Can Themba – The Suit

The mind is a funny thing. Seeing this poster took me back in time – one of the best short stories I read at school was The Suit by Can Themba. What was doubly remarkable about this story is that we white kids read a black man’s short story at a white state school in Apartheid South Africa. Whether it was on the curriculum or we had a liberal English teacher or two, I cannot tell you – In hindsight, I think it was the latter though because another book which featured was Alan Paton’s Cry the Beloved Country (which we pupils refused to read as it was too real for the time).

Themba’s story was vivid, you could visualise the events as they unfolded and even writing now, I can recall some of the images I conjured up then. Perhaps this is a flashback to having seen the stage production too in the early 1990s at The Market Theatre in Johannesburg. I see now the story has been made into a film.

It is only fitting that the story of Can Temba be shown at The Market Theatre. The Market and Windybrow both played instrumental roles in my political and cultural development during the 1990s. They had shows which were different to the mainstream, thought-provoking and challenging the status quo. Hopefully the production of Can Themba’s lifestory does the same for audiences today as the short story and production did for us in the 1980s and 1990s respectively. It’s writing which crosses boundaries.

updated; first published 24 January 2017.

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