Sizwe Bansi Is Dead

by

Athol Fugard

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Styles is a young, fashionable, funny Black photographer in apartheid South Africa. He is casual friends with Buntu and takes photos of Sizwe Bansi when Sizwe, under the name Robert Zwelinzima, enters Styles’s studio wanting photo-portraits he can send his wife Nowetu. For six years before he became a self-employed photographer, Styles worked in a Ford automobile factory under a racist white boss, Bradley, who made Styles feel like a “tool” and a “circus monkey.” Realizing that the factory’s racist environment and the official identity employee were destroying his self-esteem, Styles quit the factory and became his own boss, turning his photography side gig into his main occupation. Self-employment makes Styles feel like a “man”—illustrating how important fulfilling one’s personal identity and following one’s dreams are in the world of the play. Although Styles does take photos for passbooks and other official documents, he believes his photography’s true purpose is to memorialize marginalized people’s dreams and aspirational self-images. When he photographs Sizwe, he represents him first as a successful businessman and then as a happy husband traveling to reunite with his wife. These representations illustrate how good Styles is at identifying other people’s dreams—Sizwe really does want to make money, support his family, and see his wife again—but also how precarious and perhaps illusory the dreams Styles memorializes are, since Sizwe’s job will vanish if the white authorities realize he is using a dead man’s passbook.

Styles Quotes in Sizwe Bansi Is Dead

The Sizwe Bansi Is Dead quotes below are all either spoken by Styles or refer to Styles. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Racial Hierarchies and Wealth Inequality Theme Icon
).
Sizwe Bansi Is Dead Quotes

STYLES: I worked at Ford one time. We used to read in the newspaper . . . big headlines! . . . ‘So and so from America made a big speech: “. . . going to see to it that the conditions of their non-white workers in Southern Africa were substantially improved.”’ The talk ended in the bloody newspaper. Never in the pay packet.

Related Characters: Styles (speaker)
Page Number: 150
Explanation and Analysis:

STYLES: That was my moment, man. Kneeling there on the floor . . . foreman, general foreman, plant supervisor, plant manager . . . and Styles? Standing!

Related Characters: Styles (speaker), Bradley
Page Number: 152
Explanation and Analysis:

STYLES: ‘Gentlemen, he says that when the door opens and his grandmother walks in you must see to it that you are wearing a mask of smiles. Hide your true feelings, brothers. You must sing. The joyous songs of the days of old before we had fools like this one next to me to worry about.’ [To Bradley.] ‘Yes, sir!’

Related Characters: Styles (speaker), Bradley
Page Number: 153–154
Explanation and Analysis:

STYLES: I took a good look at my life. What did I see? A bloody circus monkey! Selling most of his time on earth to another man. Out of every twenty-four hours I could only properly call mine the six when I was sleeping. What the hell is the use of that?

Related Characters: Styles (speaker), Bradley
Page Number: 156
Explanation and Analysis:

STYLES: This is a strong-room of dreams. The dreamers? My people. The simple people, who you never find mentioned in the history books, who never get statutes erected to them, or monuments commemorating their great deeds. People who would be forgotten, and their dreams with them, if it wasn’t for Styles. That’s what I do, friends. Put down, in my way, on paper the dreams and hopes of my people so that even their children’s children will remember a man . . .

Related Characters: Styles (speaker)
Related Symbols: Photos
Page Number: 159
Explanation and Analysis:

STYLES: Something you mustn’t do is interfere with a man’s dream. If he wants to do it standing, let him stand. If he wants to sit, let him sit. Do exactly what they want! Sometimes they come in here, all smart in a suit, then off comes the jacket and shoes and socks . . . [adopts a boxer’s stance] . . . ‘Take it, Mr Styles. Take it!’ And I take it. No questions! Start asking stupid questions and you destroy that dream.

Related Characters: Styles (speaker)
Related Symbols: Photos
Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:

STYLES: You must understand one thing. We own nothing except ourselves. This world and its laws, allows us nothing, except ourselves. There is nothing we can leave behind when we die, except the memory of ourselves.

Related Characters: Styles (speaker)
Related Symbols: Photos
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:

STYLES: Here he is. My father. That’s him. Fought in the war. Second World War. Fought at Tobruk. In Egypt. He fought in France so that this country and all the others could stay Free. When he came back they stripped him at the docks—his gun, his uniform, the dignity they’d allowed him for a few mad years because the world needed men to fight and be ready to sacrifice themselves for something called Freedom […] When he died, in a rotten old suitcase amongst some of his old rags, I found that photograph. That’s all. That’s all I have from him.

