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PODCAST: My Children! My Africa! The setting

by mickey.geldenhuys

Setting is the place and time where a story occurs.  It is important to understand the setting of My Children! My Africa! to help you answer contextual questions in your literature exam. Listen to this podcast to get a clear understanding of the play's setting.

To listen to the podcast, visit the X-kit Achieve channel on

My Children! My Africa! The setting

Welcome once again to Pearson South Africa’s podcast series on the Grade 12 X-kit Achieve My Children! My Africa! Study Guide.

Today we’ll be chatting about setting, that is, the time and place in which the play is set. Setting is important as it can establish the atmosphere or mood of a play.

My Children! My Africa! is set in South Africa in1984, when the fight against the apartheid government was intensifying. Many learners in townships were boycotting school as a protest against apartheid. The government sent white soldiers into townships to fight against anti-apartheid activists. There was widespread violence and sometimes crowds killed people who were accused of being spies for the Apartheid authorities.

Scenery, costumes and props or objects can help an audience to recognise the setting. For example, the opening scene of My Children! My Africa! is set in a place many of you will immediately recognise, a township school, called Zolile High. In the play the township is called Brakwater. In reality it is based on the township in Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape. Graaff-Reinet is called Camdeboo in the play.

The main characters, Isabel and Thami, are in school uniforms. Certain props, for example, desks, the school bell, and a dictionary, tell the audience where they are. Fugard usually prefers a mostly bare stage with minimal furniture and props in order to suggest the harsh settings and situations so typical of his plays. Fugard relies mainly on words to provide details of his settings. For example, we get a picture of Brakwater through the impression that it makes on Isabel, the girl from the privileged ‘white’ town. For her Brakwater is an eyesore with stony tracks full of potholes, and tumble-down corrugated iron shacks, with dust and rubbish flying around in the wind. In contrast, the privileged side of town where she lives is filled with neatly restored houses and pretty gardens.

Later we get descriptions through the eyes of Mr M of the boycotts and riots taking place in Brakwater. There is a vivid word picture of what is happening: “Everywhere I went… overturned buses, looted bread vans, the Government offices … everything burning and the children dancing around, rattling boxes of matches and shouting Tshisa Qhumisa! … and then running for their lives when the armoured cars appeared…”  

That’s all we have time for now. But please note, there is more about the importance of setting on pages 25 to 26 in your X-kit Achieve Study Guide.Thanks for listening and good luck for your studies.

Grade 12