I wrote this piece in 1967. In 1983, I rewrote it for the Department of Drama at the University of Durban-Westville where it was performed in the Asoka Theatre from 11 - 23 April 1983. I revised it in August 2000 and edited it in 2008.
It deals with the schizophrenia that results from living in a racist society. A woman who is of mixed parentage, clings to one aspect of her ethnicity in order to find acceptance in one ethnic community. She is a member of the Indian community, but hankers after a White identity, shows tolerance of a Coloured identity but denies her African origins. She has to learn to see herself holistically before she can rid herself of her psychosis.
Though the play focuses on an individual woman, she is symbolic of the cultural ambivalence and racist attitudes that manifest in the Indian community.
It is my view that anyone who was born in South Africa and socialised into an apartheid culture, has imbibed racist norms and values. There are those who believe themselves to be free of racism; there are those who believe that only whites are racist. I believe that racism is a disease that we all contracted through living in a society that practised racial discrimination from the beginning of colonial times.
In Masks, Seetha goes through a process of rooting out her own racial prejudice; she has to destroy values that diminish her as a human being, accept and understand values that affirm her human dignity and all human dignity. I believe that every South African, Black and White, has to go through this process at some time in their lives.
Masks takes the form of a nightmare and is full of seeming irrationalities and contradictions. I was inspired to write this play after seeing Federico Fellini's film "Juliet of the Spirits" in the 1960's. My original title for the play, "Phantasmagoria," was rejected by the Drama Department at the University of Durban-Westville, so I chose the title "Masks."
SEETHA, a young woman, half Coloured, half Indian
PHANTOMS (Seetha's multiple personalities):
NONKULULEKHO (Seetha's African persona)
RADHA (Seetha's Coloured persona; the word Coloured in South Africa means a person of African and White parentage.)
SHANTI (Seetha's White persona)
KAMALA (Seetha's sister)
VISHNU (in love with Seetha)
REENA, Vishnu's sister
RAJ, a young Indian man
HARI, a young Indian man
OTHER PHANTOMS (who swell this chorus)
(It was performed by students of the Drama Department at the University of Durban-Westville)