‘The Drowning Eyes’ Is Back, Theatre Returns To Normal

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South African theatre company Kwasha is proud to interpret The Drowning Eye, a play by the revolutionary thinker, Frantz Fanon. 

The play goes live next week on Thursday, 30 June, on the main programme of the National Arts Festival in Makhanda (formerly known as Grahamstown).

Fanon, whose writings have influenced liberation movements across the world, wrote this text as a 24-year-old student, in 1949. 

Part love poem, part surrealist narrative, and part philosophical treatise, the play reads as a testimony to the power and possibilities of love as an act of resistance. 

The Drowning Eye is performed as part of an exhibition, Revolutionary Love, which seeks to explore the role of historical loves within revolutionary movements. 

Both works are made possible by the support of the National Arts Festival, the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS), and funding from Mazars and Bolloré Logistics, with additional research supported by the Neubauer Collegium for Culture & Society, University of Chicago.

Sebastien de Place, Director of Business Development and Marketing in South Africa as well as Partner at Mazars Group level, says the firm supports the creative economy as being particularly important in assisting young South African artists. 

More than any other component of the creative arts, the performing arts have been devastated by the Covid-19 ban on in-person events.

“We are excited to showcase this play after Covid. In this contemporary staging, we explore the edge between love, shadow, and violence, asking how to reimagine Fanon’s writing for a generation of South Africans grappling with decoloniality, identity politics and gender-based violence,” explains co-producer and director Tamara Guhrs. 

She and Stacy Hardy join forces with four talented actors from Kwasha, the Market Theatre Lab and Windybrow Arts Centre, to present this work, at a time when Fanon’s writing has new relevance for a generation of young South Africans questioning the limits and possibilities of revolution today.

“One of the things that people don’t always realise when they see the eventual production on stage, is that behind the glamour of the stage exists a whole supply and a creative and economic ecosystem,” says Guhrs. 

“Therefore, support such as this for a theatre production has a ripple effect: jobs are created at a time when the performing arts industry has been very badly hit by Covid. 

“There’s an invisible economic and social impact that happens when a corporate sponsor comes on board with a project like this.”

The cultural and creative industries (CCIs) were identified as one of seven sectors for prioritisation by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) in a 2019 presentation to Cabinet on South Africa’s Re-imagined Industrial Strategy. 

It pointed to the potential the CCIs have for employment creation, skills development, promoting social cohesion, raising the country’s profile abroad and supporting the domestic tourism industry. 

The government aims to address the challenges and constraints that need to be overcome to allow the sector to reach its full potential.

“The creative arts are an often-neglected component of education. People talk about the importance of the STEM subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, but it should really be STEAM with Arts included,” says Guhrs. 

“Art encourages the soft skills so necessary in business today – collaboration, problem-solving, empathy, and kids learning to communicate. 

“A sponsorship relationship like this one is exciting because theatre and business have much to learn from each other.” 

THE DROWING EYES: Showing next week Thursday at the National Arts Festival in Makhanda (formerly known as Grahamstown).