Hifa’s Nehanda play ‘a distortion of history’

Mbuya Nehanda

Mbuya Nehanda

Jonathan Mbiriyamveka Senior Entertainment Reporter
A play titled “Lovers In Time” which sets out to rewrite and distort the legacy of spirit mediums Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi premièred on Tuesday at the six-day Harare International Festival of the Arts, raising the ire of festival-goers. Of concern was the portrayal of the spirit mediums just before they were hanged by two drunk white men.

The play appears to mock the roles of the two to Zimbabwe’s Independence, as well as African traditions with Mbuya Nehanda being reincarnated as a man and Sekuru Kaguvi as a woman.

“This is not a true reflection of our beliefs and traditions,” one disappointed fan said.
Another said people should not rewrite the history of Zimbabwe.

“This is a sign of the misconceptions with regard to our history. A spirit medium, whether a woman or a man, deserves respect. What we have seen is an attempt to twist the facts,” Reginald Shumba added.

Independent television producer Clive Mandizha sought to get the play banned, accusing Hifa organisers of being distasteful and insensitive in mocking the gruesome murders of Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi.

Director and producer of the controversial play, Dr Agnieszka Piotrowska from Poland, yesterday was at pains to defend the production.
“It’s not about factual things, it’s not about  history, it’s not about scholarship either; we just wanted to see if we could look at something that is traumatic, that is fixed and make it more fluid so that people can begin to think about race relations in a different way.”

He said the idea was to induce laughter and that in all it was “deeply respectful both to the national icons and to the tradition of the spirit mediums”.

Dr Piotrowska also appeared to apportion blame to Zimbabwe’s Blessing Hungwe, who wrote the script.

Pin It
  • Sifiso Xolile Ndlovu Zgwanyanw

    For a Polish citizen, I wonder if he could direct a distasteful holocaust play then defend it by saying stupid things like “we just wanted to see if we could
    look at something that is traumatic, that is fixed and make it more
    fluid so that people can begin to think about race relations in a
    different way.” It is rather sad to see Zimbabweans in the play, writing the script and watching the damn thing in their own country. Where is your dignity, Zimbos?

  • Rondedzero

    There is something called historical fiction in writing circles. It’s an accepted genre. What those who resent what they saw at the play presentation are perhaps not aware of this. What they also do not know is that much of our perceptions and conceptions of spirit medium Nehanda is heavily influenced by the fictitious work of Solomon Mutsvairo in Nehanda Nyakasikana, which was appropriated by some African politicians way back then and, then presented to the generality of the public as historical fact in the fight against colonialism. It was a morale booster for the time. In reality, Nehanda only killed one white man during the 1896 uprisings and, that was the native commissioner of Mazoe. For that she gets all the praise ahead of people like Chief Mashayangombe, who, in the vicinity of Salisbury, now Harare, was the first to join the struggle and the last to be defeated. Plays and films are not always exercises in history. At the same time, intolerance should never be conceived of, and be paraded, as a defence of national heroes.

    • Harare

      only killed one whit man the boss commisioner