Lorraine Hansberry’s play on colonialism in Africa

This video from London, England says about itself:

What is Les Blancs?

24 March 2016

A breathtaking story of race and identity.

A family and a nation fall apart under the pressure to determine their own identity as this brave, illuminating and powerful play confronts the hope and tragedy of revolution.

Written eleven years after A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry’s final drama is an unknown masterpiece of the American stage and a highly theatrical search for the soul of post-colonial Africa.

Les Blancs marks the National Theatre debut of the multi-award-winning director Yaël Farber, whose productions include The Crucible (Old Vic) and the internationally-acclaimed Miss Julie and Nirbhaya.

Now playing at the Olivier Theatre, South Bank, until 4 June.

By John Green in Britain:

Liberating experience

Saturday 2nd April 2016

Lorraine Hansberry’s Les Blancs, a magnificent play on the post-war anti-colonial struggle in Africa, loses none of its relevance in our own times, says JOHN GREEN

Les Blancs
National Theatre, London SE1

LORRAINE Hansberry, born in 1930, was the first black woman to write a play performed on Broadway.

Strongly influenced by friends and mentors like Paul Robeson and WEB Du Bois, much of her work concerned the African struggle for liberation and the Nina Simone song To Be Young, Gifted and Black was inspired by her.

This music video from the USA says about itself:

“To Be Young, Gifted & Black” by Nina Simone (includes interview).

Recording session: Live at Morehouse College in Atlanta, June 1969.

The John Green article continues:

Hansberry died at the age of 34, shortly before Les Blancs (The Whites) — whose title references Jean Genet’s “clown show” play The Blacks — was finished and it was completed by her former husband Robert Nemiroff.

Written 11 years after A Raisin in the Sun, this final drama is her masterpiece and a highly theatrical search for the soul of post-colonial Africa.

That’s made explicit from the play’s opening. In the centre of the bare stage stands the skeletal frame of a building — the mission station where the white missionaries live and work, cared for by black servants.

Beyond its perimeter is the impenetrable darkness of Africa, unseen and unknown, out of which figures emerge to visit the mission station and disappear back into it.

The stage revolves continually, indicating change, instability and revolution, and around its perimeter a tall, almost naked, female figure (Sheila Atim) circles like a prowling cheetah.

Sometimes she drags a bowl of fire behind her. The spirit of Africa, unfathomable, is always present.

Les Blancs is set in an unnamed country — it could be Rhodesia, South Africa or Kenya — where those fighting for justice and independence are the “terrorists” who, in the end, have to be crushed by troops and fighter planes.

The “war on terror” is nothing new.

Hansberry shows a society teetering on the edge of insurgency as it prepares to drive out its colonial masters and claim an independent future.

Racial tensions boil over as Tshembe (Danny Sapani), a black intellectual living in Europe, returns to Africa for the funeral of his father, who had founded a resistance movement against colonial rule. He must decide whether to become involved in the insurgency.

But at the mission station he meets the white liberal US journalist Charlie Morris (Elliot Cowan), who has come to write a story about the intrepid, brave missionaries and their good work.

He is soon forced to re-evaluate his liberal concepts and Tshembe, too, is forced to make a choice — to continue down the pacifist road or embrace violence as the only way to achieve the liberation of his people.

Hansberry’s dialogue is fast-paced, witty and politically profound and this production is true total theatre, being simultaneously a Greek tragedy and an African village passion play which ends apocalyptically in a kind of ritual cleansing.

It’s riveting drama, directed with panache and precision by Yael Farber and with a vibrant, totally committed cast.

Although set in the past, it has strong resonances for today and that’s doubtless why the audience gave it a standing ovation on the first night.

Runs until June 2, box office: nationaltheatre.org.uk.

This video says about itself:

10 January 2011

Lorraine Hansberry (May 19, 1930[1] — January 12, 1965) was an African American playwright and author of political speeches, letters, and essays.[2] Her best known work, A Raisin in the Sun, was inspired by her family’s legal battle against racially segregated housing laws in the Washington Park Subdivision of the South Side of Chicago during her childhood.[3]

Hansberry attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison, but found college uninspiring and left in 1950 to pursue her career as a writer in New York City, where she attended The New School.[4] She worked on the staff of the black newspaper Freedom under the auspices of Paul Robeson, and worked with W. E. B. DuBois, whose office was in the same building.[4] A Raisin in the Sun was written at this time, and was a huge success. It was the first play written by an African-American woman to be produced on Broadway. At 29 years, she became the youngest American playwright and only the fifth woman to receive the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play.[5] While many of her other writings were published in her lifetime – essays, articles, and the text for the SNCC book The Movement, the only other play given a contemporary production was The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window.[6]

In 1961, Hansberry was set Vinnette Carroll as the director of the musical, Kicks and Co, after its try-out at Chicago’s McCormick Place. It was written by Oscar Brown, Jr. and featured an interracial cast including Lonnie Sattin, Nichelle Nichols, Vi Velasco, Al Freeman, Jr., Zabeth Wilde and Burgess Meredith in the title role of Mr. Kicks. A satire involving miscegenation, the $400,000 production was co-produced by her husband Robert Nemiroff; despite a warm reception in the Windy City, the show never made it to Broadway.[7]

After a long battle with pancreatic cancer[8] she died on January 12, 1965, at the age of 34.[6] According to James Baldwin, Hansberry was prescient about many of the increasingly troubling conditions in the world, and worked to remedy them with literature. Baldwin believed “it is not at all farfetched to suspect that what she saw contributed to the strain which killed her, for the effort to which Lorraine was dedicated is more than enough to kill a man.”[9] Hansberry’s funeral was held in Harlem on January 15, 1965. Paul Robeson gave her eulogy.

Source: here.

6 thoughts on “Lorraine Hansberry’s play on colonialism in Africa

  1. Pingback: In France, death of Adama Traoré, and of civil liberties? | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: James Baldwin, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, on film | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: African American playwright Lorraine Hansberry, new film | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: British capitalist says capitalism not working | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. Pingback: National Geographic about its racist history | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  6. Pingback: British World War I poet Isaac Rosenberg | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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