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Last Updated on August 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 556

Woza Albert! is a short play set as a series of vignettes that explores the struggles and oppression of black South Africans in the time of apartheid. The play itself consists of actions carried out by two cast members using a sparsely decorated set. The play is set in twenty-six individual scenes and satirizes the entire apartheid system in South Africa including the mistreatment of black Africans in the workforce, the sensational nature of media, and the hypocrisy of Christian religion among white South Africans.

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The satire plays out in many different areas of the play, but in particular, the religious narrative stands out as central to its message. The play focuses on the coming of “Morena” (translated to Lord in English) who is Jesus Christ come again and shows how those in the apartheid system react to Christ’s return. The early interviews in scenes 7 through 13 show the reactions of people to the news of Christ’s return. The interviews serve different purposes in showing the thoughts and feelings of South Africans, while also creating a link to future ideas discussed in the play, like communism.

The interview with Fidel Castro in the seventh scene sets up the idea that the connection between Christ and communism is tenuous at best. When asked about Morena, Castro responds, “Morena in South Africa? Whose playing the part? Ronald Reagan?” The response of Castro in this scene highlights the irreligious nature of communism and mocks the idea that simply because Christ wants to help the poor and oppressed, that he is a communist—a charge that is leveled at him later in the play.

The scenes of other interviews explore the different oppressive systems that exist in South Africa, and the responses of those black South Africans interviewed show why the system itself is unjust. For example, Auntie Dudu is a destitute woman that eats scraps from the garbage—her response shows the inability of the apartheid system to treat people with dignity because she responds in her interview that, “That would be very good. Because everybody will be happy and there will be lots and lots of parties. And we’ll find lots of food here (Indicates bins).” The responses of everyone interviewed expose more of the inherent issues with the system and the hypocrisy of the white South Africans.

The prediction of one South African interviewed comes true when he says, “Kill the wizards . . . And that is what will happen to Morena here in South Africa.” He explains using an old story from before colonization to explain that Christ will not be welcome in South Africa because those in power do not want his message to come into conflict with the Apartheid. His prediction comes true when Christ is later arrested for being an “agitator” and held in various prisons. When the white government can’t keep him in prison they drop a bomb and destroy the entire city of Johannesburg. While their response is obviously exaggerated, the hyperbole serves to show the distinct differences between the true teachings of Christ and those beliefs that white South Africans hold about what Christ teaches and permits. That discrepancy is brought to a head at the very end of the play when Morena goes around a cemetery and raises the dead leaders of South Africa’s black power movements.

The Play

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 716

Woza Albert! is a twenty-six-scene, quick-action play, whose succession of vignettes of black life during South Africa’s apartheid period shows the absurdity of racial oppression. It also illuminates the logic of a plot in which South Africans seek the return of a savior, Morena, who fulfills the biblical prophecy that Jesus Christ will return. The play’s title means “Rise Albert,” referring to the...

(The entire section contains 1718 words.)

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