The Hungry Earth

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The Hungry Earth is a play by Isaiah Maishe Maponya (1951-2021).

The original text

A full length play about the mine-workers and their struggle against oppression under Apartheid. Drawing much on the structure of Brecht’s The Measures Taken, it presents a powerful "lecture-demonstration" of black working-class life in South Africa.

First written and performed in 1979 and the text first published by Polyptoton (London) in 1981. It was first anthologized by Temple Hauptfleisch and Ian Steadman in South African Theatre – Four Plays and an Introduction (HAUM Educational, 1984), and thereafter included in a variety of other collections, including: Postcolonial Plays (Routledge); South Africa Plays (Nick Hern Books, 1993) and Maponya's own collection, Doing Plays for a Change (Wits University Press, 1995).

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

1979: Originally performed by the newly formed Bahumutsi Players at the Donaldson Orlando Cultural Club in Soweto in May, then in the Wits Box.

1982: Performed by the Bahumutsi Players at the Laager Theatre from January 1982, and as a Baxter Theatre Production, directed by Maponya, starring Sydwell Yola, Simon Mosikile, Velile Nxazonke.

1983: Presented at the National Theatre, London, by the Bahumutsi Players, under the direction of Ian Steadman, later touring Britain and Germany, along with Umongikazi.

1986: Presented at Dramfes '86.


Brian Barrow and Yvonne Williams-Short, (eds.). 1988. Theatre Alive! The Baxter Story 1977-1987 The Baxter Theatre.

Loren Kruger 1999. The Drama of South Africa: Plays, Pageants and Publics Since 1910 London: Routledge

Percy Tucker. 1997. Just the Ticket. My 50 Years in Show Business. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press.

Stephen Gray (ed.) 1993. South Africa Plays. Nick Hern Books.

Andile Xaba. 2021. 'Collective memory and the construction of a historical narrative, analysis and interpretation of selected Soweto-based community plays (1984–1994)'. Unpublished PhD thesis.

Go to ESAT Bibliography

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