By Bamuturaki Musinguzi
Published October 1, 2016
Married Apostle Jeremiah grabs Faith, his secretary, and plants a kiss on her right in his sleek God’s Love Ministry offices. The secretary first freezes, deeply troubled by this act. But she manages to pull herself away from the strong grip of the man of cloth after reminding him that he is a married man of God.
When Faith—played by Rehema Nanfuka—threatens to resign over what she views as the Apostle’s ungodly act, Apostle Jeremiah—played by Patrick Ssenjovu—gives her two choices: stay on the job or be reported to the authorities for ‘doing some unimaginable things to the little sweet Sunday school girls’.
Welcome to Ga-AD!, a theatre play that seeks to expose hypocrisy among church leaders in Uganda who preach against what they term as immoral acts in society while they themselves deliberately commit those very sins the very next moment.
Oh, let me tell you more about this experimental play-poetry hybrid theatrical production co-written by Lucy Judith Adong and Beverley Nsengiyunva Nambozo revolves around Faith, the loyal servant of God, who has departed the world of the living and entered into the after-life in heaven.
The spirit of Faith, a casualty of a gruesome motor vehicle accident, leaves her battered body, but her memories of life on earth linger, raw and painful, more real than in this new place where she has come to meet her creator and face a terrifying judgment.
From her new vantage point, Faith must look back at her life on earth as she struggles to understand it; the dubious morality, the unnecessary pain and suffering, and her part in it. Could she have done differently or better? Or, was she just the victim of a very bad joke called life?
In disbelief she says: “If you are God then your sense of description is so poor. This doesn’t look like the heaven you described in the Bible.”
Faith tells God—also played by Ssenjovu—that she has always wondered if he even existed at all. “How can a God of love that yields so much power sit back and watch all the disgusting things on earth? Allow so much suffering of the innocent? Watch innocent children suffer and die…,” she laments.
God orders Faith to return to earth to intercede and cleanse herself of sloth besides stopping Apostle Jeremiah from wallowing in sin and continuing to mislead humanity.
Meanwhile, on earth, Apostle Jeremiah has had a baby he names Gift Jeremiah II with his domestic servant, Fanny, played by Stella Nakkazi. He gleefully informs his wife, Eve (Nalongo Eronie Bazongere) about the ‘miracle son from Ga-AD.
Can Faith restore balance to a world corrupted by men like Apostle Jeremiah? Ga-AD does not offer any easy solutions. But it shakes the roots of our beliefs and does not shirk the questions of human existence.
Ga-AD is a play whose significance lies in the dimensions of power exhibited mainly through the manipulation of charismatic churches and male domination. Through the characters in the play, we experience normal people co-existing in families, playing their roles in church and the controlling influences, some less subtle than others.
Among others, the clergy in Uganda have been accused of fornication, rape and child neglect, snatching other people’s wives, extorting money and property from their congregation to fund their lavish lifestyles.
The blind followers are not supposed to ask questions resulting in silence about the flawed church leadership. This is informed by the fact that many Ugandans have been raised in a culture that does not question authority.
Adong describes Ga-AD as a powerful satirical play where the poetry reinforces the messages and poignant emotions of the characters’ life stories.
The play that was directed by Adong and presented by Silent Voices Uganda theatrical company premiered at the National Theatre in Kampala on July 30, 2016 and closed on August 7, 2016, after seven shows. It was co-produced by Adong and Andrew Lwanga Ssebaggala Jr.
As to what motivated them into writing Ga-AD, Nambozo told ArtMatters.Info: “I have been a Born Again Christian for a while and have been challenged by the way people have used God’s name for evil; for example, when pastors defile children or manipulate church-goers into financial submission. With that, I wrote some poetry and prayed for an opportunity to share it publicly so that these acts could be exposed. When Judith approached me for this collaboration, I knew without a doubt she was God’s answer to this prayer.”
On her part Adong notes: “I never really think of my plays in terms of what messages they convey to the audience. I usually feel like a story chooses me to tell it and each audience member takes from the story whatever message speaks best to them as audience members do carry their own personal experiences to the interpretation of plays.”