Jungfrau: The timeless struggle of women

Ameera Patel performs in Jungfrau, a performance that uncovers a family’s secrets behind ‘closed doors’. Photo: Megan Kelly/Cue.

With a twisted tale conveying a desperate need for acceptance and devotion, a daughter and wife find themselves anxiously fighting for the attention of their alpha male. This came as a result of infidelity. Jungfrau is nothing short of an authentic and exceptional offering speaking to the sacrifices women constantly make to summon their husbands’ unconditional and undivided love, affection, and time.

To this end, they conform to the idea of what a husband thinks a woman should be in order to earn their allegiance. Jungfrau highlights circumstances where a child is also at the receiving end of such behaviour and ends up feeling a sense of abandonment. The child then tumbles in frustration because the father has now suddenly vacated their attention elsewhere.

The play is set in Redhill, Cape Town, in the 1950s prior to the forced removals of Coloureds from Simon’s Town, at a time when the community was feeling helpless and unrecognised as worthy civilians of the country. It was a difficult time, especially for women who not only felt compelled to submit to their husbands but to the system as well.

Cast member Ameera Patel touched on the pervasiveness of such a dilemma in our society and the message the piece intends to convey to audiences. “I think we all know people like this. It’s one of those things that the minute you speak about it, you find 80% of the room can relate. I also really like how it explores the roles of women and the roles that we are forced to play within a family, within life, the ideas that we had for ourselves and what is imposed on us,” she said.

It also speaks to the various forms of patriarchy that women face and still are being subjected to. They are forced to adapt and become caricatures of an inconsistent and abstract idea of how a woman should behave. These forms can be referenced from centuries back and even now in an era supposedly pioneering democracy. For instance, women (especially black women), played a dominant role in the fight against Apartheid by actively speaking out against the policies and frameworks that sanctioned them and their communities. They also pushed for gender equality and upheld the establishment and recognition of women’s rights. These heroic attempts were stifled by patriarchy when union members brazenly disregarded their voices by refusing to involve them in political negotiations. Jungfrau unearths such layers of patriarchy but under the dynamics of marriage.

Jungfrau was directed by Jade Bowers, a Cape Town-born director and designer who adapts a physical style and theoretical arrangement to create drama that invokes invention and creativity. She was the 2016 Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre award winner and the 2017 Naledi award winner for best director. The play was presented in partnership with Festival Theaterformen (Germany).

By Leletu Tonisi