Image via pensouthafrica.co.za

Petina Gappah recently announced that she was writing a play that focuses on “the 1982 banning and unbanning” of Dambudzo Marechera’s novel, Black Sunlight. The play, also titled Black Sunlight, will explore the themes of “censorship, writing, and the nature of creativity” and will be framed through “a Mozart/Salieri style rivalry.”

Black Sunlight (1980) is Marechera’s second major work and his first novel. The book follows the story of Chris, a photojournalist who becomes involved with a group of rebellious anarchists. Its stream-of-consciousness style, non-linear narrative, and imagery mark a shift away from the realism of earlier writers in post-independence twentieth-century African literary history. The novel was banned by the Zimbabwean authorities for supposedly being a critique of the state’s efforts toward nation-building.

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Black Sunlight will be Gappah’s second play. We should have known that this play was in the works; in a February 2020 interview with The Guardian, Gappah, in response to the question “What books are on your bedside table?” mentions that “some of [these books] are related to projects I’m working on,” and that she’s been “reading a lot of plays, including works by Harold Pinter and Wole Soyinka.”

A table reading of Black Sunlight at Reps Theatre Upstairs in Harare is scheduled for August this year. Black Sunlight will premiere in Harare in 2021.


Congratulations Petina Gappah! We are unbelievably excited, and hope that the play will reach shores beyond Harare.