Sizwe Bansi Is Dead

by

Athol Fugard

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Photos Symbol Icon

In Sizwe Bansi Is Dead, photographs represent Black South Africans’ dreams—dreams that South Africa’s white-supremacist apartheid government cannot destroy, although it can make their realization uncertain. The play introduces the symbolism of photography through the character Styles, a self-employed Black photographer. Before becoming a full-time photographer, Styles worked for six years at an automobile factory under a racist white boss, Bradley, who made him feel like a “tool” and a “circus monkey.” Though Styles’s family didn’t understand his dream of becoming a photographer, he chased it because he suspected being his own boss would make him feel like a “man”—and indeed, in the present of the play, he seems far more fulfilled than he was in the automobile factory. Having fulfilled his own dream, Styles believes the purpose of his photographs is to document and memorialize other marginalized people’s dreams: he takes photos to commemorate the late-life educational certification of a man who didn’t receive good schooling as a young person; to document the 27-person extended family of an elderly patriarch who always wanted to own a family photograph; and to illustrate the triumph of Sizwe Bansi, an unemployed man who wants to support his wife and children and finally gets a job after stealing a dead man’s passbook, which contains a work permit. In each case, the characters’ dreams are somehow uncertain or compromised. The man with the educational certificate wants to become a “graduate, self-made” through correspondence courses, which, given his late middle age and full-time work, may not happen. The elderly patriarch dies before Styles has developed the family photos. Finally, Sizwe may not be able to get away with stealing a dead man’s identity for very long. Thus photos represent both the persistence and the vulnerability of Black South Africans’ dreams under apartheid.

Photos Quotes in Sizwe Bansi Is Dead

The Sizwe Bansi Is Dead quotes below all refer to the symbol of Photos. 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: 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:

BUNTU: It’s your only chance!

MAN: No, Buntu! What’s it mean? That me, Sizwe Bansi . . .

BUNTU: Is dead.

MAN: I’m not dead, friend.

BUNTU: We burn this book . . . [Sizwe’s original] . . . and Sizwe Bansi disappears off the face of the earth.

Related Characters: Buntu (speaker), Sizwe Bansi/Robert Zwelinzima/Man (speaker)
Related Symbols: Passbooks/Reference Books, Photos
Page Number: 183
Explanation and Analysis:
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Sizwe Bansi Is Dead PDF

Photos Symbol Timeline in Sizwe Bansi Is Dead

The timeline below shows where the symbol Photos 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
...Port Elizabeth, a youthful man named Styles walks into Styles’s Photographic Studio, whose sign advertises photos for both celebrations and official documents like Reference Books. Styles wears a dustcoat but also... (full context)
Official Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Documented Reality vs. Lived Reality  Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
...his studio, expresses his pride. He claims his studio isn’t some rote operation churning out photographs for official documents like reference books. Styles claims to use photography to commemorate people with... (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 the studio one day... (full context)
Official Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
Styles continues examining the photographs on display. He calls one photograph his “best.” One day, a 27-person extended family—from tiny... (full context)
Racial Hierarchies and Wealth Inequality Theme Icon
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.... (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 in World War... (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 arrested when someone... (full context)
Racial Hierarchies and Wealth Inequality Theme Icon
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 that he only wants one... (full context)
Official Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Documented Reality vs. Lived Reality  Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
...pipe from his pocket to use as a prop. Styles suggests that they use the photo background to make Robert look like an important employee. He adds a world map to... (full context)
Documented Reality vs. Lived Reality  Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
After telling Robert he’s finished, Styles suggests Robert get more than one photo. He suggests a postal worker might open his letter looking for money and throw away... (full context)
Racial Hierarchies and Wealth Inequality Theme Icon
Official Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Acting and Truth Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
When 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.... (full context)
Racial Hierarchies and Wealth Inequality Theme Icon
Official Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
...Zola’s place and brought him to the Labor Bureau. There, a white man examined his passbook, and then someone else came and stamped his passbook. (full context)
Racial Hierarchies and Wealth Inequality Theme Icon
Official Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
Buntu asks to see Sizwe’s passbook. When Buntu asks whether Sizwe understands the stamp, Sizwe explains that he can’t read. Buntu... (full context)
Racial Hierarchies and Wealth Inequality Theme Icon
Official Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
...points out that Sizwe couldn’t get a license to sell them because of his stamped passbook. At last, Buntu tells Sizwe he should return to King William’s Town and get a... (full context)
Racial Hierarchies and Wealth Inequality Theme Icon
Official Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
...Buntu is from Port Elizabeth, he had a difficult time getting the stamps in his passbook that allowed him to get a job and a house. (full context)
Official Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Documented Reality vs. Lived Reality  Theme Icon
Sizwe, hesitating, tells Buntu they should go to the police. Buntu says if Sizwe, “drunk, passbook not in order,” goes to the police, they’ll pin the murder on him. When Sizwe... (full context)
Official Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
While Buntu is gone, Sizwe notes that his passbook, like the dead man’s, “talks good English,” forbidding him to live where he wants or... (full context)
Racial Hierarchies and Wealth Inequality Theme Icon
Official Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
...the other lodgers may beat them up. He tells Sizwe he’s going to return the passbook to the man’s body, and then they’re going home. Sizwe asks whether Buntu would leave... (full context)
Official Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Acting and Truth Theme Icon
...he has and whether he’s a man. Buntu walks to Sizwe, holding the dead man’s passbook, and asks to see Sizwe’s. Sizwe, giving Buntu his passbook, asks whether it says Sizwe’s... (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
...and orders Sizwe to follow him. Back at Buntu’s house, Sizwe watches Buntu tear the photos from each passbook and glue them into the wrong passbook. Alarmed, Sizwe tells Buntu to... (full context)
Official Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
...he’s scared to be “another man’s ghost,” Buntu says living under white control with a passbook in a place where white children can call him “boy” already makes him a ghost—so... (full context)
Official Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Documented Reality vs. Lived Reality  Theme Icon
...Identity number. When Sizwe can’t remember the Native Identity number, Buntu grabs the dead man’s passbook, reads the number aloud, and makes Sizwe repeat it aloud after him. Afterward, Buntu again... (full context)
Racial Hierarchies and Wealth Inequality Theme Icon
Official Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Documented Reality vs. Lived Reality  Theme Icon
...a blank face. Then he questions Sizwe about his name and workplace and demands his passbook. Sizwe says he’s Robert Zwelinzima and works for Feltex, then he hands over the passbook.... (full context)
Racial Hierarchies and Wealth Inequality Theme Icon
Official Identity vs. Personal Identity Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
Sizwe examines his new passbook and pockets it. Then he finds the walking stick, newspaper, and pipe elsewhere and resumes... (full context)