The third edition of the wonderfully curated Kampala International Theatre Festival ended yesterday at Ndere Center where it has been happening for five days.
The event which was made possible by a partnership between Bayimba Foundation and Sundance Institute East Africa (SIEA) has always geared towards showcasing plays from emerging and established African playwrights that are topical and focus on gaining a diverse audience, as well as telling a story beyond our neighborhood.
This time though, there was more than telling a different story – the element of physical and psychological space had also come in – the festival was migrating from the National Theatre to Ndere Centre, this meant that a lot was going to change especially with the set up.
Of course, Ndere Centre is not as facilitated as the National Theatre thus productions had to be specifically curated for its kind of space and of course the psychological effect the said space would have on those in it.
Thus, much as some people had watched the opening production – The Audience Must Say Amen by Peter Kagayi, having it at Ndere Centre meant a whole new different feel, especially with lines from his poem In 2065, where he predicts that the National Theatre will be a shopping mall…
But even when the improvised spaces were something to muse about, it was the feel of belonging and identity that ruled supreme at the five day fete.
With productions like Black by Aganza Kisaka, The Audience Musy Say Amen by Peter Kagayi, Tropical Fish by Doreen Baingana to Surrogate by Achiro Patricia, the topics even different had a message of people either accepting who they are regardless of the challenges.
For instance, in the opening production, you had Kagayi decry the state of the country with a satirical line – ‘My country is a badly taken selfie’ from When Tongues Light Bonfires, yet as he ends the poem, he asks us not to delete the selfie, but accept all its deformities.
In other productions like Tropical Fish, actress Rehema Nanfuka was on a discovery of the power of her sexuality after an affair with a older white man in Kampala. of course at the beginning of the show, she’s thrilled by a fact that people at the streets will see her kiss a white man or a mere thought of sleeping with one, though as the story progresses, it becomes an exploration of her worth as a black woman.
While in Surrogate, a young woman that gets pregnant out of wedlock with a homosexual man [in a society where being gay is loathed], in the story, the woman is fighting to be accepted. But it’s Black where a proud African girl studying abroad wants to return to her home country because she is fed-up of studying in a place and in system where black people are stereotyped and mistreated.
Of course, in an earlier interview with the reporter, Asiimwe Deborah, notes that they didn’t chose the productions basing on what they were talking about but confirm that these are the stories occupying people’s minds, thanks to what is happening in the country and the world today.
The festival that ended last night closed with the Morning Sun a production from USA/Ethiopia the plot was rarther different as it tackled issues surrounding fistula, other brilliant productions included Kawuna… You’re It by Kemiyondo Coutinho, The Most Wretched of the Earth by William Chewe Musonda from Zambia and Allos: The Story of Carlos Bulosan by Giovanni Ortega from USA.
First Published in The Observer