The Road to Mecca was a play written by Athol Fugard. In the play Fugard tells the tales of women and their rights in society as well as what is expected of them. In this essay, I am going to discuss Miss Helen, who is a widow who lives in a rural strong Christian based community with predominately Afrikaners in the town of the Karoo, Niue Bethesda, Eastern Cape. After the death of Helen’s husband, she decides to challenge what society expects of a grieving widow in the most beautiful and artistic way.
When Helen’s husband passed away, she grieved differently than what society considers normal. Helen feels a spark of inspiration that she uses to bring the visions that she has to live by creating and filling her home, inside and out with statues and works of art such as wise men, camels, owls, mermaids and other figures. Helen started creating her own version “Mecca”, not the Mecca in the Middle East but the Mecca that represents the beauty and freedom she so longed for. Helen always wanted light in her life, and she was able to achieve this with the statues in her Camel yard, which was her way to Mecca, her way to express herself. Helen made all her statue’s face east in the direction of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Helen’s home and front yard were where she could be whom she wanted to be, however, she was judged and condemned by her community for her newfound lifestyle and artistic expressions.
The community of the Karoo where confused by Helen’s behaviour after her husband’s death, instead of getting depressed or trying to get busy by helping the community, Helen started creating sculptures rather than playing the role of grieving widow that the community expected from her. Helen’s newfound lifestyle was not accepted by her community as this did not live up to society’s expectations of what a woman in her middle ages during that era should be doing. On the first Sunday after her husband’s death, Helen choose to stay at home and create art instead of going to church. In the communities’ eyes, Helen, no longer believed in their beliefs and she had gone against social standards, this showed them that there was something wrong with Helen because the standards that Helen was expected to live by were not a problem, she was the problem. It was then that they had decided that Helen no longer fit in, she had challenged the ideas of what a normal widow or a woman was supposed to behave one too many times.
From that moment on Helen did not receive any form encouragement or recognition for her art, however, this did not deter Helen but pushed her to continue expressing herself through her art as both an artist and a woman. Helen was willing to risk being shunned and ridiculed by the same community she had played an active role in for the past 15 years. This upset the community even more because they did not understand what her art represented and they started to question her sanity and whether she was capable of living on her own, they even suggested her moving to an old age home which was 60km away from the Karoo.
In conclusion, despite people continually telling Helen to move to the old age home and wanting her to conform to the way of life that the community saw fit, Helen kept working towards completing her own Mecca in her front yard, filling it with beautiful and creative artwork. Helen was a woman who strived for peace but was faced with chaos, but that never changed the fact that she stuck to her moral grounds and did not let herself be controlled by anyone. Helen continued to express herself because it was her right as a woman and as a human being.