Brenda Phiri Entertainment Reporter
Local independent television producer Clive Mandizha has accused Hifa and producers of the play “Lovers in time” of being distasteful and insensitive in mocking the gruesome murder of spirit mediums Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi.The play that is scheduled to premiere today at HIFA’s Standard Theatre was written by Blessing Hungwe and directed and co-produced by Dr Agnieszka Petrowska from the United Kingdom.
The play is a comical take on the mediums ordeal before they are hanged by two “drunken” white men.
“Before Nehanda is hanged she cries out to the gods for reprieve. They get comic results as they are sent to present day Zimbabwe where upon arrival Mbuya Nehanda is shocked to find that no one recognises her and she then arrives in modern times as a man.
“Frustrated she bemoans the gods to take her back to her time, thus the see-saw from the late 1800 to various times in post independence. Another twist to the story comes when the spirits of Nehanda and Kaguvi come back as white people,” Hungwe is quoted to have said while commenting about the play.
Mandizha, who is a representative a group of artistes who oppose the play said the producers had gone too far while Hifa had no right to promote it.
“Nothing justifies their murder and if Hungwe wants to make a clown out of himself, he can buy a jumpsuit, but not undermine what Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi represent,” he said.
The producer also queried UK based director of the play Dr Petrowska’s choice to involve himself in that particular play.
He questioned why he would make comical productions on significant people in our local culture.
He said it was highly unlikely that Dr Petrowska would joke about British icons like the much loved Princes Diana the late, Winston Churchill or even the queen mother herself.
“There are certain things that one cannot joke about as they are sensitive to certain people. If there are no limitations to what can be deemed comedy material how come Dr Petrowska and does not make fun out of the gruesome death of Princess Diana? People in his homeland would find it insulting the same way we find this particular joke insulting,” he said.
Mandizha is currently advocating for the banning of the play and has since joined hands with like-minded artistes to stop its premier.
“We are aware that some might hide behind the freedom of expression banner to justify this but we feel it is downright insensitive. We are willing to jump on the stage and stop this upsetting play from taking place today. We are not extremists but want to express this displeasure also for the international community and media present,” he said.
He concluded that it was the responsibility of Zimbabweans to protect our icons’ legacy especially where they are being unjustly discredited.
“Lovers in Time” features Charmaine Mujeri of Danai Gurira’s play “The Convert”, Thomas Brickhill, Chikwata 263 front man Shane Stockhill and Pauline Gundidza and Lovedale “Discord” Makalanga.
Dr Petrowska is a leading academic at the University of Bedfordshire in the United Kingdom and a film and theatre enthusiast.
Hungwe on the other hand scooped NAMA Best Theatrical production award for the productions “Burn Mukwerekwere Burn” (2011) Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi were hanged in 1896 by Rhodesian settlers in modern day Harare. The hanging came after their influential role in encouraging indigenous people to rise against British colonialist
Mbuya Nehanda’s dying words were “Mapfupa angu achamuka (my bones will rise)” paving way for the First Chimurenga and Second Matabele War. Her statement foretold the uprising that eventually led to Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980.