‘The Red On The Rainbow’ questions human rights of black people in South Africa

Thapelo Mohapi. Picture: Ihsaan Haffejee

Thapelo Mohapi. Picture: Ihsaan Haffejee

Published Mar 8, 2022


Critically acclaimed production “The Red On The Rainbow” shines the spotlight on the ongoing racial issues in South Africa as the country commemorates Human Rights Month.

Inspired by the murder of 16-year-old Matlhomola Moshoeu who was allegedly caught stealing sunflowers at a farm in Coligny, North West province, the play explores the value of an of black lives particularly in small farming towns.

The hard-hitting play is written and directed by award-winning theatre-maker Monageng “Vice” Motshabi.

“The Red On The Rainbow” follows the aftermath of the death of a young man on a maize farm at the hands of a farmer’s son and his friends.

Formerly known as Sharpville Day, Human Rights Day in South Africa is linked with the events of 21 March 1960. Sixty-nine lives were lost, while many were left wounded when police fired on a crowd during the protest against the Pass laws in Sharpeville, south of Joburg.

“This plays raises questions about how far we’ve come from the actual Sharpeville Day. Has something changed in terms of how we value a black life?” says Motshabi.

“The taking of black life is still very questionable in this country, particularly in small communities, in those small farm towns, it’s easy to kill black people to move and most people have got away with it.

“The general spirit of refusing to recognise the humanity of black people that was widely accepted by white people in 1960 can still be seen in most small farming towns today at full blast.

“Staging this production during Human Rights Month will hopefully remind us that the Sharpeville massacre did not end on Sharpeville Day. In this county, victims of human rights abuse still wear a black face. The rainbow is red with black blood.”

“The Red On The Rainbow” cast. Picture: Ihsaan Haffejee

Motshabi wrote the play with support from the Literarische Colloquium of Berlin between 2019.

In 2021, the play premiered at the Soweto Theatre as part of Joburg City's Arts Alive International Arts Festival.

“When I started working on this play, the brief was to develop new material that was responding to the invisibility in the world.

“I got inspired by novel Invisible Man, where Ralph Ellison is exploring the idea of black invisibility in the world …how people don’t see you as a human being. You are essentially invisible, so I thought what could be a parallel in today’s society of that kind of invisibility. That’s was when I got to look at the story of the Matlhomola.”

The play was adapted into a short film by Berlin’s Label Noir, which was presented at the Maxim Gorky Theatre in 2020.

“The original idea was just to have a rehearsed reading of the work and due to Covid, they decided the best way to do it was to create a film, so that’s what led to the adaptation into a film.

“And the show received rave reviews because the story resonated with a lot of people around the world.”

“The Red On The Rainbow” begins its national tour at the South African State Theatre this Thursday 10 and runs till Sunday, March 27.

It will then move to the Free State, Kimberly before heading to the Joburg for a limited season at the Market Theatre.

Tickets for the show are available at Webtickets from R104.

Related Topics: