Sizwe Bansi Is Dead and The Island Author:Athol Fugard, John Kani, Winston Ntshona Sizwe Banzi Is Dead is a play by Athol Fugard, a white, written collaboratively with two black South African actors, John Kani and Winston Ntshona, both of whom appeared in the original production. The play illuminates not only the oppressed condition of blacks in a white society but the very question of identity that the oppression exploits. — T... more »he genesis of Sizwe Bansi Is Dead can be traced to Fugardís experiences as a law clerk at the Native Commissionerís Court in Johannesburg. At that time it was required that every black and colored citizen over the age of sixteen carry an identity book that restricted employment and travel within in the country. In court, Fugard saw the repercussions of this law: blacks were sent to jail at an alarming rate. Although these restrictions are specifically South African, critics have noted that the playís greater theme of identity is universal. Critics and scholars have also observed that Sizwe Bansi Is Dead contains elements of absurdism, especially its sparse setting and surreal subject matter.
The Island is an apartheid-era drama, inspired by a true story, is set in an unnamed prison clearly based on South Africa's notorious Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was held for twenty-seven years. It focuses on two cellmates, one whose release draws near and one under a life sentence, who spend their days at mind-numbing physical labor and at night rehearse for a performance of Sophocles' Antigone, which they have been asked to present to their fellow inmates by the wardens. One takes the part of Antigone, who defies the laws of the state to bury her brother, and the other takes the part of her uncle Creon, who sentences her to die for her crime. The play examines the parallels between Antigone's situation and black men imprisoned for political reasons and the tensions that arise as the performance approaches, especially when one of the prisoners learns that he has won an early release and the men's deep friendship is tested.« less