By Bamuturaki Musinguzi
Published August 30, 2010
A satirical drama depicting how Indian immigrants dominated the trade and commerce of Uganda till 1945 and how indigenous Africans tried to take charge of their socio-political and economic affairs has just had a two-week run at the Uganda National Theatre in Kampala, July 3 – 24, 2010.
The 150-minute play, Muduuma Kwe Kwaffe, (Luganda for Muduuma is our home), is written by Wycliffe Kiyingi, one of Uganda’s prolific playwrights, and directed by Kaya Kagimu Mukasa.
All until 1945, Indians are dominating virtually every sector of trade and commence in Uganda. They are shopkeepers and buyers of agricultural produce in every village. Though Ugandans sell them items like red pepper and bananas, the former do not share their tea with the latter. That is till some of the locals who have served in the British colonial army during the second world war return home to Muduuma Kwe Kwaffe with stories of liberation to challenge the status quo.
One of those returnees is Mudiima who tells fellow villagers what he has seen in India where trade is in the hands of native Indians and not foreigners. Having said this and thus having planted the seeds of discord, the stage is set for battle between the indigenous people led by Mudiima (played by Edwin Mukalazi) and the trading Indians led by Mulji that culminates in a trade boycott against Indians in 1958 and the expulsion of Asians by President Idi Amin Dada in 1971.
Directed by Kaya Kagimu Mukasa, the 150-minute play centres on how Ugandans tried to take over business from the Indians but were proved not efficient enough. It played from July 3 – 24, 2010.
The play points to the fact that the corruption plaguing Uganda today did not beging today. During the 1958 trade boycott, for instance, Mulji would in the night transfer his stock to the shop of Kasumali (played by Michael Musoke), the first African to compete with the Indians in Mudduma Town. Kasumali would later take the sales to Mulji’s shop. Mulji also bribes the leaders of the boycott to have his name excluded from the list so that his goods are bought.
Two dacades later, Amin was to later expel Indians from Uganda on the pretext that they were non-citizens who sabotaged the economy of the Pearl of Africa. In reallocating their businesses to indigenous Ugandans, politics, religion and tribalism were the determining factors for who got what.
The end result, Muduuma Kwe Kwaffe shows, is the economic mess the country is experiencing; the play suggests that all Ugandans must get actively involved in a lasting solution to the mess.
Though Wycliffe Kiyingi, the frail looking playwright of Muduuma Kwe Kwaffe says he penned it in 1953, other records claim he wrote it in 1972.
“It is a very long time since I started writing plays so I can’t recall some dates and events accurately”, Kiyingi told ArtMatters.Info at his home in Mutundwe, six miles west of Kampala.
He says it is the events surrounding the exiling of the late Kabaka Edward Frederick Mutesa II of Buganda in England in the 1950s that influenced the writing of his play Muduuma Kwe Kwaffe.
Kabaka Mutesa II (1924 – 1969), fearing that Buganda Kingdom would lose her influential position in a united Uganda, refused to cooperate with British proposals on united Uganda and was in turn forced into exile (1953 – 1955) in England.
“The Baganda were very furious and would not tolerate their king being in exile because Buganda was his home and he would not go anywhere; in other words, Muduuma Kwe Kwaffe,” Kiyingi said.
Director Mukasa says Kiyingi’s writings are very expressive and therefore easily understandable.
“He is the most outstanding playwright Uganda has ever produced because he has written for radio, stage and television for more than 40 years and is still active. I am really honoured to be directing Muduuma Kwe Kwaffe, my favourite of Kiyingi’s plays,” she says.
Mukasa adds, “Kiyingi is very intelligent, witty and a charming writer. He has got a very sophisticated rhythm to his dialogue. He is a scholar and that is why he writes plays with such finesse. Nothing is there by accident as he puts a lot of thought in it. He writes timeless plays and people can relate to them anywhere in the world.”
No wonder Kiyingi was in 2009, during the celebrations to mark 50 years of the existence of the Uganda National Cultural Centre (UNCC), recognised with A Golden Artist (1954 – 2009) award and his play Mudduma Kwe Kaffe, published by Angelina Books in 2009, launched.
Kiyingi is seen by many as the moving spirit behind modern Ugandan theatre with his works revolving around ordinary everyday life, also received The Golden Drama Award to toast 50 years of drama in Uganda in 2007 as “The Most Prolific Multimedia Playwright,”from the Golden Drama Foundation.
Some critics have described Kiyingi’s theatrical style as essentially farcical, with topical satire which he employs for social commentary in the style of George Bernard Shaw and Sean O’ Casey, whose influence he readily acknowledges. His plays have remained popular, especially his television plays, which have been seen by a wider Ugandan audience. His plays influenced the free travelling theatre movement at Makerere University in the mid 1960s.