A man for all seasons - The East African

A man for all seasons

Monday August 23 2010


Wycliffe Kiyingi has a bone to pick with Ugandan playwrights over what he terms their thirst for quick money with hastily mounted productions that usually do not carry strong stories and messages.

“They don’t want to research let alone put thought into the plays. All they want is their audiences to laugh, in the process killing theatre,” Kiyingi, one of Uganda’s prolific playwrights, argues.
Kiyingi is the man behind Muduuma kwe Kwaffe (Muduuma is our Home), which centres on the political and economic confusion that reigned in Uganda since 1945.

Muduuma Town is meeting point for discussions, gossip and the latest news and where everybody knew everybody else. It shows how people lived then, their different values and concerns — but of course without greed, exploitation, opportunism, envy and rivalry.

Time to fix it all

Muduuma kwe Kwaffe, a two-hour-and–half play directed by Kaya Kagimu Mukasa, showed at the National Theatre in Kampala from July 3-24.

According to Mukasa, Kiyingi’s writings are very expressive and therefore easily understandable.

Kiyingi has written for radio, stage and television for more than 40 years.

“He is very intelligent, witty and a charming writer. He writes plays with such finesse, nothing is there by accident,” Mukasa observes.

At last year’s celebrations to mark 50 years of the existence of the Uganda National Cultural Centre (UNCC), Kiyingi was recognised with “A Golden Artist (1954-2009)” award and his play Mudduma Kwe Kaffe, published by Angelina Books in 2009 launched.

He also received the Golden Drama Award in 2007 for “The Most Prolific Multimedia Playwright,” from the Golden Drama Foundation.

Kiyingi is seen by many as the moving spirit behind modern Ugandan theatre with his works revolving around everyday life.

Some critics have labelled him “the encyclopaedia of drama.”

Kiyingi founded African Artists Association, the first all-Ugandan theatre company to promote local drama.

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 at Makerere University in the mid 1960s.

When the National Curriculum Development Centre and the Uganda National Examination Board changed the ‘O’ Level examination syllabus for literature in English and Luganda, Kiyingi’s Gwossussa Emwanyi was among the new Luganda books.

Kiyingi’s contemporaries include Robert Serumaga, Rose Mbowa, and Byron Kawadwa, who became famous for powerfully constructed topical plays that provided rich entertainment as well as biting social satire.