De-Apart-Hate. That sickening institution that kept us apart because of hate. That bred hate. That with its legacy of disgusting inequality, still keeps us apart – geographically, economically, educationally – and still breeds hate in South Africa.
A black UCT student a few days ago told a group of white students that blacks have no reason to want to live peacefully alongside whites. Well, she might be right. Backtrack about 400 years. Colonisation digs its dirty claws into the land, conquers the people it finds here, makes slaves of the people it doesn’t murder, systematically keeps them un/mis/non-educated, and through fear and missionary religion, oppresses them and their descendants for generations… all to secure and perpetuate white superiority and privilege. Yeah… I’d hate.
Enter the Rainbow Nation. All sorted, right? Take a thorough, honest look around. We all know who the haves and have nots are.
It’s experiencing Mamela Nyamza’s De-Apart-Hate that has these thoughts reeling in my head. It’s that simple bench on stage, brightly painted in rainbow colours that is so unstable and see-saw’s dangerously, becomes a blockade that won’t let her in, transforms into an imprisoning cage, a coffin. The promise of the Rainbow Nation is broken. When the load of that rainbow bench is on her back, we see the burden her black female body must carry.
Nyamza’s work isn’t ever easy to watch. It’s never easy to understand. She makes us uncomfortable, she draws out stillness and silence to an unbearable point, her provocative imagery oozes through the space and leaves us bare.
De-Apart-Hate is overwhelming and I’m still figuring out why. Because it’s layered and reflects the complexities of current issues in our world.
Because it’s not overtly ‘about’ apartheid. It’s so much more. It’s about the oppressive forces that infiltrate all of society. It’s about religion and patriarchal oppression. It’s about sexuality and sin and sex and freedom… about policing women’s bodies and shame, and saying fuck everyone for all of that.
Nyamza confronts us, stares us down. Makes us aware of our complicity in what’s happening. With us as a passive audience witnessing her sweating, working body, she makes us aware of our complacency.
De-Apart-Hate uses the ostensible imagery of Christianity in Africa to symbolise all systems of oppression. Religion’s worldwide pervasiveness makes this a good choice. Religion throughout history has operated as the most stringent system of oppression of personal freedom. It works to restrict and homogenise.
A preacher (co-performer Mihlali Gwatyu) stands on her back, pushes and beats her into the ground. “Ephesians 6 verse 5” he repeatedly drills into her. Slaves must fear their masters as they do Christ. Women are the neck to hold up men, the heads.”Amen!”, she whispers.
But Nyamza shatters the framework that attempts to hold her captive. In an intensely liberating act, a bible serves as a vagina, with licked fingers she turns the pages. Masturbation, women’s sexual pleasure, freedom in sexuality is not tolerated in the church. Across the world, religion or legislation or fathers or concerned communities ostracise and punish and ‘correct’ women who practice sexual ‘deviance’. With Nyamza’s defiant act she reveals the falseness of the power structures that exist. It’s all a big wank.
Nyamza and Gwatyu deliver powerfully entrancing performances. De-Apart-Hate is overwhelming, I’ll say it again. There will be many who won’t ‘enjoy’ it – I doubt we’re meant to. Ambiguity and intricate layering make it a challenging work of theatre. But it is affecting and emotional and will leave your mind whirling.
– Sarah Roberson
De-Apart-Hate is on today 07/10 at 16.30 and tomorrow 08/10 at 18.30. Click here for more details and bookings.