Gukurahundi Play Leaves Harare In Tears
2 June 2018
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“1983 The Dark Years” cast

By Paul Nyathi
|An hour long theatre play by Gwanda based Jahunda Community Arts has left Harare theatre lovers in tears and stunned on what the 1980s Gukurahundi atrocities were all about.

The very emotional piece of theatre which has been running at the Theatre In The Park for six nights ended on Sunday night with scores of people left shell shocked at how brutal the Gukurahundi soldiers were on the people of Matabeleland and parts of the midlands province.

Titled “1983 The Dark Years” the play directed by Adrian Mossa featuring Kukhanya Mkandla and highly touching Proficiency Kadder depicts a story told to a young girl born out of Gukurahundi rape by her uncle.

The play which has not only seen some in the audience breakdown into tears at one stage on Friday also saw Kadder herself a cast uncontrollably weep on stage as Mkandla narrated how the Gukurahundi soldiers raped “her mother” before she committed suicide after giving birth to the Gukurahundi child.

“During the performance you have that free-thinking (attitude) and start to visualise what you heard. Even if you were not there, the real pain comes through imagination, so you don’t need to have been there. It actually hurts. It’s too much and I can’t explain it,” said Kadder in an interview with journalists after the show.

“It’s something that is intense and gruesome. Actually, these things were not spoken about. We just have vivid pictures about it. It was gruesome and people are hurting very much.”

Kadder said she was told a lot about the genocidal killings perpetrated by the North-Korean trained 5th Brigade by her parents, who were lucky to survive.

“I cannot be so sure that I lost anyone, but I just heard stories. My parents were affected, but did not die during that time. My father and grandmother were victims.

They told me about what really transpired during that time,” she said.

Mkandhla, who is part of the cast, has his leg chopped off by the soldiers during Gukurandi as part of the script.

He said he was able to connect with his role because his leg was amputated following an accident in which he was hit by a bus in 2013. The part he plays aroused the audience’s emotions.

“Whenever I get to that scene (in the play), I imagine the pain that I felt when my leg was amputated. For somebody else, who hasn’t been through that, it might be difficult to connect with the character. That pain is an added advantage, because I can always tap into it,” he said.

Although some members of the audience said the play seemed to open old wounds than facilitate healing, others said it was good for the purposes of true national reconciliation and healing.

The play’s director Moosa, however, said the play was not meant to provoke anyone, but to create a platform to openly discuss what happened during that dark period of post-independent Zimbabwe.

“This is a theatre piece, which does not bring solutions, but instead it’s meant to create a space, whereby, people will come together and discuss this issue, which has been ignored for quite a long time,” he said.

“We are not saying who must do what, but we are only creating a conducive space for dialoguing. We want people to have dialogue and come up with solutions themselves. Maybe that can help. We are only using theatre to push the agenda not bring solutions ourselves.”

Theatre in the park director Daves Guzha praised the young actors from Gwanda for being brave enough to tell the Gukurahundi story exactly as it happened without fear.

Guzha also told that the play which was premiered in 2012 was banned by the Robert Mugabe regime and had the cast briefly arrested before they were rescued the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

Guzha said that the play left many people in Harare with a changed attitude on the Gukurahundi atrocities urging Zimbabweans to begin to speak without fear on the atrocities.

Gukurahundi must be discussed if we are sincere about moving forward as a nation,” said Guzha.

Guzha further advised that the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission had immediately signed a contract with the theatre group to go on a nationwide tour show casing the play so as to educate the whole nation on what exactly transpired during the dark days in the country.

“Some of us were already in our teens during the Gukurahundi time but the government at the time capably managed to hide from all of us what was actually transpiring in the Matabeleland region,” said Guzha.

“Am excited that the NPRC has adopted the play and committed to using it as a lesson throughout the country on exactly what was happening during that period,” he said.