Original Research

Doing It for Athol: Representation and appropriation in My Life

M. West
Literator | Vol 20, No 2 | a459 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v20i2.459 | © 1999 M. West | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 April 1999 | Published: 26 April 1999

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M. West, School of Languages, University of Port Elizabeth, South Africa

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Abstract

Athol Fugard has spoken of his need to start again, as an artist. This new beginning is manifest in the two plays published jointly in 1996, My Life & Valley Song. The focus of this article is My Life, an innovative workshopped piece, involving five young women between the ages of fifteen and twenty-one, who offer a selection of “Images and stories from [their] personal biographies” - sub-title of the play. The stories that emerge in the text, I have argued, are not the ones that could have or would have emerged had the actors not been prompted and directed by Fugard. To justify this position a number of questions have been raised: Why did Fugard choose an all-female cast? Why are the actors all so young? What effect did the facilitator have on the actors’ willingness to share their stories? How are the concerns of race and gender treated? How are (self-)censorship and (auto-)biography to be understood in terms of the stories told? Fugard has claimed that he did not write this play, that the words and stories come from the actors themselves. The validity of this claim is examined in the light of these questions, and the politics of representation and of authorship are central to the argument.

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