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Posted April 3, 2001
Home sweet home: a place of love, refuge, and memories. For Helen Martin¿s it was also her life, her work and her Mecca. In the play ¿The Road to Mecca¿ Athol Fugard explores the question: Should we leave our Mecca when we can no longer take care of ourselves? The conflict between the three strong willed characters Helen, Elsa and Pastor Marius bring to light fundamental questions concerning different religions, cultures, genders, ages and environments. Fugard said the play was suggested by the life and work of Helen Martins of New Bathesda, South Africa. The real Helen from age 50 to 75 transformed her house into a personal universe that enters the realm of archetype, symbol and metaphor. The house, furniture, windows and walls became a kaleidoscope of colored glass. In her garden she constructed over 200 figures: owls, Biblical figures, Buddhas, and ancient gods and goddesses. One South African scholar described her work as one of the most stirring experiences of his life and another called her one of South Africa¿s artistic geniuses. Fugard in his play shows Helen¿s creations as a glorious, makeshift oasis of creativity and life force and Elsa, his character, sees Helen as an example of freedom and transcendence. One powerful scene is when Helen, seated in her Mecca with dozens of candles playing off glittered walls and mirrors, tells Pastor Marius ¿I can¿t reduce my world to a few ornaments in a small room in an old-age home.¿ The effect is stunning. The play is thought provoking and gives few answers. Helen is alive when it ends. Sadly, in 1975, the real Helen committed suicide. She drank caustic soda and died after three days I solitary agony. Her will included complex instructions listing in detail the ritual disposal of each of her sculptures. But today her home, known as ¿The Owl House¿ has been proclaimed a national monument and is a mecca for artists and tourists.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.