Company One’s high school apprentices went to Quincy Market last week to talk to people and spread the word about our show. Here’s an amazing rap they wrote about the play:
Enough is enough, so we’re speaking up,
Against the silence and violence, that will soon again corrupt.
Not so simple as black and white, yet these colors are the reason why we fight.
A certified homicide nationwide, recognize that genocide is never justified.
Company One Theatre doesn’t just put on a show,
They’re spreading the word, for everyone to know.
The Herero of Namibia were taught a lesson,
A lesson from the man, to never second guess ‘em.
A heritage and pride that was once so strong:
It was all so wrong.
But what happened in Namibia is just one case,
Of how greed and violence disgrace the human race.
From Rwanda to Darfur, from Armenian to Assyrian,
These atrocities too often occur, too many lost in oblivion.
We’re here to spread the word,
And see how much you know,
And hopefully convince you to see this awesome show.
Spread the word,
Not the violence
And stop the silence.
Here is a really interesting article by Liam O’Ceallaigh on King Leopold II of Belgium, who colonized the Congo in the late 1800s. O’Ceallaigh writes that despite atrocities Leopold committed there,
Most of us aren’t taught about him in school. We don’t hear about him in the media. He’s not part of the widely-repeated narrative of oppression (which includes things like the Holocaust during World War II). He’s part of a long history of colonialism, imperialism, slavery, and genocide in Africa that would clash with the social construction of a white supremacist narrative in our schools. It doesn’t fit neatly into school curriculums in a capitalist society. Making overtly racist remarks is (sometimes) frowned upon in ‘polite’ society; but it’s quite fine not to talk about genocide in Africa perpetrated by European capitalist monarchs.”
The question of what narratives make it into history books and become common cultural knowledge is, of course, central to We Are Proud to Present… Jackie Sibblies Drury told me the other day that she only learned about the Herero genocide when she happened to google “Germany and black people.” How many of us learned about it for the first time because of this play? How many of our audience members will be hearing about it for the first time?
Here are some examples of the German army around WWI marching:
This video is sped up, but note the arm motion.
A similar arm motion can be seen here. The arm bends only at the elbow, and the upper arm and shoulder remain still.
ACTOR 2: Are we just gonna watch some white people fall in love all day? … This is some Out-of-Africa-African-Queen-bullshit y’all are pulling right here, OK?
Out of Africa:
Out of Africa is a 1985 romantic drama starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. It is based on the true story of a wealthy Dutch woman who moved to British East Africa (now Kenya) to run a coffee plantation with her husband and fell in love with a free-spirited big game hunter.
The African Queen:
The African Queen is a 1951 romantic adventure film starring Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. Hepburn plays a British missionary who persuades Bogart, a rough riverboat captain, to help her attack German warship in order to avenge her brother’s death. The story takes place in 1914.
Despite the fact that both of these stories take place in Africa, the focus of both films are the white protagonists’ lives and loves. The African characters are either secondary or essentially non-existent. They are part of Hollywood’s long tradition of telling “the white version” of the story.
The letter is filled with Romance and Yearning.
Here we go:
First: Gone With the Wind. All the romance, all the yearning. Clark Gable at his best. See also for: problematic representations of black people
But of course no discussion of Romance and Longing would be complete without Casablanca.
WHITE MAN: There are trees of course, and those with the best shade are hotly contested for.
Acacia erioloba, known as Giraffe Thorn or as Camel Thorn (a mistranslation from the Afrikaans name “Kameeldoring”, meaning Giraffe Thorn), grows in western Namibia. It is a slow-growing tree, and doesn’t need much water.
This seems most likely to be the type of tree to which White Man is referring.
Aloe Dichotoma, known as the Quiver Tree or Kokerboom, is characteristic of the very hot and dry parts of Namibia. It is actually not a tree, but a species of aloe.
Adansonia digitata, commonly known as Baobab trees or “upside-down trees,” frequently live for between 1,000 – 3,000 years.
Also, some crazy, scorched trees in the Namib desert:
Read about the Scorched Tree Skeletons of the Namib Desert here. More photos here.
ACTOR 4: (sung) We’re all in this together
I am proud to present a blog post about the Disney Channel Original Movie High School Musical from 2006.
This particular line is first heard at 0:55.
One of Jackie Sibblies Drury’s main sources of inspiration for the writing of We Are Proud to Present… was the art of William Kentridge. Kentridge is a South African artist who engages with many mediums including drawing, film, sculpture, and printmaking.
Drury was particularly inspired by Kentridge’s piece Black Box / Chambre Noir, a multimedia instillation that combines projected animation and mechanical puppets and is specifically about the Herero genocide.
The Deutsche Guggenheim museum in Berlin’s website describes the project: “The development of visual technologies and the history of colonialism intersect in Black Box / Chambre Noire through Kentridge’s reflection on the history of the German colonial presence in Africa, in particular the 1904 German massacre of the Hereros in Southwest Africa (now Namibia).”
Here is a video of the work, filmed at the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam:
I personally feel the most resonance in the segment between roughly 1:30 – 8:00, but it’s a fascinating, unique piece and worth watching.
Special thanks to AD Daniel Jones for bringing this to my attention!
ACTOR 1: We are building that railroad. ACTOR 3: We are building that railroad. ACTOR 2: We are building that railroad.
Here is a sped-up recreation of a team laying railroad tracks in the 1800s:
Building a railroad like the one the Germans made the Herero construct has four main steps:
1. Laying an even bed (or ballast) of crushed or broken rock.
2. Laying large, rectangular blocks of wood called ties parallel to each other on top of the bed.
3. Placing long, thin steel rails perpendicularly across the ties.
4. Nailing the rails in place with large nails called spikes. The spikes are driven into the ties on both sides on the rails to hold them in place.
For letter-rapping reference: