Both "Sizwe Bansi is Dead", (written by Athol Fugard in collaboration with John Kani and Winston Ntshona) and "Death and the King's Horseman" (written by Wole Soyinka) are both set in South Africa, in two important and significant cultural moment for the country.
"Swize Bansi is Dead" tells the difficult reality of Africa under apartheid (1950s), analysing the complex issue of identity in that time. The rules of Apartheid meant that people were legally classified into a racial group, mainly Black and White, and separated from each others.
This division restricted black people from being able to vote, having medical care, education, or other public services, and if when, in rare cases these were possible, they still were of a lot inferior compared to what white people were entitled to. Not only Black people were thus deprived of their write as human beings, as persons, but what most suggested that they'd lost their identities is that all of them had to have an "identity book". This item, insert them into a system of figures, where each one of them wasn't identified by a name anymore, they were recognised and registered by a number. This is a very important issue of the play, in fact the focal point is to show us how irrelevant the name and the "identity" had become for those people.
Is your name your identity? And if not, is it possible to maintain a stable and truthful inside identity when deprived of all signs of uniqueness such as your own name?
This theme is very much confronted in Sizwe Bansi is Dead. The main character, Sizwe Bansi is forced into talking a terrible decision. Taking a dead man's identity book, therefore stealing his "official" identity, to be able to get on with his life and keep in contact with his family, or remain who he is but unable to actually "live" who he is, continue his life, and be with his family.
He says that he doesn't want to loose his name, and Buntu reminds him that it is not his name he is loosing, or better yet, it is, but in terms of legal passbook more than anything else. He says: "You mean you don't want to loose your bloody passbook!"
At last Sizwe decides to take his chances to live, and provide to his family and take the dead man's identity.
This choice is going to oblige him to play a role, to enter a character. To impersonate someone he is not, to be able to work and live in South Africa.
The theme of the impersonification, of acting as in playing a role, is quite recurrent in this play.
The character Style tells about his experience working in a factory, the Ford to be specific. He describes in fact a visit from the very same Henry Ford at the factory and tells how not only he asked them, (the employees) to always sing and "wear a mask of smiles", which indicates how untrue and literally actors they had to be.
An example of this skill they all had to develop is given when Styles is asked to translate his supervisors speech to his co-workers. He translates nothing of what the...