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Definition: Fugard, Athol from Philip's Encyclopedia

South African playwright, director and actor. Fugard achieved international acclaim for his plays The Blood Knot (1961), Sizwe Bandi is Dead (1972), and My Children! My Africa (1990). His work often explores the effects of apartheid on South Africa's black population and the country's rapidly changing modern politics. He published an autobiography, Cousins: A Memoir, in 1997.


Summary Article: Fugard, Athol (1932-)
from Encyclopedia of South Africa

A pioneer in breaking racial barriers in South African theater, Athol Fugard used theater to build bridges between blacks and whites from the 1950s to the present. Many of his plays are set in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape Province where he was raised by an English father and an Afrikaner mother. Instead of completing his studies at the University of Cape Town, Fugard hitchhiked throughout the African continent. Two years after returning home to South Africa, in 1956, Fugard married Sheila Meiring.

The pair relocated to Johannesburg in 1958 to work in theater. Fugard took a day job in the court system where he learned of the injustices of the pass law system. In his spare time, he established close ties with the black artists of Sophia-town, who worked with him on his first production, No Good Friday, in 1958, followed by Nongogo in 1959. Both plays featured black casts that depicted life in the townships. The many plays that followed addressed race relations in South Africa, including The Blood Knot (1961) and Boesman & Lena (1969).

In 1963, Fugard collaborated with a black performing arts group in Port Elizabeth called the Serpant Players. Fugard and two key members of this group, John Kani and Winston Ntshona, teamed up to write Sizwe Bansi Is Dead (1972) and The Island (1973). Bansi portrayed the hardships of South African migrant laborers, while The Island explored the lives of two inmates on Robben Island. From 1958 to 2008, Fugard wrote numerous plays, a novel, and two memoirs. Although not all of his plays discuss race and politics, his drama is known for creating interracial dialogue between groups. The 2005 adaptation of his novel Tsotsi was the first South African film to win an Academy Award for best foreign film.

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