One of the country’s iconic freedom fighters, Reverend John Chilembwe will this year be celebrated through a play Operation Mandala 1915 produced by Youth Developers Collaboration (YDC) Theatre.
The play will be premiered at Pathunzi Theatre in Blantyre on January 15, a public holiday set aside to remember the struggle that characterised the Chilembwe uprising.
The play’s writer and producer FumbaniPhiri yesterday said said the production depicts events during the intervening 100 years since the uprising. He said Chilembwe’s story has emerged as a myth that has been told, re-told and embellished by subsequent generations.
“There has been speculation on the circumstances of his death, indeed whether he died at all or escaped into Portuguese East Africa,” he said.
Phiri said his biggest motivation to dramatise the Chilembwe narrative was the urge to bring back the culture of classic Malawi productions as most of the plays staged lately relied on international adaptations.
He also said the production was an attempt to revisit our country’s history for the present generation to appreciate what happened.
The producer said: “Stories of our fallen freedom fighters remind the society where we are coming from. So, the only way to evoke this experience was to write a historical piece.”
Phiri said the play is a result of extensive research which has taken them two years to complete. He said most of their findings were informed by research that was conducted by Davis Stuart-Mogg from Scotland and some selected scholars.
Operation Mandala 1915 features a youthful cast averaging 20 years which also took part in the research. Some of the names that feature in the production are Deborah Butao, Jack Musumba, and Theodora Maliwa.
This is a second historical production from YDC Theatre after the production of their highly-acclaimed and award-winning The Walking Ngwazi whose story was a tribute to the country’s first president Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda.
One member of the cast Musumba said most historical narratives have been distorted and that the production team behind this play tried its best to make it factual.
“I hope most members from the present generation will take time to come and appreciate this production. It is impossible to effect your destiny if you dont know where you are coming from,” he said.