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Adam Small’s 1978 Drama The Orange Earth Published for the First Time

The Orange EarthNew from NB Publishers, The Orange Earth by Adam Small:

This drama, a lyrical and dreamy but at the same time searingly painful piece about reminiscence and injustice, was written in 1978, in the heyday of apartheid and two years after the Soweto uprising. It has been staged several times, but this is the first time it has been published. It is essentially a piece of resistance theatre, but its artistic strength and lasting relevance lie in the way it demonstrates how painfully intimate resistance and loyalty are entangled.

The Orange Earth is regarded as Small’s most personal literary work; he himself described it as a fictionalised autobiography. The title of the text is in fact the name of the hamlet near Robertson where Small grew up. The drama tells the story of a coloured man who plants a bomb in a supermarket and is then prosecuted and jailed for this deed of terror. During the trial and in his prison cell he has an ongoing conversation through flashbacks with the past, specifically the key moments that determined his identity and his resistance. The climax of the drama is a conversation – a confrontation – in the prison cell in which the detainee, his wife and his father, as well as the Afrikaans warden, participate. This climax revolves around the perception that the captive and warden are separated but also joined by that which determines their respective identities. What is at stake is our language, our church, our land.

About the author

Adam Small was born on 21 December 1936 in Wellington. He matriculated in 1953 at the St Columbas High School in Athlone on the Cape Flats. He then attended the University of Cape Town where he studied for a degree in Languages and Philosophy. In 1963 he completed an MA (cum laude) in the philosophy of Nicolai Hartmann and Friedrich Nietzsche. During the same time period he studied at the University of London and the University of Oxford.

Adam became a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Fort Hare in 1959, and in 1960 he was one of the academic founders of the University of the Western Cape (UWC) when he was appointed as the Head of the Philosophy Department. In the early 1970’s he joined the Black Consciousness Movement.

In 1973 he was pressured to resign from the UWC. This prompted a move to Johannesburg, where he became the Head of Student Body Services at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). He returned to Cape Town in 1977, where he was Director of the Western Cape Foundation for Community Services until 1983. In 1984 he returned to the UWC as the Head of the Social Services Department, a position he held until his retirement in 1997.

Adam Small made his debut as a poet in 1957 with Verse van die liefde. Some of his other well known poetry volumes include Kitaar my kruis (1961) and Sê Sjibbolet (1963). His best known theatrical drama is Kanna hy kô hystoe (1965).

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