Black Consciousness Movement

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A specific Black Power or Black Consciousness movement in South Africa during the 1970s, also known simply as BCM.

This is a general name applied to a broad programme of action initated and best symbolized by the charismatic Steve Biko, its most prominent spokesman in the 1960s, which gained concrete manifestation in such organisations as the Black Community Programmes (late 1960s), the Black People's Convention (BPC – founded 1972) and the Black Allied Workers Union, which were all intended to co-ordinate the movement on the political, social and cultural fronts. Specific interpretation of the notions "black" and "the community" were defined by this movement, where Biko argued for an inclusive definition of "blackness", based not on pigmentation so much as mental attitude and thus a defining characteristic of a large and widely spread "community" with shared needs and ideals. The BCM stressed black independence of white collusion and conscientization became a central tenet of their cultural political programme.

The Black Consciousness Movement and South African Theatre

Much of the more “radical” and influential theatre produced between 1976 and 1986 relied heavily on the ideas of such activist writers as Bertold Brecht, Paolo Freire and Augusto Boal, and appeared to respond to and/or be in accord with the tenets of the BCM. A great deal of the critical writing of the time also utilized the BCM ideology as a basis for its classification, analysis and criticism. The impact of the BCM and the intellectuals who articulated it on theatre was strongly felt in the late 1960’s and 1970’s with the founding of PET, TECON, MDALI, FUBA, SASO, Mihloti, the Soweto Ensemble, and other organisations, as well as journals such as Black Review and S'ketsh'. Among the influential cultural leaders and artists involved were Mafika Gwala, Lewis Nkosi, Sipho Sepamla, Mthuli Shezi, and Molefe Pheto. Among the more prominent BCM playwrights of the time were Lewis Nkosi, Matsemela Manaka,Maishe Maponya, Mthuli Shezi, Zakes Mda, Barney Simon.


Loren Kruger, 1999: 129-142;

Ian Steadman, 198*,

Boonzaier and Sharp, 1988: 35

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