Lovers in Time – (Post)Colonial Trauma and Theatre in Zimbabwe

Agnieszka Piotrowska

The presentation will consist of a paper as well as audio visual material in the form of clips and/or a gallery installation. This is work in progress so debate would be most welcome.

The heart of the presentation is the catastrophe which for Southern Africans was the arrival of the white settler. In today’s Zimbabwe at the end of 19th century the white settlers were originally welcomed by a female she warrior and a spirit medium called Mbuya Nehanda, accompanied by her (male) friend, collaborator and possibly lover, Kaguvi. When all the promises were betrayed, Mbuya Nehanda led an uprising against the white settlers and was captured and then executed, alongside Kaguvi. This catastrophic event has been used throughout the struggles for independence to inspire resistance and was a call to arms. Kaguvi and Nehanda are national icons.

Recently a contemporary Zimbabwean black writer Blessing Hungwe and myself joined forces in order to interrogate whether the trauma of that disaster can be re-told and re-narrated in a way which would open a space for a dialogue. The play, which was a surreal comedy, premiered for the first time at the Harare International Festival of the Arts in May 2014. It was the most controversial production of the festival. We we were accused of mocking national icons – mocking history of the liberation itself.

Academically, I am interested in interrogating both the notion of embodiment and also the version of events which is unchangeable, fixed, patriarchal instead of fluid, meandering and subject to re-interpretation. Can the catastrophe of the event itself, the trauma of its memory be subverted through humour?

lovers in time