Jack Mapanje’s detention experience relived

Jack Mapanje’s political detention in 1987 has inspired a play titled The Trial of Jack Mapanje.

To be staged this evening on Martyr’s Day at Madsoc Square in Lilongwe, the play was inspired by real life events and uses Mapanje’s detention as a symbol of oppression, repression and suppression, according to the play’s director Duncan Chirwa.

Chirwa (L) and Tembo captured in rehearsal

Written by Stephen Ndhlovu, the play is also inspired by the prevailing political and social situation in Malawi.

“Despite being published more than 10 years ago, the play raises issues relevant to the present day,” said Chirwa.

He added that Malawian leaders challenged colonialists’ type of leadership but years, later they have become more aggressive, ruthless and heartless.

Chirwa said: “The Kamuzu Banda regime was renowned for its notorious ayufi , the Bakili Muluzi regime was characterised by Young Democrats while the Mutharika brothers have cadets, harassing opposition figures, journalists and individuals with dissenting views.”

He said it is such leadership that goes against everything that martyrs fought for.

Said Chirwa: “The Jack Mapanje issue resonates well with the experience of the country’s post-colonial era as it echoes the cry of our martyrs for a better Malawi and advocates for development-oriented, visionary and progressive leaders.”

The play has a cast of two members, Chirwa and Alick Tembo.

The Trial of Jack Mapanje is a political satire set in a notorious Malawian prison mocking the one-party State for its abuses.

The play has two characters Chola, a journalist trained in the United States of America and Ndatero, a university lecturer and playwright who have both been fighting for change in their respective professions and are detained at the maximum prison.

Reacting to the development, an arts critic Martin Banda wrote: “Now that’s art telling stories our historians don’t share.”

The play will be staged from 7.30pm and patrons will pay K3 000 at the door.

Jack Mapanje is an accomplished writer and poet, well appreciated in Malawi and beyond. His writings, however, once landed him in trouble and he was detained at Mikuyu Prison during the one-party era.

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