Our west coast premiere of Athol Fugard’s new play, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek, is inspired by a real life story. And what a story it is.
Nukain Mabuza was born in Mozambique. His mother was descended from a long line of Tsonga healers and diviners, a walker between worlds. While pregnant with Nukain she was instructed in a dream to take special care of her unborn son because great things were expected of him.
When Nukain was seventeen, his mother was killed at the riverside by a crocodile. Mabuza left his village, walked a long journey, met spiritual guides and had otherworldly visions. He was shown the whole universe, all life and the afterlife filled with birdsong. He moved to Soweto and found work in a factory. But his religious dreams and spiritual visions continued and he wandered the land. One night, Mabuza fell into a deep sleep. A surge of power coursed through him. When he woke, he was filled with a spirit to fulfill his mission: to go home and prepare the Garden of Eden.
Mabuza began creating his visionary garden near Revolver Creek in Kaapmuiden, Mpumalanga, in the late 1960s. He described how, looking downward from the top, the painted rocks appear to be flowers tumbling from heaven. Gazing up at his colorful hillside, he said, ‘I have the most beautiful garden in the universe.’ Mabuza passed away in October 1981. Legend surrounds even his death. Some say Mabuza dug his own grave at the top of his painted mountain before burying himself under a pile of rocks and taking his own life. He was later buried in a pauper’s grave in Emjindini Cemetery in Barberton. Although Nukain Mabuza died in relative obscurity, he left behind important works of art that today attract visitors from around the world. He has received posthumous recognition as an important South African “Outsider” artist. His “Garden of Flowers” continues to inspire other creative minds, including triggering the imagination of playwright Athol Fugard.