Playwright defends Nehanda play

HARARE - Blessing Hungwe, the writer and co-producer of the play Lovers in Time — a comedy that explores taboos around Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi — says it was never his intention to rewrite history.

The playwright told the Daily News that he was disappointed that certain people found it fit to disrupt the play during its run at the just-ended Harare International Festival of the Arts (Hifa).

“I live in Zimbabwe, I am a Zimbabwean and I love Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi and I actually feel that they have not been honoured as much as they should,” said Hungwe.

“Except the two streets named after them, we have not done much to honour the two heroes.”

The playwright denied that the play, he co-produced with British director Agnieska Piotrowska, belittled the two liberation icons.

“I did not seek to rewrite history but art. I don’t want to write history; my job is to write plays.

“My only regret is that though we live in a democratic society, someone found it necessary to demonstrate and disrupt the play as it was being performed,” he said.

Some people were irked by a part played by leading Zimbabwean comedian Michael Kudakwashe in which Mbuya Nehanda was depicted as a man.

“I admire them for standing up to what they thought was not right, but I thought they could have approached me after the play and we could have debated the matter.

“I admire that they passionately stood for what they believe in.

“The message behind the play was simple: Let us do more to acknowledge the two (Nehanda and Kaguvi).

“I am a law-abiding citizen and I did not break any law. What I did might be deemed morally incorrect but it is not unlawful at all,” he said.

The National Arts Merit Award (Nama) winner added that he always writes plays with the intention of inspiring positive change.

“I will always write what I feel is right. I wrote the play two years ago with the hope of courting positive debate.

“I contribute to the country through art.

“I honestly did not expect to have that type of reaction; courting controversy is not my style,” said Hungwe.

The cast of the 50-minute play included Charmaine Mujeri, Pauline Gundidza, Tom Brickhill, Shane Stockil and the director/producer is Piotrowska.

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