That Old Black Magic Background

That Old Black Magic Background

While Koffi Kwahulé is considered an internationally acclaimed writer, biographical information on Koffi Kwahulé himself is scant. It is known that he was born in the Ivory Coast in 1956 he studied in the major city of Abidjan. He later immigrated to France where he received a PhD in theatre from the University of Paris (Sorbonne). He began publishing work in 1977, and many of his efforts have been translated from French into English. For example, That Old Black Magic, was originally written in French and was translated into English by Chantal Bilodeau after it was written in 1993.

Much of Kwahulé's work is situated in reference to his upbringing and young life in Africa. He references various civil wars that have plagues Africa, as well as the immigration that brought Kwahulé and millions of others from Africa to countries like France. That Old Black Magic, differs from Kwahulé's other work in that it is set entirely in New York City. The play tells the story of Shorty, an African-American bozer, as he becomes embroiled in the dangerous world of underground sports. While various aspects of Shorty's life unravel as a result of his dangerous career, Shorty is eventually forced to face his childhood best friend in the ring.

That Old Black Magic is an analysis of violence, pain, and the necessity of making a living. It is in some sense, an African response to films like Rocky which glorify the sport of boxing, and display it as a triumphant act of masculinity. Kwahulé portrays it as a destructive sport that hinders the life of those already suffering. Kwahulé, an ardent jazz fan, also makes numerous references to jazz throughout the play. For example, the title is a reference to a jazz song written in 1942. The play also references the legendary jazz musician John Coltrane, and includes "a jazz quartet" in the character list to musically accompany the play. The play was published in the collection Seven Plays of Koffi Kwahulé: Out of Africa published by the University of Michigan Press in 2017.

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