South Africa: Pieter-Dirk Uys and Mzilikazi Khumalo - and the Many Uses of History

The performing arts scene in Johannesburg is getting increasingly busy with large-scale oratorios as well as much comedy on various stages. J. BROOKS SPECTOR listens to and contemplates the oratorio, 'Ushaka', as well as Pieter-Dirk Uys' examinations of his own comedic gift and the questions they have in common.
The enormous publicity and media space given to the Rhodes statue dispute can obscure - or even overwhelm - the many guises of cultural life in South Africa and the way they support or are subversive to established ideas and interpretations of the country's history. In recent days, for example, the writer listened to Mzilikazi Khumalo's sweeping oratorio - Ushaka - dedicated to glorifying the memory of the early Zulu ruler, Shaka.
A few days later, the writer also shared breakfast with Pieter-Dirk Uys, just as the comic was beginning the run of his newest show in Johannesburg at the theatre in Montecasino. Two very different projects, but both are attempting to come to grips with South Africa's extraordinary history.
Ushaka was composed in those optimistic early days at the beginning of South Africa's non-racial democratic order. Professor Mzilikazi Khumalo, composer of the opera, Princess Magogo, also produced the music for...
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