Theatre production and NGO tackle issue on absent fathers

Being raised in single-parent households where the father is absent can have a ripple effect on a child’s life.

Two young men have taken time this Women’s Month to express their gratitude for their single mothers who raised them so that they could be an example to other youngsters.

Blessing Masia, 17, from Gauteng, has been raised by his mother Violet.

“I appreciate that my mother tries her best to show her love. If she cannot provide for us, she will go out of her way to make a way,” he said.

“She spends a lot of time with us and shows us so much love. She’s funny, open and a friend to me. I know that no matter what, I can always go to my mother,” he added.

The Character Company is a long-term mentorship programme which assists boys to be good men by instilling strong values that positively impact their families, communities and society.

Blessing has been a member of the Character Company for seven years and said he was grateful for the lessons he has learned.

“They’ve taught me there are good things in life. I struggled with my identity and self-esteem and they helped me uncover my worth,” he said.

The organisation’s founder, Jaco van Schalkwyk, said various problems can arise when a father is absent.

“Boys walk around with lots of frustration and low self-esteem and no one teaches them how to deal with it.

“They’re going to look for the answers to questions somewhere, be it in friends or society and that’s a very dangerous space to be in,” he said.

Van Schalkwyk said issues relating to gender-based violence, corruption, and suicide have socio-economic impacts.

“These issues are symptoms of a fatherless society. Every sphere of society is affected by fatherlessness and we can change that by changing the lives of young men,” he said.

Chad September, 28, grew up in a single-parent household with his mother, Bernadette Stuurman, in Mitchells Plain.

September was five when his parents divorced and said it made him feel like something was missing in his life.

“I only discovered at a later stage in life that what was missing was a father figure in my life.

“At a young age, I got expelled from school, ended up experimenting with drugs and stealing and served nine years in prison due to my rebellion.

“Through everything I’ve done, she’s supported me. She stood by my side to help me forward in life,” he said.

“Four Fathers: Bananas for the Baboons” is a new South African play that explores black fatherhood and absent fathers in South Africa.

The play’s director Kitso Seti holds a Master’s degree in politics from UCT and focused his research on how black theatre and its consciousness can be used to conscientise people, and make sense of black positionality in the world.

“When I grew up, none of the spaces around me had father figures. Our family lived in Khayelitsha and I didn’t have a present father, nor did my cousins.

“Having a father was a luxury where I come from. Growing up, we’ve had to navigate being better fathers to our kids, to break the cycle,” he said.

The director explained the latter part of the play’s title using the example of black people having previously been cast as baboons.

“At some point, the baboons will rise and ask for their bananas back. It’s asking back what belongs to them,” he said.

Seti said he tries to make sense of current affairs through the current state of the world.

“In a quest to better our future, we need to retrace and investigate the steps that led us here.

“Africa is reeling from a long list of effects of colonialism, and the collapse of the black family is one of them,” he added.

Statistics provided by Stats SA revealed that 70% of black children live without biological fathers at home. This is 49% for coloured children, 20% for white children and 14% for Indian children.

Professor Anita Bosch from Stellenbosch University said that the statistics can be contributed in part to the British rule and apartheid still playing out in families.

“Family structures are affected. I think that the legacy of forced migration remains,” she said.

“The geopolitical structuring of where we live also plays a part,” she added.

Bosch said the government’s lack of investment in industrialising remote areas is a contributing factor to this statistic.

“There are large portions of black families living in rural areas. If the government had supported industrialisation in those areas, breadwinners could choose to stay with their families by getting jobs closer to home,” she said.

Four Fathers: Bananas for the Baboons premieres on August 8 at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio and will be on show until August 20.

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