Hen's number was up, says iMumbo Jumbo director

The director of a play which aroused the ire of animal lovers when a chicken was slaughtered on stage two weeks ago says he does not regret the killing.

“The issues here are more multi-layered and complex than the sensationalists would have us believe,” says Brett Bailey in a letter published in the Cape Times on Monday.

He says the sacrifice of the hen on the final night of his play iMumbo Jumbo two weeks ago was not intended as a publicity stunt. His theatre company had in the past conducted ceremonies with “sacrificial offerings in appropriate circumstances”.

The four sangomas performing in iMumbo Jumbo had faked the chicken sacrifice during the run of the play, but Bailey says this “felt phoney”.

“It (the slaughter) had to be done: the last performance had to be real,” he says.

“So while I am sorry that the event offended some people, I do not regret that it was performed.”

Bailey says the difficulty with a theatre is that boundaries can blur, and something which is intended as a cultural sacrificial offering may easily be seen as merely a stunt.

“The stage implies a certain way of regarding what is presented on it ... As an artist I take on the role of pushing boundaries: the boundaries of society and of my self to open up images and to investigate them.
To promote debate. The theatre, like an art gallery, is a safe place in which to do this. In an over-sanitised world it is one of the few places left to us where such testing should be encouraged.”

However, in a letter published on the same page, thespian Pieter-Dirk Uys says, with reference to the slaughter, that professional theatre “has no place for amateur theatrics”.

Western Cape Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) chief inspector Shaun Bodington said on Monday that his organisation was “in the process” of developing a formal docket and charge in connection with the incident.

“We are just gathering all the facts, information and statements,” he said.

The SPCA would consult with its legal representatives on Tuesday on the details of the charges.

iMumbo Jumbo follows the quest of Chief Nicholas Gcaleka who travelled to Britain in 1996 in a bid to retrieve an ancestral skull. - Sapa

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