The Prophet

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The Prophet is a play about Nongqawuse, workshopped by Brett Bailey and cast.

The original text

A ritualistic account of a desperate and bizarre event in the history of South Africa: the Xhosa Cattle Killings. In 1856, while the amaXhosa nation was fraying under colonial incursions, an epidemic swept through their cattle herds, decimating the core of their economic, social and spiritual systems. A young Xhosa girl, Nonqgawuse, professed that ancestral spirits had communicated to her that the land and livestock were contaminated by witchcraft, and that the nation should destroy all its herds and crops and prepare for a day of regeneration. On this day the dead would rise to live with the living, the land would be purified and all settlers would be swept into the sea. Nonqgawuse’s prophesies caught the imagination of her people with horrifying consequences.

The play is the third in a trilogy of plays developed by Bailey, and published in the collection The Plays of Miracle & Wonder: Ipi Zombi? / iMumbo Jumbo / The Prophet (Juta, 2003)

Performance history in South Africa

1999: First performed by Third World Bunfight, designed and directed by Brett Bailey, with Abey Xakwe (as Nongqawuse) and Ndumi Zweni, premièred on the main programme of the Grahamstown Festival and staged in the round in an old power station in Grahamstown. The performance included the 15-odd full-time performers of Third World Bunfight, as well as several children and elderly women singers from Rini.

Translations and adaptations


Grahamstown Festival Programme, 1999.

Mail & Guardian, 11-17 June 1999.

See: [Van Heerden (2008)][1]. pp 144-147.

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