Themes and Meanings
Woza Albert! has been criticized for doing too much in too little space, likely because the play addresses oppression, labor, survival, separation of families between South African homelands and the cities, poverty and homelessness, police brutality, and political imprisonment. However, the play addresses three key themes that have the most meaningful implications for theatergoers. Resisting oppression with religious faith is an important theme of the play. This theme takes on ironic undertones because, in a society where there is such institutionalized racism and systematic oppression, it seems hypocritical that the Afrikaner government is a self-proclaimed Christian nation. Thus, the metaphor of the Savior’s return is complex and appropriate for the type of satire that Ngema, Mtwa, and Barney Simon created for the stage.
Fantasizing a biblical prophecy in South Africa is ironic because all Morena’s miracles relate to the mundane yet politicized struggles of South Africans. The play challenges people’s definitions of fantasy by testing the apartheid government’s commitment to Christianity and their anticipation and treatment of a black Savior. In scene 18, when Morena is betrayed and caught, Morena, like Jesus at the crucifixion, prays, “Forgive them, they do not know what they are doing,” but his follower insists, “They know! They know!,” a striking blow to the Christian morality that Afrikaners claim to have.
(The entire section is 601 words.)