Uncategorized Breaking the prison code

Breaking the prison code

Boebie Hamza put his life on the line to put Prison Codes on at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival 2009. The risk promises to be worth it.

He awoke to the sound of his cell phone beeping,

“Jou naam is op die hit list. Scarface* soek jou”. (Translated: Your name is on the hit list. Scarface* is looking for you.)

He did not kill anyone, report criminals to the police or threaten to assassinate someone; all he did was produce a play showing the realities of prison life in South Africa.

Boebie Hamza, writer and director of Prison Codes received a text message from a gang leader five weeks ago threatening to harm him unless he stops showing the play. Prison Codes, which premiered in Cape Town in June last year, takes a “realistic and authentic look at prisons”, explains Hamza.

“South African prisons are particularly unique compared to the rest of the world, because prisoners are not segregated along racial lines.”

The play centres on the life of David Adonis (Ricardo Januarie) who ends up in prison taking the rap for a crime he did not commit. Ultimately, a range of circumstances keeps Adonis in prison and the life of a prisoner in South Africa is revealed to the audience.

“When I got the SMS, I drove in my car looking around, waiting to be shot” said Hamza.

He was not prepared to cancel showing the play because he put a lot of time into the production and ensuring that he does “not step on anyone’s toes”.

“I wanted them to come see my play” said Hamza. He invited 52 of the harshest gangsters in the Western Cape to come to the theatre for the first time “breaking all the rules: walking around, cell phones ringing”.

The words “26”, ”27” and ”28” refer to notorious prison codes and after the show, the 26 and 28 gangs had a meeting with Hamza in which they commented that the play relays a brilliant message for the youngsters.

The 27 gang leader however had a problem with the minor details of the play.

Said Hamza: “They were subtle changes, but to them it meant everything. They had problems with things like a tattoo on the wrong place and discrepancies with who controls the food.”

Another point of disagreement was the divulgence of the 12 points of the three number gangs. “If you haven’t been a number, you are not supposed to know about the 12 points” but considering the positive message of the play, “they were okay with it”.

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