Kaya 959 Reporter
Bloke and His American Bantu a play about two friends from two different parts of the world who were obsessed with leaving a cultural legacy is currently showing at the University of Johannesburg.
The University of Johannesburg in association with the Sello Maake kaNcube Foundation are presenting a phenomenal stage play, Bloke and His American Bantu which is written by Dr Siphiwo Mahala, and directed by Sello Maake kaNcube.
Phemelo Motene recently spoke to playwright Siphiwo Mahala to talk about this incredible play.
The story is about the unique relationship between Bloke Modisane and Langston Hughes.
Modisane was a writer, and activist from Sophiatown; while Hughes was doing the same work in Harlem in New York.
The story which is based on real events is set in the 1960s at the height of apartheid.
This is during the time Modisane was exiled in London, and Hughes through his contacts in the US organized a lecture series for him in various states across the US.
The story is told about their memorable cultural exchange in a time of gross oppression, as the play traces the intellectual discourse that happened between the two writers from 1960 to 1967, a period during which they exchanged well over 50 letters.
Mahala, who travelled all the way to the US to gain access to the exchanged letters spoke about how the letters gave a window into their cross-border relationship.
“They took the art of letter writing very seriously, it wasn’t the casual kind of writing you would do when writing to a friend. Initially, they were talking about the publication, and it was very formal.”
“What struck me was how their conversation evolved from being very formal to being casual, to a point where they gave each other some pet names,” he says.
Bloke and His American Bantu is currently on stage from 16th Feb till the 26th Feb 2022.