Mbona Arts, a theatrical group will this month stage a play written by one of the country’s finest writers and poet, Jack Mapanje.
The Trial of Jack Mapanje, which premieres March 16 is based on the poet’s detention which lasted four years. Mapanje was arrested in 1987.
In an interview, playwright Stephen Ndhlovu said this will be the second time the play will be staged since it was published in Scotland.
He said the play will be staged in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu.
“The play is relevant today as it debuted in 2007. It talks about detentions without trial, freedom of speech, associations, bad governance, disregard for rule of law and constitutionalism are all still problematic.
“I am happy to be contributing to the discourse on human rights and law using drama as powerful tool for delivery of the message,” Ndhlovu said.
He said Mbona Arts has taken the task to stage the play because it is a theatre company that aims to promote and preserve Malawi’s cultural heritage.
About the play, he said The Trial of Jack Mapanje is a political satire set in a notorious Malawi prison mocking the one-party State for its abuse of power, violation of human rights and brutalities and advocating for true democracy.
“The play has two characters, Chola played by Jack Tembo, a journalist trained in the United States and Ndatero, a role played by Duncan Chirwa as a university lecturer and playwright, who has both been fighting for change all along in their respective professions and with Chola are both detained at a maximum prison.
“Between the two of them, Ndatero is the one who is actively involved in the fight for change. From the outset it is clear that he is well-updated on the political developments outside the prison walls through the mail that he gets. He demands change and nothing else but unlike Chola, he is not in a hurry because he realises that change cannot be achieved overnight,” Ndhlovu explained.
The play is rooted in real life events, using the life of Mapanje as a symbol of all those who were incarcerated, tortured to death and hanged during the Kamuzu Banda 30-year reign.
“Although the play is set during the one-party State and is a mockery of Banda’s autocratic rule, the play remains relevant to this day because it raises issues that we are still grappling with as a country,” said Chirwa.
The premiere is set for Madsoc Theatre in Lilongwe on March 16. In Zomba, the play will be staged on March 23 before being taken to Blantyre on March 30 while dates for Mzuzu will be communicated soon.
The play is coming to life thanks to funding from Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (Osisa), a growing African Institution committed to deepening democracy, protecting human rights and enhancing good governance in the region. n