Umabatha: Zulu play or Shakespeare translation?

Wright, L.S. (2009) Umabatha: Zulu play or Shakespeare translation? In: The Shakespearean International Yearbook. The Shakespearean International Yearbook, 9 (9). Ashgate, Farnham, Surrey, England; Burlington VT, USA, pp. 105-130. ISBN 9789754669166




There can be few recent theatrical productions in greater need of interpretative effort than Welcome Msomi’s Umabatha. From its inception debate has raged over the cultural status of the production: was it an authentic expression of Zulu culture, or a tacky piece of ‘blacksploitation’? – to use Russell Vandenbroucke’s term. Was the production pleasing evidence of Shakespeare’s universality, a gift to the colonies returning joyfully to the motherland with interest accruing? Could it perhaps be a case of Zulu culture triumphing over Shakespeare, native invention swamping and overwhelming a colonially-imposed ‘high culture’? Was the show performing ‘Africa’ for the world and, if so, was this the way Africa ought to be represented in the twentieth century? Or were we perhaps looking at a fetishized theatrical commodity, wrenched from any authentic cultural roots, and circulating aimlessly but profitably through a globalised theatrical cosmopolis? Such speculative questions – and there are many others – have regularly jostled each other in the bulky heritage of Umabatha’s reception history. The central problem underlying this chapter is whether it might not be possible to define a basis for a more objective response to some of them, so that the issues involved no longer rest quite so slackly in the realm of mere critical opinion.

Item Type:Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords:Umabatha; Zulu Macbeth; Welcome Msomi; Pieter Scholz; Elizabeth Sneddon; Peter Daubeny; Ludwig Wittgenstein; World Theatre Season; Aldwych,Kate McLuskie; Umoja; African Footprint; IpiTombi; Ben Brantley; Derek Mahon; Peter Ustinov; John Mortimer; B.A. Young; John Barbour; Harold Hobson; J.D. Omer-Cooper; A.T. Bryant; Dan Wylie; Shaka; E.A. Ritter; Edward Hyams; Shaka Zulu; Qokli Hill; Heiner Muller; Die Hamletmaschine; Mangosuthu Buthelezi; Inkatha Freedom Party
Subjects:Y Unknown > Subjects to be assigned
Divisions:Research Institutes and Units > Institute for the Study of English in Africa (ISEA)
ID Code:1455
Deposited By: Prof Laurence Wright
Deposited On:27 Aug 2009
Last Modified:06 Jan 2012 16:20
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