The road to mecca by athol fugard
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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.

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The Road to Mecca by Athol Fugard

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The road to mecca by athol fugard

The Road to Meccaby Athol Fugard


Background information

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.

  • Married actress Sheila Meiring.

  • Many black friends: wrote of these experiences.

  • Kept diary which was his source of ideas for writing.

  • Director, actor, playwright, novelist.

  • Works deal with relationships and racial issues.

  • 2 character plays, marginalised people.


Background information1

Helen Martins

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

Background Information


Background information2

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.

Background Information


The owl house

The Owl House


The camel yard

The Camel Yard


Why the play the road to mecca

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.

Why the play The Road to Mecca ?


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