Arts & Lifestyle
Moving play on Spirit of Nehanda
A PLAY by a Harare theatre dance group – Elysium Magna – sets out to show how the spirit of Mbuya Nehanda ignited the Second Chimurenga liberation war.
Titled “The Rising Bones”, the play premiered this week at Theatre in the Park to critical acclaim.
Set when Mbuya Nehanda or Charwe and Sekuru Kaguvi were captured by the colonisers, the play takes the audience back to the beginning of the armed struggle.
This was after Mbuya Nehanda had made the popular proclamation that: “Mapfupa angu achamuka” meaning “my bones will rise”.
Well, the energy, the vibe and the whole delivery on stage was so intense.
In this hour-long production, the music binds everything together and even when emotions run high the music sort of diffuses the tension and we are back to dance and happiness.
There are modern dances infused with traditional repertoire such as kongonya and Jerusarema/Mbende which was classified as intangible heritage by Unesco.
Thanks to the workmanship of Hillary Indi, an accomplished choreographer, for imparting his skills to the youngsters.
It was a moving play showcasing both dance and drama on stage.
The one good thing was that the cast stayed in character and ran with the narrative from start to finish.
But one of the biggest questions was on the timing of the play. The 2023 general elections are around the corner; was this in any way a coincidence?
But as co-director and University of Zimbabwe (UZ) student Luckmore Magaya explained, the play has nothing to do with next year’s elections.
“The play is about our cultural heritage and spirit of Nehanda that inspired a whole generation of cadres to take up arms.
“It captures the history of Zimbabwe and we are proud of our cultural heritage. And as you maybe aware, we have a youthful cast, with the youngest being 18 years old. And the other thing it took us almost a year working on this production,” Magaya explained.
“Elysium Magna is a self-funded project and we use resources available and this is why we appreciate Rooftop Promotions for allowing us to stage the play at Theatre in the Park. At present we are pleading for assistance to be able to sustain ourselves.”
The play is based on the bombing of Chimoio liberation camp in Mozambique and the retaliation against the Rhodesian forces in Zimbabwe’s armed liberation war.
The narrative unfolds from a scene in the 1890s when Nehanda and Kaguvi were captured after revolting against the white settlers. They are hanged together with other chiefs.
Nehanda makes a proclamation that she will rise again and drive away the settlers and give back the land to the black people.
The play features Teurai, a young girl with the people’s will at heart. Her parents were murdered before her and fate crafts her path for revenge.
She meets friends and falls in love with Zengeya, a young commanding officer at Chimoio, but there is a twist of fate.
We also see Zengeya, a handsome guy in his early 30s, who lost his village during a brutal attack by the Rhodesian forces.
His path leads to supporting Teurai, but not happily ever after. Svikiro, a spirit medium of Nehanda, is seen leading the guerrillas to the attainment of Zimbabwe’s Independence.
One of the main characters is Shatai, the chief commander of the guerrillas, who leads his men and warriors through thick and thin in the Second Chimurenga.
We also see Ian Smith, the leader of the Rhodesian government and armed forces.
He refuses to grant black people self-rule and seeks to crush the revolution until 1979 when he declares a ceasefire, leading to Zimbabwe’s Independence on 18 April 1980.
On a scale of one to 10, the Rising Bones deserves an eight.
Elysium Magna comprises youths, some of them still doing their Ordinary Level studies, while others are students at the UZ.
The group has performed a number of times at Theatre in the Park.