SQUAWK! – A Peace Play

Pigeon threatens to strike!

David Butler in SQUAWK!




Background to the play

This is a peace play. It was created by two South African actors, Ellis and Bheki in the turbulent years when South Africa was moving out of a century of white dominated rule and “apartheid” to a “new” South Africa which hoped for equal rights to all groups. Many people at that time hoped to create a peaceful “rainbow nation” especially under the leadership of a great South African leader, Nelson Mandela *.

This intergenerational play symbolizes human conflict and competition in a  metaphorical story about the birds of the world. The play concludes with the message that in order to make harmonious music together it is important for everyone to listen very carefully to what others are doing.

It is  an unusual play, because there is very little spoken language. The meaning is created through movement and sound and musical instruments.  This was purposely done to reach across the some 20 different South African languages (Zulu, Xhosa, Sothu etc,)  and will probably be understood by San Diego children whose first language is not English. The play has been performed in South Africa in  city schools and rural communities and has traveled widely to Scotland, England, Australia, Canada and the United States.

Ellis Pearson has given us permission to perform this play in the hopes that the message of peace and reconciliation will continue to take hold and grow in the hearts of children from all over the world.

*The African hero Nelson Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist, and the leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC). In 1962 he was arrested and convicted of sabotage and other charges, and sentenced to life in prison. Mandela served 27 years in prison, spending many of these years on Robben Island. Following his release from prison on 11 February 1990, Mandela led his party in the negotiations that led to multi-racial democracy in 1994. As president from 1994 to 1999, he gave priority to reconciliation.

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TYA at SDSU with Margaret Larlham

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