'You Strike a Woman, You Strike a Rock / Wathint’ Abafazi, Wathint’ Imbokotho' a reminder of fierce determination of women

13 July 2021 - 12:54
'You Strike a Woman, You Strike a Rock / Wathint’ Abafazi, Wathint’ Imbokotho' is a bristling example of protest theatre making during the height of apartheid.
'You Strike a Woman, You Strike a Rock / Wathint’ Abafazi, Wathint’ Imbokotho' is a bristling example of protest theatre making during the height of apartheid.
Image: Supplied

You Strike a Woman, You Strike a Rock / Wathint’ Abafazi, Wathint’ Imbokotho is a bristling example of protest theatre-making during the height of apartheid. Created in ensemble fashion in 1986 by director Phyllis Klotz in collaboration with performers Thobeka Maqhutyana, Nomvula Qosha and Poppy Tsira, this play stands as a contemporary SA classic.

The play focuses on three central characters: Sdudla, Mambhele and Mampompo living and working in a Cape Town township trying to eke out a living in a racially, socially and economically unequal world. There are few work opportunities and there is a great deal of red tape to be self-sufficient. Men are glaringly absent from this world — working as cheap migrant labour in urban areas. Women have to undertake great risk to see their husbands and to try keep a semblance of family cohesiveness. Helicopters fly above and state security police surveil the area. The play shows how these women work miracles to ensure the survival and wellbeing of their families at all cost.

Following the famous 1956 slogan of the SA women’s march against apartheid laws, You Strike a Woman You Strike a Rock / Wathint’ Abafazi, Wathint’ Imbokotho, this latest publication in 2021 is a testament to the contemporariness of this play. Its themes around gender activism and the need for gender parity remain as true today as it did 50 years ago. Fresh and full of life, this is an important historical document and will be a landmark play for high schools and students of theatre.

Still SA’s most important play, Wathint’... says more about theatre history and the dompas  system, women’s rights and the romance of rehearsing in a toilet, than any formal text. A brave, rude foray into street life, it shimmers with relevance.
— Robyn Sassen, independent critic

The play serves as a reminder of who women are and their fierce determination. They act, decide and make choices with conviction and resolution in the best interests of ubuntu. They continue reminding everyone that ‘You Strike a Woman, You Strike a Rock/Wathint’ AbafaziWathint’ Imbokotho, uzokufa’.
— Nokuthula Mazibuko, Head of the Institute for Gender Studies, Unisa

Engaging storytelling that captures the pathos of the period and of today, as the past continues to live in our present. It is the best of stylised theatre that is not dependent on elaborate sets. It is a worthy addition to South African dramatic literature and enriched by Sarah Robert’s scholarly yet accessible analysis.
— Zakes Mda, author and playwright


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