Sunday, May 07, 2006


In the popular film industry of late, Athol Fugard’s ‘Tsotsi’ has been all the rage with box office ratings climbing ever more steadily after the Oscar acclaim it received. Some how, the opportunity to see the movie version on the big screen constantly passed me by, whether I had been in Johannesburg, Pietersburg or in Cape Town or Durban. So I happily resigned myself to the copy of the novel that presented itself to me at a local bookstore, and settled in to the read over the last few days. At the very least, I was tantalized by the metaphor and the psychological underpinnings of a young township lad, torn by life and circumstances beyond his control, and we are made to witness how he is both to lose and to find so much in his relatively short span of years.

Tsotsi is a metaphor. He lives this role commendably. He pushes the human psyche to its darkest limits in maintaining his day to day survival on the streets of Sophiatown. Set in 1950’s apartheid South Africa, his life is the culmination of events and circumstances under which the regime compelled its subjects to live, and the choices left before him are but a loose noose. I wondered, throughout my read of the text, whether that was what might make his death inevitable. Or not. Of course, this tainted notion was generously offered to me by a rather over-friendly cashier at the bookstore who needed to inform me, that she had both read and seen both versions of the ‘Tsotsi’ media, and that the difference between the pirate DVD and the original was that Tsotsi dies in one and not in the other. She could not remember which one, probably because of the dismay on my face that might have told her that she had ventured more than enough information. So, I read on consoling myself that there was this space for either eventuality. As is the life we live. A gentle reminder being ever present that you could die or live, at any moment. Mitch Albom* says, that this very knowledge is what attracts us to funerals, because the human soul knows that death doesn’t just take someone, it misses someone else. And in taking and missing souls, lives are changed.

All of that being said, ‘Tsotsi’ is anything but predictable. The potential for love and life that is the birthright of every human child is severed from him without his knowledge. To be re-found in a kind of rebirth at the very end. To assume that a mind as devious and dark as Tsotsi is, showing no remorse at the endless murders he masterminds and carries out, might engage in anything contrary is largely difficult. Against such a background, when we are gradually made to witness evocations of compassion and mercy in him, they occur as the sunrise of a new day. A new man is born. A man is born! His name is David Madondo. And we are made to see, indeed, that God moves in all things.

*Albom,M. 'The Five People You Meet in Heaven'


Bilal said...

Really good show- reality in our backyards but we far away from reality...

zee said...

hey there! Gr8 blog.

Unfortunately, i cannot comment on Tsotsi since i havent watched it nor have i read i'm trying to avoid all discussion surrounding it for now! :)

i intend reading the book rather than watching the movie (here its much much better)-at the moment its sitting on my shelf, collecting dust, but will get around to reading it soon.

Take care

kimya said...

hi zee..

thnx for the visit..
im more of a rambler than a blogger of note...:)

tsotsi, the movie, im told, has been leant quite a different slant from the book.. havin read the book, my next step is to attempt the dvd.. the difficult bit is gettin me to sit down in front of the tv for long enough:P

mish said...

i'm impressed ;)! u should have let me know about this sooner ;)

can't see myself settling down with this book soon but looking forward to the dvd...

btw, have u read Fugard's play: Boesman & Lena? think you'll enjoy it.