When preparing for your literature exam it is a good idea to learn some facts about the playwright and understand the historical background to the play. In the podcast, My Children! My Africa! About Athol Fugard, we talk about Athol Fugard and what inspired him to write, My Children! My Africa!
To listen to the podcast, visit the X-kit Achieve channel on iono.fm
My Children! My Africa! About Athol Fugard
Welcome to Pearson South Africa’s podcast series on the Grade 12 X-kit Achieve My Children! My Africa! Study Guide. You’ll be hearing about various aspects of studying this play.
Today we’ll start by chatting about Athol Fugard, the writer, who is as South African as biltong and mieliepap. He was born in 1932 in Middelburg, a small Karoo town north of Graaff-Reinet. Fugard went to school in Port Elizabeth. After Matric he studied at UCT, before hitch-hiking to North Africa. Next he worked as a sailor on a steam ship for two years. After his marriage to Sheila Meiring in 1956 Fugard worked as a clerk in the Johannesburg Native Commissioners' Court: this really opened his eyes to the injustices of the Apartheid system.
Later he moved back to Port Elizabeth. From 1964 till 1974 he lived in a small village called Schoenmakerskop. The pathway to fame was mapped out in these years with opposition to the inhumanity of apartheid as his key theme. Important breakthroughs came with plays such as “People are Living There”; “Hello and Goodbye”; “Boesman and Lena” and “The Island”. It was here too where Fugard first work-shopped “Sizwe Banzi is Dead” with the Serpent Players. A leading light in this group was John Kani who played the lead-role of Mr M in My Children! My Africa! which was first performed in the Market Theatre, Johannesburg on 27 June 1989.
In a YouTube interview Fugard describes the birth of My Children! My Africa. He had seen a small report in the “Herald” newspaper about the killing of a teacher, Anela Myalatya, in Cookhouse (a small town north of P.E.). Anele was falsely accused of being an impimpi or informer. This prompted the writing of the play. In the interview Fugard says some revealing things. He says his concerns as a playwright, actor and director in a play like My Children! My Africa! are centred on a huge dilemma: what is the best way to respond to an evil system like Apartheid? Should violence be met with violence or is there another way? He says that his own internal debate led him to a belief that “putting words on paper is a valid form of action” which can even get “inside the heads of people in armoured cars”.
Athol Fugard now lives in Cape Town and still writes for the stage. In 2005 the movie adaptation of his novel, Tsotsi, won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
Note that pages 5 to 7 in the X-kit Achieve Study Guide provide extra information about Fugard and the background to My Children! My Africa!
That’s all we have time for now. Thanks for listening and good luck for your studies.