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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Taking pride in who we are as a people

Title: Muduuma Kwe Kwaffe
Author: Wycliffe Kiyingi
Reviewer: Dennis D. Muhumuza

It’s rich in content and language and bustles with humour while addressing the serious questions of bad governance and poverty; in all, an African state struggling to deal with post-economic colonialism.

Muduuma Kwe Kwaffe is what established Wycliffe Kiyingi as a playwright of indisputable distinction, alongside his contemporaries Robert Serumaga, Rose Mbowa and Byron Kawadwa, all acclaimed for Uganda's theatric glory of the 60s and 70s.

The four-act play revolves around the political and economic mess that has reigned in Uganda since 1945. All along until 1945, Indians monopolise trade and commerce throughout the country.

The turning point comes about in 1945 when firebrand World War II veteran, Mudiima, returns home and tells natives hilarious stories of what he saw in Burma and India, the home country of Mulji, one of the Indian traders who has been exploiting them. He tells them that in India, every business is in the hands of the natives and wonders why that can’t be the situation back home. They are particularly shocked to hear that Mulji is actually one of the poorest in his motherland. Thus the hatred against Indian traders in Muduuma intensifies, culminating in a trade boycott against Indians in 1958.

And then, in 1972, Indians are ostracised and their businesses allocated to Ugandans. But this redistribution is tainted by the politics and intrigue that have remained the bane of our political and socio-economic status quo.
It’s actually this that gives the 148-page power play; its ability to stand the test of time by eloquently and relevantly speaking to the modern Ugandan/African even when it was written over 50 years ago.

The author challenges us all to take pride in who we are as a people and to get involved and manage our society well; after all this is our heritage; thus the title Muduuma Kwe Kwaffe, whose literal translation is “Muduuma is our Home”.

The 80-year-old Kiyingi, who has written radio and TV dramas since 1954 when he established the first all-African theatrical group, African Artist Association, purposely to promote native drama, was crowned “Golden Artist” by the Ugandan National Theatre in honour of his prominent contribution to the country’s theatre industry.

--Sunday Monitor, July 25 2010