Column May 2015.
The car turns left and leaves the busy central market of the village, downhill. I see the sign on a dusty wall: Mortuary. I turn to my left and see that my wife did not see it, I decide that I also did not see it otherwise the long travel to the south of KZN, to visit a community theatre group might have been for nothing. I am sure my wife will never go in to a mortuary, even not to watch a theatre show.
When we arrived in the village the group leader told us that two day’s ago due to torrential rains and thunderstorms 9 people died. That is why we can not see their theatre show in the community hall that is prepared for the funeral services tomorrow, also other venues are not available, “ But we’ll make a plan, my actors are already working on it and preparing the space” . He climbs in the car, we pass the busy market, left, downhill and stop in frond of the mortuary. I start having an idea what that plan might be. We are asked to wait outside and let them prepare the set up. My wife enjoys the view over the green hills, she takes a deep breath, “ It smells like nature ”, she is still not aware what is happening in the building behind us. I smell the mild stench in the air as well. We are sitting with our backs to the mortuary. Maybe I should tell her, but the longer I wait the more difficult that decision is to make. Through the windows behind me I see coffins, sometimes a cooling machine starts its work, refrigeration and chemicals control the odors. I still decide not to tell her where we are. Behind me in another hall the members of the theatre group walk in and out. They open all the windows to get fresh air inside. Their plan is clear they want to use one of the mortuary spaces to showcase their show, and now they are removing the coffins to another hall, they hope we are not aware what is happening, and I pretend I am not. I will tell her later but not now.
Half an hour later we gather in a dark space where with some movable lights a show is presented. It deals with land issues and the actors are doing everything to bring it to life, but also they are worried not comfortable in the presence of the spirits of the deaths. In a way I admire the group, they are brave and will do everything to make sure we will see their work. There is not much time after the show to talk, they thank us and we have to move, we’ll phone later, probably they have to move back the coffins before dark. Hours later, on our way back to Durban I tell my wife. She thinks I am joking. I have to stop the car and show her a picture that I took of her sitting in front of the mortuary, behind her on a paper it say’s visiting hours Mortuary 09.00 till 17.00. She screams and shouts, I have to promise never even to bring her to those spaces. When I try to defend myself with the love of theatre she says: love for the arts should not kill us. Silent we drive back, of course she is right.