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.

Stories from the Asiatic Bazaar can be purchased from IQRA Agencies in Laudium.
Contact: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 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.

Social Cohesion Conference

This is a response to the SABC 1programme Sunday Live, 8 July 2012 Social Cohesion Conference

I agree with Andile Mngxitama that such conferences are about myth making. One can tell that by the crowded agendas. Instead of trying to tackle all the problems that one can derive from such a topic, it is much better to choose one clearly defined problem and find solutions to it. One could, for instance, concentrate on how to improve living conditions in squatter camps (the use of the term ‘informal settlements’ is part of the myth making process) and that would lead to all kinds of practical considerations: housing, water, sewerage, electrification, unemployment and resettlement.

Conferences, however, are only talk shops and people become high on words and reach a catharsis in talk that is not connected to practical application. Discussions on racism are just such an exercise. They are a complete waste of time: people become bogged down in personal perceptions of wrong and are carried away into the world of words without action.

The land issue is a very complex problem. What should be recognised is that large agricultural estates need to be left intact as they provide sustenance for the whole society. What needs to be considered is how to turn these large estates into communally held enterprises from which all those who work in them benefit as shareholders. These estates should also become training grounds for the workers in all aspects of production and management so that they have opportunities for promotion where they work.




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Brett Murray's painting "The Spear."

Brett Murray’s Painting “The Spear”



In the last two weeks, South Africans have been in an uproar over Brett Murray’s painting “The Spear” which presents the figure of President Jacob Zuma in a Lenin-style pose with his genitals exposed.


The artist who painted the portrait, the Goodman Gallery which exhibited the painting and the City Press which published a photograph of the painting have all been accused of racism, and a lack of respect for human dignity. There were protests outside the Goodman Gallery; the painting was defaced; the matter was taken to court where an advocate was reduced to tears at the insult to the President and black people in general; the ANC led a formal protest march to the gallery; and demands have been made that the painting be taken down and photographs of it be removed from websites.

Barend la Grange and Louis Mabokela were arrested for defacing the painting at the Goodman Gallery. La Grange a white man and Mabokela, a black man, worked on the painting at the same time, but independently of each other. Strangely, it seems they were hardly aware of each other, did not even speak to each other. When they were arrested, the white man was treated with dignity but the black man was pushed around and handled very roughly by black policemen. This little noted complex of racist behaviour continued into the media. La Grange was invited to appear on TV programmes to explain his motive in defacing the painting. He said that he wanted to demonstrate that not all white people are racist. As far as I can tell, no one interviewed Mabokela, who was as intent on restoring human dignity. Why? Because he is black and not a prominent citizen? The complexity of racist attitudes that is implied in the treatment of these two men has been overlooked. Such subtleties cannot compete with exposed genitalia, but they are indicative of ingrained racism. As long as we take for granted that whites and blacks are to be treated differently, we will never be rid of racism

Andile Mngxitama, criticises the ANC for allowing such a situation to prevail. In his article,   “Murray's 'Spear' exposed ANC's inability to deal with racism,” (Sowetan, 29 May 2012) he writes: “Murray's painting is racist from beginning to end. The fact that the ANC has no language to explain and speak back to white arrogance speaks volumes about its state of mind as a party in power.” This statement unwittingly echoes Brett Murray’s view of the impotence of the ANC. Where Murray depicts it visually, Mngxitama depicts it verbally.

Puleng Mmila of Seokodibeng in an article “Painting is not racist” (Sowetan, 29 May 2012) writes:   “... it is a fallacy to claim, as Mantashe and others seem to suggest, that the painting is an insult to all black people.    ...                                                                                                   To label all whites racist because of Murray's action is no different than labelling all blacks corrupt because they are in charge of the government, where graft is rife. What an iniquitous generalisation.”

It is too easy, but very common in South Africa, to label racist that with which we do not agree. This tendency to label things racist diverts us from real issues and makes it difficult to solve actual problems. Mmila reminds us that the tendency to use the race card is in itself racist because it denies individual freedom, confines us to group-think and leads to racial stereotyping.  Individual freedom is the cornerstone of democracy.

In news24 (Internet) article, “ I Am Not A Racist”, Brett Murray explains:

The Spear had a dual purpose: it was a work of protest or resistance art, and a satirical piece.          

"For me, The Spear has a far broader meaning.... It is a metaphor for power, greed and patriarchy,"

"From my perspective as an artist, I felt a sense of betrayal, where heroes of the struggle now appeared to be corrupt, power-hungry and greedy, or where ideals that many had died or made sacrifices for were abandoned on the altar of expedience."

"For me, satire is critical entertainment. While I might be attacking and ridiculing specific targets, what I am actually doing is articulating my vision of an ideal world in which I want to live."

Many people in South Africa, Black and White, identify with these views. It is unfortunate that the real meaning of the painting was lost in the furore over human dignity and the witch hunt for racism. The penis was more compelling in itself rather than as “a metaphor for power, greed and patriarchy." The symbolism of the painting was completely lost. No one could see that the figure in the painting was symbolic.

It is time to recognise that we live in conflicting paradigms: tradition versus democracy.

We have consciously chosen democracy as a way of life. Our traditions are what we are born into and traditions are conservative. There can be no democracy without freedom of expression and that means the freedom to criticise. Democracy does not recognise sacred cows; everyone lives under scrutiny and is subject to criticism, even presidents. So we have to make up our minds. Do we have the courage for democracy? Or do we want the security of restricting social conventions? Do we want to live under authoritarianism again?

Muthal Naidoo

30 May 2012







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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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