We Are Walukuba: June 2015

Scenes from the grassroots community theatre performance 'We Are Walukuba', 13 June 2015.

Scene 1 - Family Planning and HIV Testing

A woman of forty-three desperately asks her colleagues if they can advise her on family planning. Already struggling to provide for four children, she has been confused by the many myths circulating in her village. The women debate family planning options, side effects, myths and realities. Afraid of her husband finding out, she flees a cacophony of voices to attend the local clinic in secret where she consults a nurse and receives the contraceptive injection. Meanwhile, in a bar in town, complaining of a prolonged illness, her husband seeks advice from his friends. One man, a VHT, counsels on testing for HIV and disclosing both the test and results to his wife, whilst another laughs at him, telling him not to worry about HIV and to enjoy instead a lifestyle of ‘booze and girlfriends.’ The man flees his arguing friends to attend the clinic in secret to test for HIV. Husband and wife are shocked to bump into each other at the clinic, and reveal their secrets to each other. The drama closes with a friend of the family advising them to have clear communication, to be faithful, and to put their families first.

Scene 2 - School Girls Raise Their Voices

A group of seven young women aged 14-16 performed a poem between the goal posts of the football pitch. Dressed in their uniforms from Walukuba West Primary School they presented a poem they had written in Luganda to voice their concerns to the older generation. Through this poem they appealed to their parents and their bassenga, asking not to be mistreated or forced into early marriages, entreating the older generation to allow them to “grow up well so that we could become bank managers, nurses and musicians.” They appealed against being given too much domestic work and asked to be allowed to go to school and complete their homework in order “to become the children you want us to be [and] useful to you the community and ourselves.”

Scene 3 - Tree Cutting and Poverty

The scene opens with two men on the factory floor. Forced to work in unsafe conditions for very low pay, one man is sacked after taking a short unauthorized break, despite having worked at the factory for 15 years; one example of the poor working conditions faced by people working in Jinja’s factories. With no ability to appeal, no working labor unions, and little knowledge of labor rights, the man is forced back onto the street where, with few skills and no formal education, he must seek alternative ways to support his three children who need school fees, food, clothing and shelter. Reluctantly he agrees with friend to illegally cut down some trees just one time to raise cash. The local defense catches the two young men in the act and capture them, calling “Police! Police!” The scene was frozen at this dramatic moment and audience members were invited to discuss what should happen next.

Scene 4 - The Corrupt Councillor

Back in the tree cutting scene, the action resumes as the police arrive with batons to beat the two guilty men. The cast rush in to defend them. Raising a banner that reads ‘We are Walukuba’ they chase the police away and sing a song of unity. As the community marches along the road, they and the audience are confronted by a corrupt councillor. He is attempting to pay off a poor young woman in order to seize a plot of land allocated to her. He offers her an amount far below the value of the plot and attempts to intimidate her. The community once again rushes to her defense and they chase the corrupt councillor away.

Scene 5 - Money for Votes

Still marching, the singing community now encounters a campaigning politician giving a speech. He is making extravagant promises about constructing roads, infrastructural development and speaking on their behalf in parliament. He showers the community with money while asking for their votes in the upcoming election. Some actors interrupt to say that they are tired of the broken promises made by politicians who disappear after elections and who remain absent from their constituencies. The community unites to run the politician out of town.

Scene 6 - Swamp Degradation Rap and Breakdance

After several workshops focusing on the rising rate and dangers of swamp degradation around Jinja, a group of young men wrote a rap to educate their audience on this important issue, drawing on both personal experiences and research. Accompanied by beat-boxing, they rap about the value of the swamp as a natural habitat and part of a complex ecosystem. They also raise attention to the clearing of swamps for building factories and the houses of both rich and poor, the endemic corruption that leads to the allocation of plots in the wetlands, and the risks of flooding and disease that comes from building in these environments.

Scene 7 - Young Women's Oppression

Young women drew on their personal experiences and those they witness every day to present a short but visually arresting scene to draw attention to, and open a dialogue about, the repression of young women within the community and within their own families. A young woman who dreams of being ‘economically vibrant’ and independent is slowly brought to her knees by the competing demands put upon her. These include relatives who try to steal her assets after the death of her parents; her husband who announces she cannot go out to work and must stay at home to concentrate on domestic duties; her grandmother who tells her she cannot dress in the modern way and must respect the traditional culture; a sugar daddy who tries to tempt her with material gifts; and the wider community which tries to silence her by telling her that as a young woman she does not have a voice. After she is slowly brought to her knees the young woman breaks free of her oppressions to cry “We have minds, we have skills, everything a man can do we can do! We need freedom from oppression!”

Scene 8 - Love and Money

This scene was scripted by Jane Plastow drawing upon the direct words spoken by men and women in discussion groups regarding the challenges facing relationships and families in Walukuba today. By reversing gender roles, having women occupy the traditional role of men in society, and men occupying that of women, this scene aimed to challenge the audience to think about the everyday struggles and inequalities women must overcome in their family lives today. The sketch highlighted the disastrous impact of alcohol, domestic violence, the lack of equal opportunities for girl children to attend school, older men preying on young women, and lack of faithfulness in relationships. At the end of the scene the audience were invited to discuss the social issues highlighted during the play.

Scene 9 - Finale: We Are Walukuba

Parading and singing together, the whole cast walked to the Division Gardens with the audience joining them in a long procession. Each cast member was presented first with a candle made by young people in Walukuba and lit in memory of past generations, and then with a fruit tree seedling donated by Jinja Municipal Council to be planted in Walukuba for future generations. Under trees strung with lights and holding aloft both their candles and their seedlings in front of a large audience of community members, the full cast assembled around their banner to sing the full version of their anthem ‘We are Walukuba.’

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