[Published in Leeds African Studies Bulletin 67 (2005), pp. 37-45]
[with introductory material by Jane Plastow]
The following short radio plays were written and directed by Patrick Mangeni, a Ugandan theatre academic, television personality, writer and Theatre for Development facilitator, as part of a project with the international non-governmental organisation (INGO) Isis-WICCE (Women in Cross-Cultural Exchange). The plays were included in a paper that Mangeni presented at the Performing Africa conference, entitled ‘Some Gender Dimensions of Negotiating Conflict through Theatre for Development’ . Regretably we do not have space for the whole paper, but we did want to take the rare opportunity to publish these TfD skits. Usually TfD scripts are improvised or only roughly written out and are therefore lost after their immediate purpose has been served, but on this ocassion, because they were scripted for radio transmission, Mangeni has been able to provide us with an insight into what contemporary TfD plays are looking like in Uganda.
Mangeni’s project ran from 2001-2002 and was part of a programme seeking to promote peace and conflict resolution in northern Uganda where war has been on-going for eighteen years. As Mangeni explains, ‘Isis-WICCE had researched on the effects of armed conflict on women, and found evidence that war and its aftermath had a gender dimension that had significantly affected and continued to affect women in particular ways such as physical abuse, eg, rape, death, physical body mutilation, increased dependency on women and associated traumas. Isis was involved in the documentation of the experiences of women, providing specialised gynaecological and psychiatric attention to treat post-war trauma and encouraging exchange among women from conflict areas for peace building and conflict resolution.’(p3)
‘Isis had identified drama and radio as “the appropriate means of disseminating information…to sensitise communities on the ills of war and promote peaceful means of conflict resolution.”’ (p2) They then employed Mangeni as lead facilitator to run a two phase project. In the first phase theatre workshops were run with selected women’s groups in Luwero, Gulu and Arua, to identify the issues women wished to discuss and then make stage plays relating to these issues. The second stage of the work was a commission to use this material to script and direct five fifteen minute radio plays. The plays were then broadcast and on each occasion were followed by a half-hour broadcast phone-in discussion where audience views were solicited.
Mangeni’s wider paper reveals some fascinating information about problems relating to gender dynamics in carrying out this project. In a patriarchal society women appear to have often found it difficult to forcefully express their views in mixed gender settings, whether live, in theatre workshops or in the course of the radio phone-ins. At the very end of his presentation Mangeni lists some of the responses elicted by women who obviously felt significantly powerless to challenge the status quo of male dominance. Women said ‘I am just a woman what else can I do?’, and ‘If I left what would happen to my children?’ They also revealed a rather despairing sense of male irresponsibility and immaturitiy. ‘Unlike children, men do not grow.’ ‘Whoever tries to control a man will kill herself for nothing.’ ‘Men think with their tails.’
As Mangeni points out, the question we are left with is what to do with the information elicited, and how to use it to move forward with agendas of both conflict resolution and promoting greater gender equality.
(In the bathroom)
BYOMERE: Come here.
TOLOFAYINA: Master, I have already brought you the water. I have to go and help madam set the tea for you.
BYOMERE: Serving tea does not need four hands. Come here first. Come closer.
TOLOFAYINA: (Struggles) Master, please leave my hand. What if Madam came and found you pulling me like this, what will she think?
BYOMERE: Is she supposed to think? I am a man in this house and you are just a woman like her. (Sweetly) You are even younger and more beautiful.
TOLOFAYINA: Please Master; we have to stop. Do not force me again.
BYOMERE: I am going to build you a house in another place.
BYOMERE: You think I am not man enough? Whose food do you eat?
TOLOFAYINA: Yours, Master.
BYOMERE: Do you so soon forget what you looked like three months ago when you came here? You feed on my sweat, start glittering and then you imagine I can leave you for another man? Sha!
TOLOFAYINA: Do not get angry Master.
BYOMERE: Do you want your job?
TOLOFAYINA: Do not chase me! I need this little pay to help my brothers. A landmine blew off my father’s limbs…. soldiers took my mother away. Now… all my siblings depend on me.
BYOMERE: I am glad you know that. Tolofayina, I am feeling cold. (Ordering her) Move closer.
TOLOFAYINA: Ii Master, have mercy on me.
