EMBRACING: Mojisola Adebayo and Mamela Nyamza
SOUTH AFRICA has a terrible history of violence, from the days of colonisation to the end of apartheid in 1994, the country has gone through some horrific times.
Sadly, in the last 18 years the violence hasn't gotten much better. In fact, the country has the highest violence rates in the world, with 40 murders a day.
The most recent wave of aggression which has taken root in the country is aimed against women, specifically lesbians. 'Corrective rape' is being used as a way to 'cure' gay women, meaning a woman who is perceived to be homosexual is raped and often killed by homophobic perpetrators. According to a South African gay rights organisation, there are as many as 10 rapes against gay women every week.
Looking at this disturbing occurrence of brutality is the new play I Stand Corrected written by British Nigerian playwright Mojisola Adebayo and South African choreographer Mamela Nyamza.
“We decided to work on something that we were both passionate about which was the violence that is rife against women, particularly lesbian women. And the so called 'corrective rape' and murder of women to make them 'correct,’” said the 41-year-old. “Violence in general is a big issue in South Africa and we wanted to explore that brand of hatred.”
The women were also inspired to create I Stand Corrected after Nyamza's mother was raped and murdered in South Africa two years ago.
“Mamela felt called by her mother to make a piece of work that would respond to the brutality of what is happening to women in Africa,” explained Adebayo.
Many plays attempt to take on uncomfortable subjects in their productions and end up being either overbearingly preachy or deeply depressing - but the writer insists that this production is as humorous as it is sobering.
“It's strange because we have never actually made a piece that tackles such a serious subject matter and yet, there is still so much laughter in the play. We looked at the idea of correction and rather than challenge the logic we decided to accept it, so a guy rapes and kills a women to make her straight and we ask the question 'what if it worked?'”
“What if you could kill me and make me into an ideal woman, what would it look like? How would I walk? And because of that there is a lot of humour because it is absurd. The idea is ridiculous and so a lot of the laughter comes for the absurdity of corrective rape,” said the playwright.
FIGHTING FOR EQUAL RIGHTS: Mojisola Adebayo
As the debate on whether gay people should receive equal marriage rights rages in the west, we are reminded that being homosexual is still seen as unnatural and can be a death sentence in many countries around the world.
“The correction doesn't quite work, but the play explores the issue of what it means for women to make themselves ‘correct’. So we use the supernatural to ask what it means to be natural. The argument is that it is unnatural to be gay, but you probably can't find anything more against nature than to kill a living thing.”
Adebayo admitted that she is not an expect on the subject of corrective rape, but she believes that the increase in serious assaults against women stems from the history of violence that South Africa has been embroiled in for hundreds of years.
“The piece directly asks the question why are so many men doing this? What started this? In my opinion it started with the extremely abusive and racist systems that were in control for hundreds of years. Violence begets violence and the South African people experienced such an extreme form of hatred for so long, it is trying to recover but it has a long way to go.”
I Stand Corrected is at the Ovalhouse theatre, 52-54 Kennington Oval, London, SE11 until December 8. For more information visit www.ovalhouse.com