Woza Albert! is a South African play that serves as a powerful political satire. It was written during the apartheid era and first performed in 1981. The play uses humour and satire to comment on the social and political issues of the time.
The title “Woza Albert” means “Come, Albert” and the play features two characters who summon a character named Albert, who represents the common man. The play touches on themes of racial segregation, oppression, and resistance.
Briefly looked into are some of the themes in Woza Albert!
Theme of Resistance
The play explores the theme of resisting oppression through religious faith. It uses the metaphor of a Savior’s return to comment on the paradox of an apartheid government that claims to be a self-proclaimed Christian nation while perpetuating institutionalized racism and systematic oppression.
Morena’s return challenges societal definitions of faith and fantasy, highlighting the discrepancy between Christian morality and the actions of the government.
Theme of Freedom
Woza Albert! raises questions about the concept of freedom as a fantasy, especially in the context of Christianity. It challenges the apartheid government’s treatment of prisoners and their distribution of Bibles.
The play is emphatic about the promise of freedom through belief in the Savior. This theme underscores the hope for justice and freedom on Earth, as promised in religious texts.
Theme of Apartheid Struggle
Woza Albert! internationalizes the apartheid struggle by depicting the second coming of Christ through the black Morena. While international media eagerly cover the return of Jesus, they do not mobilize to highlight the atrocities of apartheid. This theme underscores the indictment of the international community for not doing more to help South Africans gain freedom from apartheid.
Theme of Black Leadership
Woza Albert! emphasizes the pressing need for strong black leadership in South Africa, especially during a time when many leaders were imprisoned or deceased. It mentions figures like Bishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned on Robben Island, as important figures in the struggle.
The play critiques so-called black leaders who act as “puppets” for the apartheid regime. The resurrection of prominent leaders like Luthuli, Sobukwe, Ngoyi, and Biko symbolizes the call for new leaders to carry on the political struggle against apartheid in the spirit of these fallen heroes.