The Road to Mecca by Athol Fugard. Background Information. Athol Fugard Born in 1932 in the Eastern Cape. Afrikaans mother, English father. Qualified as a mechanic, degree in social anthropology, worked as a sailor. Started theatre group in 1954 and wrote plays performed in the Labia.
The Road to Meccaby Athol Fugard
Born in Nieu Bethesda 1898
Close to mother, troubled relationship with father
Trained at as a teacher
Married man from Nieu Bethesda
Husband a diplomat: travelled Europe and Far East with him
Two abortions during marriage – afraid her child would be born with horns and cloven hooves
After divorce, waitress in Muizenberg
Returned to Nieu Bethesda to care for parents until their death
Drifted away from conventional social fabric of Nieu Bethesda
Married again, a furniture restorer
Engrossed in art, neglected appearance
Shy, introspective, considered an eccentric
Plagued by arthritis and failing vision in later years
Suicide 1976: drank caustic soda
Cremated and ashes scattered in Camel Yard
The Owl House
Helen wanted to brighten up her life:
Altered her house: larger windows, mirrors, crushed glass, candles, lamps
Transformed her yard: dominated by statues
400 statues, constructed by Helen and 3 employed men
Koos Malgas helped worked with her for last 12 years of her life; responsible for most of restoration in 1980s
Difficulty to sculpt (arthritis) and little faith in own artistic skills (worked from pictures, pictures drawn by others and ornaments)
Division of labour results in controversy about who real artist is
Helen left no explanation - interpretation speculative
Critics say her work represents tensions between conscious and unconscious, creation of light reflects her fears of her dark side
Statues represent people and objects in her life: replica of Compassberg, pyramids, sphinx, statue of Helen, owls, little devil (her baby?)
Helen special fondness of owls: no owls in Nieu Bethesda but Helen familiar with them and had a pet owl.
Fugard drove through Nieu Bethesda.
Decided to buy house for getaways from the city.
Heard of eccentric woman.
Strolled to her house to see work and saw her working on the statues.
Helen died 2 years after he bought his house in Nieu Bethesda.
Fugard intrigued, but not enough to write about Helen.
Soon after, actress asked him why he has never used 2 female characters.
Then discovered Helen had friendship with female social worker, with a strong social conscience, from Cape Town.
At this stage so intrigued, he started writing The Road to Mecca.