Original Research

Grassroots struggle: The representation of the black voice in Maishe Maponya’s The Hungry Earth (1980)

Khaya M. Gqibitole, Shamsuddeen Bello
Literator | Vol 41, No 1 | a1634 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v41i1.1634 | © 2020 Khaya M. Gqibitole, Shamsuddeen Bello | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 July 2019 | Published: 22 December 2020

About the author(s)

Khaya M. Gqibitole, Department of English, Faculty of Arts, University of Zululand, KwaDlangezwa, South Africa
Shamsuddeen Bello, Department of English and French, Faculty of Humanities, Umaru Musa Yaradua University, Katsina, Nigeria


Maishe Maponya is regarded as one of the pre-eminent, militant and critical voices of South African theatre. He was not only active in the black people’s struggle but also a committed playwright. To him, identity and belonging were inseparable in his quest for total liberation of the black people. Even commentators who often viewed his work as too radical and less creative could not silence the voice of the masses in his productions. Importantly, his productions not only spoke against the oppression of the black people, but also survived the draconian laws of the apartheid era. As Silber noted in 1984, Maponya and his group used the theatre of the struggle to conscientise their audiences about the socioeconomic conditions of their people. This article explores how Maponya used theatre to subvert the state and echo the travails of black people during apartheid in one of his plays, The Hungry Earth (1980). This article argues that the play is based on the people and their struggles – a clear indication that Maponya consciously articulated the hopes, dreams and frustrations of the people. The article also acknowledges the influence of Biko’s Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) on Maponya’s unflinching ‘call to cultural arms’ against apartheid, regardless of the lurking dangers.


Maishe Maponya; apartheid; Black Consciousness Movement; militant; conscientisation; The Hungry Earth.


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