BYOMERE: Closer, yes closer, yes. Mmmh!
TOLOFAYINA: Ooh. I!
NAKUYA: (Calling) Tolofayina! (Voice receding. From inside) What is this that I am seeing? Byomere what are you doing? (Calls out in alarm) Wololololo! Wololololo!
BYOMERE: Woman behave yourself. (More voices arriving)
NAKUYA: I have got them.
NAKUYA: I have caught the house girl with my husband. They were joined together.
TOLOFAYINA: I am innocent!
NAKUYA: It is true. She has just pulled up her skirt.
BYOMERE: People, do you believe I, Byomere, can do such a stupid thing?
VOICE: And whose red knickers are these?
ANOTHER VOICE: And what are they doing next to Byomere’s pair of trousers? Were you comparing your sizes?
TOLOFAYINA: They are a bit loose and they… fell off when… she started beating me.
BYOMERE: Yes, my wife here is good at tearing things.
VOICE: But you woman also, how did the maid end up next to your husband?
NAKUYA: I had sent her to bring his water.
VOICE: You sent another woman to give warm water to a half naked husband? (Laughs) Sending a leopard to mind your goats indeed.
NAKUYA: I was still busy. I have only two hands! These two you see here!
BYOMERE: Let me now tell you the truth. You see I was bathing…then I put soap on my head and then I heard someone walking and…and the footsteps sounded like those of my wife. So I said to the footsteps, come and help scrub this back of ours. And then hands started scrubbing my back…. And I said scrub here and she scrubbed …and I said there and she scrubbed and scrubbed. And as that person was scrubbing, I heard the voice of my wife making an alarm and when I opened my eyes I saw her pointing at her (Indicating maid).
Sister in-law Nantalo
(In the courtyard. Day time)
NAMAKULA: (With difficulty) Welcome back sebbo.
MUKULU: Why do you talk to me while lying down?
NAMAKULA: I am still in a lot of pain husband. I cannot walk properly. The back, Oh! (Groans) This back. It will kill me one day my husband. Oh! Why do you abandon me?
MUKULU: I was working and I have returned. I am hungry.
NAMAKULA: I will be bringing some porridge.
MUKULU: (Sound of door opening) Why is the bed is not yet made? (Sound of someone slumping in bed. Calling) Namakula! Namakula!
NAMAKULA: Wangi Ssebo.
MUKULU: Come here first.
NAMAKULA: Is there a problem?
MUKULU: Why do you ask from outside? Enter.
NAMAKULA: I have put the milk on the fire.
MUKULU: Go and remove the fire from the milk or the milk from the fire. I want you here quickly.
NAMAKULA: Ii mwami, it is about to boil.
MUKULU: Then over here quickly. (Impatiently) Come inside.
NAMAKULA: What is it?
MUKULU: Should I go on my knees first?
NAMAKULA: Owange, gwe, free my hand. You are hurting me (Struggling) What is wrong with you?
MUKULU: Aren’t you my wife?
NAMAKULA: My god, Oh, you have hurt my back again.
MUKULU: Back, back, back, why don’t you take that back to a welding machine and have it repaired once and for all? I am tired of you and that back of yours.
NAMAKULA: Husband. (Groaning) Help me. Bring me some aspirin. Bring me some aspirin. (Sound of someone running)
NANTALO: What is it?
MUKULU: Nantalo, why do you just rush in without knocking?
NANTALO: Sorry brother-in-law, I did not know that you were not dressed. But what has happened to my sister Namakula?
MUKULU: Ask her back.
NAMAKULA: Get me some water sister.
NANTALO: Mukulu, what were you trying to do?
MUKULU: She is my wife, so do not ask me.
NANTALO: Mukulu, now I know what you were trying to do. Can’t you feel ashamed of disturbing a patient. Don’t you know that your wife has a gynaecological problem?
MUKULU: And so I should starve forever? Don’t I have rights?
NANTALO: To rape her?
MUKULU: Rape her? How long must I hear this song. (Mimicing) I was raped by soldiers, my back is this and now it is that. Where does she expect me to go?
NANTALO: Go to where you slept last night, but leave my sister alone.
MUKULU: What are you saying? By the way, why don’t you get a husband and go away from there? I thought the war ended sixteen years ago?
