Here’s an urban arts scenario that appears to come with its own interpretive paradigm: a tale of two cities (or two sides of one city) and, as it turns out, two countries (both of which, in turn, have at least two sides).

In Johannesburg this month, you can make your way to the Market Theatre in Newtown to see Paradise Blue, Dominique Morisseau’s play about a jazz club in Black Bottom, Detroit, a “black spot” that was destroyed slowly by white mayors, councillors and business people in the decades after World War 2. It’s a tale about race in the US, about white government undermining black self-sufficiency through the language of urban decay. This kind of rhetorical trick is all too familiar to South Africans who recall the forced removals and demolitions enacted by the apartheid government at that time.

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