Penal Illustrations

Part of: Scratching the Soil
  • Date: June 2013
  • Location: Downstairs Theater, National School of Arts
The Penal Illustrations performance is articulated around research on the Indian Penal Code of 1862, created as a way of consolidating local Sanskrit (Dharmaśāstra), Arabic (Al’Hidaya), and British law systems into one code, through a thirty year long commission chaired by Lord Macaulay. This code uniquely contains a series of textual ‘illustrations’ which describe the penal codes through abstract representations of legal and illegal acts.
In Penal Illustrations three performers are each given two words derived from the Indian Penal Code that, fail to remain on the level of abstraction, let the local contexts emerge in the simulations of the performance. The format of an improvised performance enacts everyday life scenarios that create infinite short circuit situations that might have existed or still exist within our post colonial times.

Penal Illustrations was made possible by ANT Funding from Prohelvetia.

The Indian Penal Code was highly influential in British Empire, its format was replicated in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. It also became an important reference point for the South African penal code and in the instance of the Transkei Penal Code (Draft 1 & 2) was adapted the local conditions with illustrations relating to tribal customs.

Improvised Performance
Number of performers: 3
Time: Variable

June 2013 Performance
Performance: Kyla Davis, Briony Di Horwitz and Mpho Osei-Tutu.
Funding: Pro Helvetia Johannesburg.
Special thanks: Downstairs Theater at the National School of Arts.