NANTALO: I will go when my sister has got well, otherwise who will help to look after your brother’s orphans and yourself? Men you do not think.
MUKULU: So what have you said?
NANTALO: Look for some money and take your wife to hospital. All she needs is a good doctor.
MUKULU: Walking with a bent back and leaking from the under parts for sixteen years, I am tired of sleeping in a wet bed. You sit in wet chairs. Wherever she sits she leaves a river. She must have inherited some disease and you two are trying to hide it from me.
MUKULU: I have even lost my name; others are now calling me, the husband of a river; the man who swims. And besides, she cannot give me children. I am burying one miscarriage after another. You come home and she faints out of a backache. All my little earnings are spent on this treatment and that treatment. My God, for how long will I single-handedly continue paying for this war?
NAMAKULA: Husband, I appreciate the efforts you have made. What I need is to see a good doctor. I have never seen one. Try to help. Try to understand.
MUKULU: How long will I wait as I try to understand? Why it is I to pay for all the sins of that war. Where are the children? Where is a job for me? All because there was a war sixteen years ago.
NANTALO: But why do you keep talking and talking?
MUKULU: Because I fought. It is because I sacrificed, and now I have to lick stale maggots from our wounds of sacrifice.
NAMAKULA: Yes. That was in the past and the past has left us with many scars. Why don’t you go out and look for a job?
MUKULU: That is where I have been for the last ten years. That is why we are stuck in these two rooms with over eight children, half of them not mine. Children of war. Descendants of death. Why must I continue paying for this war?
NAMAKULA: Husband, I did not chose what happened to my brothers. Those children are orphans. They are the only thing war and AIDS have left us.
MUKULU: Not only that, war also left us a broken back.
NAMAKULA: But you can go and find something to do.
MUKULU: I do not have enough education.
NANTALO: And who has enough education? Education can never be enough. Can’t you do something with the little education you have? You did not reach P5 for nothing?
MUKULU: Natalo, I fought for this country. And after that I was informed that I did not have enough education. I was sent home. Nobody can touch me. I am asked where I was while others were in school? I was fighting for this country!
NANTALO: Register in UPE and then go back and tell them you are in school and need a job. Do something. But for God’s sake stop coming in the morning and mounting my sister’s broken back. Do something. Find a job and take her to a real hospital.
NAMAKULA: Husband. Go and borrow some money
MUKULU: I have tried everywhere.
NAMAKULA: Go to the bank and tell them that you fought for this country and left your right eye on the battlefield. Tell them soldiers raped your wife. Tell them you have orphans of mothers who were infected during the war, of brothers who were slaughtered because they did not know the secrets of the enemy. Tell them we have been dying for the last sixteen years. Go and tell them.
NANTALO: Go and tell them.
MUKULU: That is now your problem.
NANTALO: How can you blame me for what happened?
NAMAKULA: I wish you knew what happened. Husband, they raped me before my father. They raped me for two days. Thirty-two men raped me. Husband I did not chose what happened to me. I was only fourteen.
MUKULU: But why didn’t you tell me before I married you?
NAMAKULA: Husband. A woman cannot talk everything about her life. Not in a society where she is always a victim of her innocence.
NAMAKULA: You men and the society hardly understand that the things that happened to us in war. We were defenceless girls and women. What can a mere woman or a little girl do in the face of an armed man? What options do we have?
MUKULU: Why didn’t you say something?
NAMAKULA: I wanted a chance to live. I thought I would get better some day, some day soon, my husband.
MUKULU: And so I have ended up paying for the sin of thirty rapists. By taking a raped woman for a wife. Who leaks like a broken pipe.
NAMAKULA: Husband, did you choose to become a soldier?
MUKULU: My father was dead. My mother raped and the baby in her tummy ripped out with a raging bayonet. What choices did I have, an orphan of twelve?
NAMAKULA: What is the difference?
MUKULU: (Angrily) The difference is that I did not rape but you were raped.
NAMAKULA: What choice did I have?
MUKULU: So what am I supposed to do?
Patrick Mangeni is a lecturer at Makerere University in Uganda and a journalist, playwright and television presenter. His plays Operation Mulugusi and The Prince won the National Book Trust of Uganda Award in 2000.