my own view is that this performance allows for several identities. See Carroll, Macbeth: Texts and Contexts, 347–49. See also Andrew J. Power, “Lady Macbeth and Othello: Convention and Transgression in Early Modern Tragedy,” in Staged Transgression in Early Modern England, ed. Rory Loughnane and Edel Semple (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 224–38. Power argues that Lady Macbeth emerges from and destabilizes conventional representations of transgressive femininity.
Alexa Alice Joubin, “Shakespeare and Translation,” in The Edinburgh Companion to Shakespeare and the Arts, ed. Mark Thornton Burnett, Adrian Streete, and Ramona Wray (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011), 68–87. See 68.
See Douglas Lanier, “Recent Shakespeare Adaptation and the Mutations of Cultural Capital.”
Lavish funding supported the SEDIBA workshopping process over an eighteen-month period. In this chapter, I have focused on linguistic practice, which has elided the ongoing cultural translation at work in the development of these programs.
Kethi Ngcobo, telephone interview, Cape Town, February 2010.
Balfour, “Afterword: Filming Translation (The Most Exemplary Film),” in Subtitles: On the Foreignness of Film.
The list of scholars who have done so is long and growing longer daily. Thomas Cartelli and Katherine Rowe, Douglas Lanier, Christy Desmet, Robert Sawyer, Diane Henderson, Alexa Alice Joubin, Ayanna Thompson, Courtney Lehmann, Richard Burt, Greg Colón Semenza, James Bulman, Barbara Hodgdon, Ramona Wray, Mark Thornton Burnett, and Margaret Litvin are but a small representation. My apologies to those omitted from this cursory list.
Christy Desmet, “Introduction,” in Shakespeare and Appropriation, ed. Christy Desmet and Robert Sawyer (London: Routledge, 1999), 4.
Richard Burt, “Mobilizing Foreign Shakespeares in Media,” in Shakespeare in Hollywood, Asia, and Cyberspace, ed. Alexa Alice Joubin and Charles S. Ross (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2009), 231–38. See esp. 231.
Balfour, Ian. “Afterword: Filming Translation (The Most Exemplary Film),” in Subtitles: On the Foreignness of Film, 532.
The key word here is “translation.” Cultural and linguistic translations are two of the hallmarks of Shakespeare in Mzansi.
Susan Bassnett and André Lefevere, “Preface,” in The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation, ed. Lawrence Venuti (London and New York: Routledge, 1995).
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