Rainbow Scars – Asking questions through theatre

Jay-Dee Cyster

Luckhoff High School – “With the pen and theatre we can get under the skin of the nation, to begin to expose what things are really like underneath.”

Rainbow Scars 1.jpg

These are the words of Mike van Graan, the writer of the thought-provoking play, Rainbow Scars.

Rainbow Scars tells the story of a suburban white woman, Ellen Robinson (Jennifer Steyn) and her adopted black daughter, Lindiwe Robinson (Kertrice Maitisa). It explores the dynamics between the two, within the context of the new South Africa. When Lindiwe’s cousin, Sicelo (Mbulelo Grootboom), re-enters her life she is faced with difficult questions relating to her identity and place within her family.

“The play is about who the rainbow is really for – who belongs to this so-called rainbow nation? In many ways, it is for a very small elite living in South Africa. Many people who are poor are on the other side of history and are not included,” said van Graan.

Van Graan wrote Rainbow Scars after the Marikana Massacre in 2012, in which 34 miners were killed. He said that the Marikana Massacre was a depiction of the nature of inclusivity of the rainbow nation – those who own the mines are part of the rainbow, whereas those who work in the mines are not.

Van Graan is known for using theatre to ask questions which many South Africans tend to shy away from. In his plays, amongst others, Dinner Talk (1996), Green Man Flashing (2004), and Brothers in Blood (2009), he uses theatre and the arts as a means of exploring racial, religious and social issues within our South African society. He is not afraid of raising issues which are contentious with contemporary South Africa.

“Theatre has a way of moving people emotionally. It does not only operate on an intellectual level but an emotional level as well,” said van Graan. “People are moved but also stimulated to think. In other words, through theatre, people are not being forced to follow a particular line.”

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