Boesman and Lena

by Athol Fugard

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How do Boesman and Lena cope with being non-white in apartheid South Africa?

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Boesman and Lena are mixed-race itinerants who nomadically roam the Eastern Cape looking for work and temporary housing.

Why not begin your essay by exploring the theme of displacement or diaspora? What does their being neither white nor black have to do with being forced to make a “pondok constructed of corrugated iron scraps, cardboard, and whatever other waste materials come to hand” (Wertheim 57)?

The play opens with both characters expressing dissatisfaction at their displacement, who decide they need to move again. Lena opens up the play with the question, “Here?” and it is with this utterance that we are introduced to their world. What does the metaphorical wasteland of the Swartkops mudflats have to do with how they approach their situation? Are they helpless or realistic in their approach to life? How can you tell?

While they are “fixed,” paradoxically, by a state of displacement, it is Lena’s singing and constant taunting of Boesman’s that composes much of the action of the play. How might song, music, or humor play a role in how they survive? What does the play have to say about performance and survival? How are the two concepts related? Do Lena and Boesman have to perform to survive?

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