Emotional play about South African macho culture

February 2009 -

Surrounded by a wall of beer cases, two ancestral spirits tensely wait for something to happen. As they hurriedly sweep the floor again, elsewhere loud singing erupts. Singing and dancing, four slightly intoxicated brothers carry their mother's coffin on to the stage. Piece by piece the emotional story It's a man's world is told as the brothers spend a long night in vigil over their mother and gradually slip into the world between life and death.

it's a man's world

Scene from 'It's man's world'

With numerous bottles of beer, aggressive Zulu dancing and intoxicating singing, the brothers struggle with the loss of their mother. Memories slowly surface of a past filled with violent experiences that the brothers have never told one another. Sxaxa, for example, was raped as a young boy by his step-father and has never felt like a man since: "It was because of him that I started to hate women and in turn raped their children."

The performance uncovers an urgent problem in South Africa: the traditional macho behaviour is no longer fitting in a changing society in which women live more as equals with men. Many South African males grew up without a father and have no jobs. They do not know how to positively prove their manhood. Sadly, they often have negative ways of doing so. The number of rapes has exploded, resulting in an alarming increase in the number of hiv infections.

South African author Jerry Pooe based his scenario on real-life stories in his homeland. The play was later revised by Dick Van den Heuvel of the Netherlands. The result is a co-production by the South African Eager Artists and the Dutch theatrical company Siberia.

It's a man's world is not only relevant to South Africa: a problematic macho culture is also on the rise among youths in the Netherlands. That is one of the things that make this initiative so special: it is waking people up, in both South Africa and the Netherlands.

It's a man's world was performed in January 2009 in The Netherlands and Belgium. The performance was supported by the DOEN Foundation, the Hivos-NCDO Culture Fund, the City of Rotterdam, Stop Aids Now!, Oxfam Novib and the Kwa Zulu Natal Department of Health.