Magazine article New African

Uganda: 'To Write Is to Live'. (Arts and Culture)

Magazine article New African

Uganda: 'To Write Is to Live'. (Arts and Culture)

Article excerpt

Uganda's relative political and economic stability achieved over the last decade has led to the flourishing of theatre in the once troubled country. Showing at London's Royal Court Theatre in recent weeks is a production aptly titled "New Plays From Uganda" showcasing the work of many of the country's leading playwrights. Iris an illustration of the fresh and innovative work that often springs from constantly changing political conditions.

New Plays From Uganda includes extracts from three playwrights, Isaac Muwawu, Charles Mulekwa and Philip Luswata. Their plays look at the major events that have shaped modem Uganda.

Political conflict was the subject of the first play on the night I attended. Stories of War by Muwawu highlights what happens to childhood friends when they find themselves on opposite sides of a political conflict.

The piece opens when a missing boy returns to his village only to find that his former friends now shun him because of the rumours of his possible involvement with forces. Only one child, the boy's best friend, has the courage to ignore his family's advice and refuses to turn his back on their friendship. Unfortunately, the child's actions lead to deadly reprisals for his entire family.

Muwawu's thought-provoking piece shows how civil wars not only destroy communities but also tragically tear apart families as sons, fathers and even mothers and daughters can find themselves on opposite sides of the freshly-drawn political divide.

The second piece, Black Diamond, by Charles Mulekwa, is a hilarious look at what happens when Ugandans emigrate and suddenly become preposterous.

The piece focuses on the life of a Ugandan footballer who lives in London. His life is thrown into chaos when his mother arrives with his childhood sweetheart in tow. She is there to remind him of his tribal obligations. His problem now is that his life has changed beyond all recognition and the only connection he still maintains with his family is trying to keep up with the endless stream of requests for money.

The piece is both very beautifully written and very funny but with a very serious subtext: Is it possible to hang on to your cultural identity once you have made your home thousands of miles away from home? Mulekwa doesn't attempt to answer this question but simply shows the dilemma which many expatriate Ugandans face. …

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