Home » Arts & Culture » Nehanda Assassination Dramatised

While others would dare not portray such revered characters as Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi in a dramatic and satirical manner for fear of offending some sensitive followers, there is something brewing that will certainly help understand the other side of the pioneers of the struggle for Zimbabwe.

Certainly not your ordinary theatrical offering, Lovers in Time, written by acclaimed Zimbabwean playwright Blessing Hungwe, documents in comedy the traumatic events leading to the execution of Mbuya Nehanda by the white British settlers in 1896. Rehearsals of the production that will be premiered at the Harare International Festival of the Arts on April 29 are underway at the Gallery Delta and features some leading musical and theatre talent.

Producer and director, Dr Agnieszka Piotrowska is a leading academic at the University of Bedfordshire in the United Kingdom and a film and theatre enthusiast, and has been in Harare for the past few weeks preparing for the world premiere of the production in close collaboration with playwright Hungwe.

The 50-minute play features a cast of 10 that includes the band Mafrique with Pauline Gundidza and Discord.

Manuel Bagorro, the creative director of HIFA said: “I can’t wait to see it all come together. The themes are very powerful and no doubt controversial. We are delighted to have Agnieszka and Blessing collaborate on this.”

Funding for the production came from the University of Bedfordshire where Dr Piotrowska lectures, the Nimberi Trust (with the participation of the European Union) and the Zimbabwe Theatre Association. The production scored a first in that it is the first time ever that the Zimbabwe Theatre Association has directly supported a production directed and initiated by a British practitioner.

Gundidza said: “I am very excited to be a part of this production. It is an astonishing and bold move to be taking on such a sensitive story and somehow making it into a tale of a possibility of reconciliation — the race issues are still a huge taboo in Zimbabwe. I worked with Agnieszka previously in 2011 and that was an amazing aenture too. Oral tradition is very important here and theatre in a way is part of that tradition.”

Dr Piotrowska, who is an award winning film maker and the leader of the innovative courses at the University of Bedfordshire, holds an MA in Creative Digital Production and MSc of Digital Production and Technology. She will also be making an experimental drama documentary connected to the play.

She was a recipient of the British Council arts research grant in 2010-2012 which she used to make her documentary the Engagement Party in Harare that was nominated for the best documentary at the 2012 International Images Film Festival.

She is also working on a new book about the arts in Zimbabwe.

“It is a great privilege to be given a chance to explore history through theatre and film but I am also writing an academic book at the same time. The play is not political in any way but on the other hand anything to do with race relations in Zimbabwe is deeply political.”

Dr Piotrowska is the author of Psychoanlysis and Ethics in Documentary Film (Routledge, 2014).

“Creatively it is interesting working on something as difficult as a historical event accompanied by a mixed cast. I am hoping that in some way it is a way forward and will have some kind of reconciliatory possibility of some kind of redemption. And obviously you can’t undo the past like the fact that Nehanda and Kaguvi were shot by white settlers at the end of the 19th century but you can change the way this is treated that is not divisive in any way.”

It is the sensitive portrayal of Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi that will most certainly get people talking about the wit and ingenuity that was employed to dramatise this rather serious historical issue. Also notable is the engagement of both black and white actors which in some cases sees the spirit of Mbuya Nehanda coming out through one of the white actors.

Others in the cast include Thomas Brickhill, Shane Stockhill, Discord, Gundidza, Michael Kudakwashe, Charmaine Mujeri and Josh Changa. It will be very difficult to say much about the play without watching it in full and it all requires to be in the audience to fully appreciate the satire, humour and dramatisation of this exciting and inspiring piece of our history.

Source : The Herald