THAR 201 Lecture Notes - Lecture 43: Leleti Khumalo, Arson, Mbongeni Ngema
SchoolTexas A&M University
Course CodeTHAR 201
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Voices of Saraﬁna
ﬁght against apartheid in S. Africa, come to America for refuge
a musical about the 1976 student uprising at Soweto High School
theater plays an important rule because its considered the only voice left for protest against apartheid
The plot centers on students involved in the Soweto Riots, in opposition to apartheid. The story is told
from the point of view of an ambitious school girl actress-activist named Saraﬁna. She feels shame at her
mother's acceptance of her role as domestic servant in a white household in apartheid South Africa, and
inspires her peers to rise up in protest, especially after her inspirational teacher, Mary Masembuko is
Mbongeni Ngema's "Saraﬁna!" was a 1987 a successful Soweto musical transiting to America's big
screen a few years later. Lead character played by Leleti Khumalo reprises her role again as wide-eyed
Saraﬁna, a Soweto teen in South Africa 1976 planning a high school musical about Nelson Mandela and
while at the same time, getting involved in a protests with her fellow students about the apartheid that
was going on. Saraﬁna reason for joining the protest was largely based on scoping out the boys rather
than the cause itself.
Distant from her mother as her mom works as a maid for a white family, the two hardly sees each other
to have a close mother-daughter relationship. But despite this problem Saraﬁna mom's urges her
daughter to get more serious about the racial segregation in South Africa. Inspiring teacher, Mary
Masembuko gives lectures to Saraﬁna and the rest of her students about the oppression of their people
is facing and how the situation is worsen giving details that otherwise their textbook would not covered.
Masembuko encourage the children to be proud of whom they are. She reminds them all that peace and
freedom will prevail throughout the town. Besides her concern for the children and all the problems
surrounding them, she also helps them with a play about imprisoned Mandela.
However personal experiences get Saraﬁna more passionate about civil rights as students protestors is
caught in a deadly arson along with a potential boyfriend of Saraﬁna who was slaughtered by angry
mbos after the murder of a policeman. The government now caught Ms. Masembuko and kept her
imprisoned. More violence abruptly taken place and riots is ensured between students and the police.
But Saraﬁna's role in being active in the protest causes her time in prison where she is tortured simply
because she and others demand equal rights as human beings.
This documentary proﬁles a troupe of South African teenagers who, under the direction of writer-lyricist
Mbongeni Ngema, stage the Broadway play "Saraﬁna!" Scenes of the play alternate with interviews with
the performers as they tell their own stories of oppression and deprivation suffered during South Africa's
apartheid years. The actors' spirits are lifted when they meet the legendary singer and social activist
Miriam Makeba, who was once exiled from South Africa.
theater is considered the African Embassy, and the performers are the ambassador
director taught 700 kids and drove them around the city to play, in order to analyze characters
director lived together with the kids like a family and they were all cramped into a 5-bedroom house
director tries to open people up and be very understanding of their limits
theater is used to help people understand each other
communication is important, enunciation is key
the students think that, if you cry during someone’s death, it won’t help, so the better thing to do is smile
and laugh upon remembering them, death is a theme in the ﬁlm
native language is Afrikaans, so some of them struggle with learning English
soldiers carry guns in the classroom, students in S. Africa have the risk of being shot at everyday
kids see war and suddenly have the experience of a 30 year old, kids are therefore the army of the
African dancing and singing are strong elements of the musical
some of the Africans want to be white-people because they get to chose any type of work they want to
do and are in charge of their own destiny
3/4 of S. African kids are not at school because of bad education, the daily riots, and the army is at the
schools and they intimidate everyone so kids don’t wanna go to school
directors promised everyone education
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