Can theatre overthrow a govt?

By Tinashe Mushakavanhu
New Zealand based writer, Stanley Makuwe, is one of Zimbabwe's talented but unrecognized man of letters.

Though, widely unknown locally, Makuwe’s debut collection of short stories, Under this Tree, published in Auckland, 2002, is a brilliant collection that draws inspiration from the margins of the Zimbabwean society – the Midlands mining town of Shurugwi.

His most recent creation – Overthrown – was banned for performance in Zimbabwe. The production, under the direction of the fearless Cont Mhlanga, was stopped a few hours before its premier by a group of police details that descended on Amakhosi. Information minister, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, who had agreed to attend as guest of honour, backed down at the last minute.

Makuwe is a trained nurse and the world of his imagination is largely informed by what he encounters in hospitals – a cross section of characters and situations. It was in a morgue that the idea of Overthrown crept on him and turned out to be a brilliant piece of theatre shortlisted for the 2006 BBC Play Competition.

‘Zimbabwean playwrights have never been intimidated by stifling government actions. They have always spoken through their art. They have always wanted our top leadership to be accountable. The government can ban a play today only to hear a new one is being rehearsed somewhere else,’ he said.

But can theatre overthrow a government? ‘A play will not overthrow a government; neither will an opposition leader addressing villagers down in rural Shurugwi. A combination of everything and everyone will free Zimbabwe from the fierce grip of evil that throttles it.’

Makuwe has joined forces with other local artists to form Voices of Change an organization meant to give Zimbabwean artists the opportunity to speak with one voice. Can the initiative be effective under repressive legislation such as AIPPA and POSA meant to curtail freedom of speech and even association? ‘While Voices of Change encourage artists to unite, AIPPA and POSA are meant to protect the paranoid ones. Nothing will be effective until all mouths speak with one tongue, voices coming out through one throat.’


Post published in: Arts

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