Three young Ugandan women have written and performed a a play titled Afro Man to tackle the issue of relationships among young urban Africans.
The play, was written and performed by Linda Nabasa (who plays Marina), Nankoma Sandra (Kendra) and Rashida Namulondo (who plays Sara). It was staged at the National Theatre in Kampala on July 10.
The play explores polygamy, promiscuity, dishonesty, selfishness, egocentricity and violence in African men. It however also captures the positive side of African men as loving husbands and fathers, cultured, considerate, honest and hardworking parents.
The three characters in the play — Marina, Kendra and Sara — take the audience through their life stories, and the struggles and hopes in their relationships with their men.
Sara is a chatty spice trader, happily married and recently moved to the city. She sells spices to support her family as her husband pursues higher education.
Praises for her husband always roll off her tongue, letting every Tom, Dick and Harry know how they met. Sara’s spice trade leads her to meet Kendra, who introduces her to Marina. Sara is the pillar of togetherness, forgiveness and support for the two other women.
Kendra is a single, free-spirited woman who likes to gossip. She dreams of finding true love but on the other hand is not certain of what direction to take as she fantasies about dating celebrities, rich and brilliant men.
“I want a loaded man, who drives the latest cars and will buy me a nice apartment,” she says.
Through her window, Kendra observes her neighbours’ lives and compares it with hers. She however learns from her observations that relationships are not as rosy as her young mind believes. But one is thing is certain. Kendra wants a man who will not cheat on her.
Marina, on the other hand, is a weak-spirited mother of one. She is in an abusive relationship and in order to protect herself, she develops the personality of a woman she calls “Monika" who takes her on a dark journey filled with thoughts of killing her husband.
“My desire roams in the desert of madmen. I am in hibernation. I am thinking of spices for my morning tea and what I will cook on his funeral,” she laments.
To Kendra, Marina is a resentful, mentally ill woman, who spends half her day seated on the porch smoking and drinking while talking to herself.
“You are a stupid woman, who has a husband but keeps complaining all day and shouting at your neighbours for no reason,” Kendra tells Marina in an argument.
Marina suffers from a personality disorder, a problem she blames on her husband, whom she blames for her lack of education. “I am a condom. He kept me in his wallet. He used me and threw me away. He did not show me love. He did not cook with me. We like men who cook with us,” she says.
Sara advises Kendra to use spices to “catch” a man. Sara also believes that spices go straight to a man’s heart and improve one’s sex life.
On the theme of the play, Nabasa said the sole purpose of Afro Man was to praise African men, preferably Ugandans.
“Though initially we wanted to appreciate men though poetry and the spoken word, we needed to have a powerful story, so we gave a real account of the relationships women have with men in Kampala. Some women are happy in their relationships, others are unhappy and there are those who are simply single and wishful.”
As to why they decided to present the show as a poetic musical, Namulondo said: “Because the script was a compilation of poetry around the theme of relationships, in a way it was a small anthology presented with music and movement.”
Namulondo explained that the character of Sara is a representative of a positive woman who has struggled to earn her worth in life but is still happy. Sara too represents women whose husbands are supportive and the women choose to stick by them through thick and thin.
“Sara is a representative of an ideal woman, a woman who has travelled through all journeys of life, transformed but still aware of her responsibility as a wife, happy and content with the choices she has made in life,” Namulondo added.
According to Nabasa, “I took on the role of Marina, because personally I have been in relationships that made me very unhappy. I needed to represent the women who have been cheated on, who are in unhappy relationships with their men or husbands, but most importantly mothers, since Marina is a mother.”
As to the importance of black men in African society, Namulondo noted: “In the African setting, a man is supposed to provide for and protect his wife and family, and in this day and age I think it’s a man’s role to empower his wife in whatever way possible.”
In her description of black men, Nabasa said, “I believe most men know what they want and they are go-getters. Some tend to be self centred and careless with the feelings of their partners. That being said, black men are very observant and opinionated.
“I think the negative side of black men is the struggle to be noticed as men. In this day and age, men are threatened and intimidated by empowered women,” Namulondo observed, adding that on the good side, most black man are cultured and respect culture and cultural practices.