Mike van Graan’s Rainbow Scars describes the fortunes and destinies of blacks who are raised by whites and those condemned to live in the townships.
Much as the play explores relations between a white mother and an adopted black daughter, the most interesting undercurrent is the theme of black identity and whether skin colour is enough to make one black.
In a very provocative manner, the play probes the near impossibility of whites to transcend racism even if they adopt and raise black children as their own.
I’m not sure if this is what makes the play predictable and weak in terms of storyline, character and content but these issues are more complex.
If a white father loves dogs and caresses the black child like one, what does it mean?
Both black and white families are divided and threatened by blackness as defined by skin colour.
In this production, we catch a glimpse of how the non-racial society is created. There is no doubt that that it will be on white terms with blacks disconnecting from their cultural and familial roots.
The storyline and characters could have been tightened in some instances but the writer, Van Graan, and director, Lara Bye, project a controversial but predictable view of these intra-black tensions and how they relate to white society.
The identity of the “coconut” is put into context and juxtaposed to what is assumed to be the authentic black township experience: poverty, Aids afflictions, death, violence, unemployment and anger.
There are curious insights into the not-so-nice life of what happens behind the high walls of suburbia. But beneath the superficial whiteness are deep rumbles of personal crises: Why do black kids who grew up thinking, talking and behaving white suffer from an identity crisis? Why are they disconnected from their black families? Do township kids who have no accent stand a chance in life? If they are victims who is responsible? Is the black middle class destined to help whites strangle the black poor?
Rainbow Scars tackles these complex issues and perhaps provides a detached platform for national discourse on this explosive issue. It is a fascinating story and describes the inherent self-destructive, structural challenges of our society and the way they determine one’s fate.
What happens to the black elites who have joined whites will always have a decisive influence on what happens to the black poor and disadvantaged. The valuable lesson is that privileged whites and their black cohorts will protect and preserve their advantages.
In its record of two black children born into the same family, it is the one who is part of white society that will succeed to be somebody.
It is a touching, engaging, emotional, painful and inspiring story that runs at The Market until December 8.