Related Characters: Styles (speaker)
Related Symbols: Photos
Page Number: 163–164
Explanation and Analysis:

STYLES: Always helping people. If that man was white they’d call him a liberal.

Related Characters: Styles (speaker), Sizwe Bansi/Robert Zwelinzima/Man, Buntu
Page Number: 165
Explanation and Analysis:
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Styles Character Timeline in Sizwe Bansi Is Dead

The timeline below shows where the character Styles appears in Sizwe Bansi Is Dead. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Sizwe Bansi Is Dead
Racial Hierarchies and Wealth Inequality Theme Icon
Acting and Truth Theme Icon
Documented Reality vs. Lived Reality  Theme Icon
In the South African township of New Brighton, Port Elizabeth, a youthful man named Styles walks into Styles’s Photographic Studio, whose sign advertises photos for both celebrations and official documents... (full context)
Racial Hierarchies and Wealth Inequality Theme Icon
Official Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Styles recounts how once, “Mr Henry Ford Junior Number two or whatever” announced he would visit... (full context)
Racial Hierarchies and Wealth Inequality Theme Icon
Acting and Truth Theme Icon
...painted both a white line on the floor and a warning about the tow motor. Styles laughs at the memory, noting that this was the first time he’d seen such a... (full context)
Racial Hierarchies and Wealth Inequality Theme Icon
Acting and Truth Theme Icon
After painting the green line, Bradley called Styles over. Mimicking Bradley’s Afrikaans accent, Styles repeats Bradley’s question about how to translate “Eye Protection... (full context)
Racial Hierarchies and Wealth Inequality Theme Icon
Acting and Truth Theme Icon
...workers showered, the bosses gave them new overalls and new tools. The bosses also gave Styles, who worked in a particularly dangerous area of the factory, “a new asbestos apron and... (full context)
Racial Hierarchies and Wealth Inequality Theme Icon
Official Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Acting and Truth Theme Icon
Once the workers showered and dressed, Bradley demanded Styles translate a speech to the other workers. Bradley orated about how important Mr Henry Ford... (full context)
Racial Hierarchies and Wealth Inequality Theme Icon
Acting and Truth Theme Icon
The workers worked very slowly, singing. Styles saw Bradley and other higher-ups grooming themselves, not suspiciously monitoring the workers like usual. Then... (full context)
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Official Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
Styles, reading the newspaper again, notes an advertisement for Doom. He recalls how one day when... (full context)
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Dreams Theme Icon
Styles applied for a vacant room, which he planned to turn into a photography studio. Though... (full context)
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Styles imagines that after he went home, the remaining cockroaches had a secret meeting and performed... (full context)
Official Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Documented Reality vs. Lived Reality  Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
Styles, broadly indicating his studio, expresses his pride. He claims his studio isn’t some rote operation... (full context)
Racial Hierarchies and Wealth Inequality Theme Icon
Documented Reality vs. Lived Reality  Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
Styles points to a photograph on display and explains how the man it depicts came to... (full context)
Official Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
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Styles continues examining the photographs on display. He calls one photograph his “best.” One day, a... (full context)
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Official Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
The next week, the grandfather’s son came to retrieve the photos and told Styles the grandfather died and would never get to see the family portraits. Styles told the... (full context)
Racial Hierarchies and Wealth Inequality Theme Icon
Official Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Documented Reality vs. Lived Reality  Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
Styles indicates a photo of his own father on display. He explains how his father fought... (full context)
Racial Hierarchies and Wealth Inequality Theme Icon
Acting and Truth Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
Styles, noting another photo, is about to tell a story about a woman whose husband was... (full context)
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Official Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
Styles asks Robert how many photos he wants and how he wants to pose. Robert replies... (full context)
Official Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Documented Reality vs. Lived Reality  Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
When Styles praises Robert’s family-mindedness and asks where Robert works, Robert says Feltex. Robert is getting stiff... (full context)
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After telling Robert he’s finished, Styles suggests Robert get more than one photo. He suggests a postal worker might open his... (full context)
Racial Hierarchies and Wealth Inequality Theme Icon
Official Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Acting and Truth Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
...the camera flashes, all the lights go out and a spotlight finds Robert—replicating the photo Styles has just taken. Robert begins to narrate the letter he has written to Nowetu. He... (full context)
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Official Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
...things work out. He finishes the letter. Then he resumes posing as he did for Styles’s “movie.” Back in Styles’s studio, Styles looks at Sizwe through his camera, asks for one... (full context)