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Alkazi Theatre Archives

A Bibliographic Listing from the Archive

Performance and the Afterlives of Injustice

Book: Performance and the Afterlives of Injustice
Written by: Catherine M. Cole
Published by: University of Michigan Press, 2020

Catherine Cole in her book ‘Performance and the Afterlives of Injustice’ investigates how a group of contemporary South African theatre, dance, and performance artists have used performance to critique and undermine the ongoing ramifications or “afterlives” of apartheid, the inhumane system of anti-Black exploitation that dominated South African life from 1948 to 1994. “Arguing that a performance-centered study is necessary in order to understand the inherent performativity of subjects, subjectivities, and social formations in post-conflict societies, the book places live performance at the center of cross-disciplinary conversations within theater, dance, performance studies, and cultural studies” (p.2)

The book has four chapters, each examining the works of contemporary South African artists like Brett Bailey, Gregory Maqoma, Mamela Nyamza, Robyn Orlin, Jay Pather, and Sello Pesa, along with Congolese choreographer Faustin Linyekula. The book starts with Athol Fugard’s play ‘Statements after an Arrest under the Immorality Act’, part of a trilogy known as the ‘Statement Plays’ produced in 1972. Establishing bodies both under apartheid and in its aftermath, Chapter two delves into the concept of “corporeal epistemes” in the works of Jay Pather, Mamela Nyamza, and Sello Pesa. Chapter three explores interculturalism in the work of Robin Orlin and Brett Bailey, contrasting it with Indian-South African practitioner Jay Pather. Chapter four focuses on the art of Faustin Linyekula and Gregory Maqoma, emphasizing their connection to the Global South rather than Western Europe, challenging the exoticization of Africa for Western consumption.

“Embodied performance in South Africa has particular potency because apartheid was so centrally focused on the body: classifying bodies into racial categories, legislating where certain bodies could move and which bathrooms and drinking fountains certain bodies could use, and determining how different bodies carried meaning.” (p.3)

Performance and the Afterlives of Injustice