On 24th November, 2017, the Department of Performing Arts and Film, Makerere University in collaboration with the US Embassy in Uganda, presented Lynn Nottage’s play “Ruined” to the University Community. The play was also presented to the general public at Ndere Centre on 26th November, 2017.
Published in 2009, “Ruined” is a winner of the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It is a challenging piece of courageous realism at its best, exposing the otherwise under-looked, shocking brutality and exploration that takes place during war.
Directed by Dr. Charles Mulekwa, a Lecturer in the Department of Performing Arts and Film, “Ruined” generally addresses two broad themes: war and gender-based violence. The Playwright presents a haunting and probing work about the resilience of the human spirit during times of war and its effects especially regarding women. Set in recent times, in a small mining town in Democratic Republic of Congo, this powerful play follows Mama Nadi, a shrewd businesswoman in a land torn apart by civil war. The entire play takes place in the slipshod bar with "makeshift furniture and a run-down pool table." The bar caters to miners, traveling salesmen, military men, and rebel fighters. The bar provides its guests with drinks and food, but it also functions as a brothel.
Described as an attractive woman in her early forties with "an arrogant stride and majestic air”, Mama Nadi is the shrewd owner of the profitable business in a hellish environment and has mastered the art of duplicity. When the military enters the bar, Mama Nadi is loyal to the government. When the rebels arrive the following day, she is devoted to the revolution. She agrees with whoever is offering cash. She has survived by being charming, accommodating, and serving anyone, whether honorable or evil. As many as 10 young women work for her.
Mama Nadi is a no-nonsense woman, perfectly capable of getting right into the faces of armed soldiers to ensure they follow her rules. They must take their bullets out of their guns before entering the bar. She doesn’t tolerate any talk about the bloody war that gets closer and closer to her brothel by the day. Nothing may rattle Mama Nadi but the girls she employs are fragile and shattered. Josephine, the daughter of a chieftain, Salima, a wife and mother and Sophie, who was raped repeatedly with a bayonet by soldiers and therefore “ruined” and cannot have sex. They have chosen a life of prostitution because, for most, it seems to be their only chance of survival.
At the show presented in the University Main Hall on 24th November, 2017, Immaculate R. Namutale, a Third Year student of Drama and Film impressively demonstrated the character of Mama Nadi described above. Other actors too did not fall short of the expectations. They clearly illustrated the scenes in Lynn Nottage’s Ruined. These included Ginny Kyokusiima a First Year student of Drama and Film who acted as Sophie, Rachael Akello, also a First Year student of Drama and Film who acted as Josephine and Cyrus Bugaba, a Second Year student pursuing a Diploma in Performing Arts. Cyrus acted as Christian.
Presented during the International Gender-Based Violence week that runs from 25th November to 10th December every year, “Ruined” enhances the national and international activism against gender-based violence and war in Uganda. According to the Head of the Department of Performing Arts and Film, Makerere University, also Executive Producer, Dr Sylvia Antonia Nannyonga-Tamusuza, the show strengthens Makerere University's practical participation in important public debates on issues of human good and sparks Ugandans' consciousness regarding gender-based violence and triggers action against gender-based violence and conflict management.
In her remarks, Dr Tamusuza expressed gratitude to the US Embassy in Uganda for funding the production, including securing the license authoring the Department to perform the play. She also thanked the students for their commitment to the play. “For every role in this production, the students have taken up a big position and with support from our members of staff namely; Dr Charles Mulekwa, Dr Jessica Kaahwa, Dr Richard Kagolobya and Ms. Anita Desire Asaasira, I have had a chance to see how, when given the opportunity, the students have such great potential to lead the entire process," she said.
In the production process, Dr Jessica Kaahwa, a renowned trainer of some of the best scenic designers and directors in Uganda worked with her students of scenic design to achieve Lynn Nottage’s Ruined realism. Dr Richard Kagolobya, a Lecturer in drama and film, and Head of the Drama section was the rehearsal coordinator.
The show was attended by the US Ambassador in Uganda, H.E Deborah Malac, the representative of the Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Dr Eria Hisali and the Cultural Affairs Specialist at the US Embassy, Ms Dorothy Ngalombi.