Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 309
The play Woza Albert! by Percy Mtwa, Mbongeni Ngema, and Barney Simon considers what the second coming of Jesus Christ would look like if Christ were to come to South Africa during apartheid. Specifically, Mtwa, Ngema, and Simon tell this story through the lens of Black South Africans who were treated as second-class citizens and denied basic human rights under the restrictions and regulations of apartheid. When the play premiered in 1981, apartheid had been public policy for forty years and limited where black South Africans could live and what jobs they could hold and prohibited interracial interaction. Though some of the laws written to enforce apartheid were beginning to be lifted and abolished (largely due to pressures from foreign governments), at the time Woza Albert! was penned, the daily, difficult realities of the racial, economic, and social divide created by apartheid were widely felt.
This reality creates the conceit at the center of this two-person play. When Jesus returns to Earth by way of South Africa, the elite white South Africans—who consider themselves Christians—are suspicious and dismayed. The message of justice, acceptance, and peace that they hear Jesus preaching does not suit their needs and desires as the people who have capital and control. In preaching his message, it does not help that Jesus, whose name in the play is Morena, is black. Jesus's arrival, subsequently, results in rising tensions and animosity that reach their zenith when the dominant members of the government in South Africa imprison and then crucify Christ.
Resurrection exists in this second coming of Christ, in the wake of death. Morena resurrects historical, celebrated leaders of the anti-Apartheid movement, including Albert Luthuli, who was the former President of the African National Congress. In this moment of resurrection, the play proclaims the need for and value of black leaders in the fight against Apartheid.
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