flightcollageThis page is in honour of Dr Ray Miller and his team of actors, designers and technicians and Professor Kevin Warner, Chairman of the Theatre and Dance Department at Appalachian State University (ASU).
From April 26 to April 29, 2017, I was at ASU in Boone, North Carolina, attending the Theatre and Dance Department’s production of my play, Flight from the Mahabharath. Dr Ray Miller, director and choreographer of the play, had invited me to attend the performances and I was there as guest of the Department.

I had written Flight from the Mahabharath sometime in the early 1990s, after I had watched the Chopra brothers’ television dramatization of the epic, the Mahabharata. At the time I was also reading the works of the radical feminist author, Mary Daly, Professor at Boston College, whom I greatly admired. And as I watched the televised serial, Mahabharat, I was appalled at the way in which women are portrayed in the epic and felt impelled to counter such a portrayal. So I wrote Flight from the Mahabharath, in which women abandon the epic and create a play in which they free themselves of stultifying traditions and redefine themselves in terms of their individual understandings of who they are.


 Determined to dedicate myself to writing after I retired from teaching in 2000, my first thought was to capture the history of Marabastad (The Asiatic Bazaar), the location in which I had lived as a child.  I immediately set about interviewing people who had lived in the location.  During my interviews with Sinthumbi Naidoo, he made me aware of his concern that Tamil religious practices were losing their meaning for Tamil South Africans and suggested that I work with his son, Ronnie, a poosari, to put together a manual that explained the meaning of the rites. That is what we did and A Little Book of Tamil Religious Rituals was published in October 2004.  In between interviews for my book on Marabastad, I began recording my experiences as a teacher in Limpopo Province and day-to-day happenings, my friendships, my hijacking, a wedding in the family, among other things and compiled a book of short stories, Jail Birds and Others , which was published in December 2004.  Soon afterwards, I completed Stories from the Asiatic Bazaar and it was published in 2007.

 In 1994, South Africa became a democratic country but the racism into which we had been socialised did not disappear at the stroke of a pen and writers continue to reflect experiences gained through racial and cultural balkanisation. Consequently, varying racial, ethnic and cultural experiences, do not find affinity across the board.  And publishers, concerned only with markets, are unwilling to takes risks with unknown writers. They told me time and again that there was no market for my work so I decided to go into publishing. I have published A Little Book of Tamil Religious Rituals, Stories from the Asiatic Bazaar, Monkey Business by my sister, Seetha Ray, and am working on a book of children’s plays by my brother Seeni Naidoo, a short story that he has written, more short stories, a novel and three novellas and children’s stories that I have written.

 I spent the years 1977 to 1983, involved in Anti-SAIC and UDF campaigns, which inspired me to write a number of plays:  We 3 Kings, a farce about ‘Indian’ elections, Ikhayalethu, about dispossession, Masks, the search for African identity.  One of my revues, The Masterplan, a comic interpretation of separate development and the Tricameral Parliament, was banned in September 1983.   My last play Flight from the Mahabarath, written sometime in the 1990s, is a feminist critique of the epic.
All my plays have now been published under the title WIP Theatre Plays. (WIP = Work-in-Progress)
Going through my papers, I discovered a number of articles written over the years so I revised them and put them all together with new articles.  They include reflections on drama, reactions to apartheid, reflections on writing, my joy at discovering Milan Kundera and my attempt to understand the functions of religion and democracy in a society.


In our highly technological world we live in a state of constant flux because of continuous new developments. Everything becomes outdated in no time; email for instance is already being referred to as old-fashioned.

Take the cell phone and how it has evolved over the course of a few decades and how it has changed our lives. It started off as a bulky, heavy object with limited functions but quickly evolved to its present diverse forms with a multiplicity of functions. At first it was simply a telephone. Now it is also a camera, it provides internet and email services and allows us to type and send messages and pictures.

And it has made huge changes in our lives. It gives us instant communication far and wide. People in rural areas are no longer isolated because of it. It allows us to deal immediately with emergencies; to access banking services; to share experiences and through the Internet to create communities of people across the globe.

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Ivan Illich Revisited

Ivan Illich:  Deschooling Society
Schooling for Consumerism

With education the mess that it is not only in South Africa but everywhere, it is time to revisit Ivan Illich who, in his book Deschooling Society, warned us in 1970 of the harmful effects of schooling, especially on the poor. Today we complain about the illiteracy of graduates from high schools, we see the malaise of students, we see criminal behaviour in schools and we blame all of these on poverty, apartheid and other social evils but we overlook the evil that school itself presents.


According to Illich, we have bought into a number of myths about education – the fundamental one being that learning is the result of instruction. But learning is not the result of instruction. Learning is self-motivated and happens informally through observation, experimentation, experience and self-regulated study. And it is both problem-solving and goal-oriented. Real learning occurs when learners have real problems to solve.

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My Work

For me, a writer is a filter of experience – experience both lived and observed. So when I write, I am inspired by real people and I write about real people. My characters do not come straight out of my imagination.  They leap out of life into my imagination where they become involved in a struggle for freedom because that is what I am interested in – defining freedom. That is what writing is – the documentation of a writer’s pursuit of freedom.  Most of us tend to take the word freedom for granted and assume we know what it means, and that it is all good. But total freedom is frightening.  It makes the onerous demand that one take responsibility for creating one’s life.  To avoid that responsibility, most of us submit to unfreedom: the security of social norms and values even when these become restricting.  A writer does not.

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