By Sandile Dudu Saki
“Blackness is not an identity created by Black people themselves, but is a tag that is thrust upon those categorised as black by external forces,” proclaims I Bleached my Punani. Historically, a crucial piece of this ‘label’ is hair. Yet, not only is it an identity marker, but a booming business, and economy of its own.
From weaves and wigs, to bleaching and hair straightening, the franchise is cemented in politics. Performers, Auxillia Muchavereyi and Nthabiseng Mothibi, unpack the various social orders that surround black hair, using Feminism and Black Consciousness as a springboard from which to unload. Yet, they find a way to make us laugh at the same time.
The two performers excellently portray multiple characters from across continents, and even stir audience-actor interactions through the use of prompts to get us involved in the action.
Jika Performing Arts Academy’s production uses the tools of comedy to get us crying with laughter, then turning inwards, and reflecting. We are asked to think about the structures upholding particular beauty standards placed on women of colour, and black femininity.
Through its penchant for engaging storytelling, well-placed humour, and rootedness in historical and contemporary issues of identity, I Bleached my Punani is proof of the enduring ability of theatre to help us make better sense of the world, and our places in it.
I Bleached My Punani is on at, Dicks, Monument, until 28 June.