AT HER FEET. Written by Nadia Davids. With Quanita Adams. Pictures: John Guiterrez. Baxter.
KAT MANNE reviews
Staged at the Baxter Theatre sixteen years after its debut, this riveting play by author and playwright, Dr Nadia Davids is just as impactful today as it was in 2002. This may be the last time audiences can enjoy the play in its authentic form with Fleur du Cap award-winning actress Quanita Adams portraying the four vastly different Muslim women living in Cape Town. With international events disrupting the lives of these characters, Davids weaves a beautiful narrative of the seeds of Islamic feminism sprouting and growing in the minds of everyday women.
Davids began writing the play after 9/11 when the media began to illustrate stereotypical depictions of Muslim women that contradicted the women she knew and had met in her life. At Her Feet sheds light on the vast and vibrant personalities in South Africa’s Islamic community and the issues women face as a girl stoned for talking to a man, a grieving girl bound by tradition, a girl too black to meet her boyfriend’s mother, an angry mother cradling her beaten daughter and a pregnant woman reading about the horrors affecting Muslim children around the world.
As dark as these tales can be, their lives are overflowing with love and support – even if it is under the guise of a ‘bus’ auntie or a stubborn mother-in-law. The characters are wonderfully warm, sanguine and particular in their recollection as they share memories from childhood, gossip about an unruly boss or the wistful tale of an old crush. These memories span traditional and corporate spaces but they are all essentially the story of a Muslim woman who was challenged for being human. A travel agent donning the scarf of her faith, a young woman with an afro, or a little girl not understanding an age-old practice that prevents her from attending her mother’s burial. Often these moments begin as a light tale, turning quickly to shock, discomfort and sorrow and ending as a transformative point in their lives. Quanita handles this spectrum with finesse, moving gracefully in a silent yet passionate portrayal through dance, singing clearly between the echoing verses of slam poetry and sighing with the fatigue of an auntie wanting to tell a panoply of these stories and choosing only a few as she lights her cigarette.
Davids has weaved these stories together with the fondness and care of someone who understands each woman and loves them equally. We have much to learn about Islamic feminism but one of the most poignant factors observed in this play is that these women simply wanted to speak, to walk, to exist – and as much as we need a space for women to do that, we must create a society where Muslim women have agency over their lives in all spaces, where they are able to express their identities freely in a world that welcomes their faith, ethnicity and their gender.
What: At Her Feet
Where and when: Baxter Theatre until 8 December 2018