Nanzikambe stages Mapanje’s ‘And crocodiles are hungry at night’

Jack Mapanje’s memoir ‘And Crocodiles are Hungry at Night’, for some ordinary folks, could be any notes, any narration about ones experience within the walls of Maula prison and his struggle to probe the hidden motives behind his arrest.

But a pick on one or two scenes of its theatrical display as adopted by Nanzikambe Arts Theatre, one would notice how the memoir comes to life, breathing out an occurrence of autocratic leadership under one party era.

It speaks out-through the play- of the ills of one party regime, the detention of its critics and innocent citizens while setting up a leaf or two the present could learn from and define its future.

Dr Mapanje: Do not allow return to dictatorship

The play, adopted by Kate Stafford of UK-based Bilimankhwe Theatre, is set for a public viewing on March 3, 2012 at Nanzikambe’s Naperi base with a promising cast of eight.

“It is our s goal to showcase a story of recent past. Some people did not know what happened in one party era. The media that time was much controlled that could not expose some of the stuff that took place. And we want to show people some of the things that happened and how they could avoid such incidents to happen now or in future.” Stafford told Nyasa Times.

According to Stafford, the play is “something that tells the truth” and that it is full of anger, rage and of course humour.

Living exhibit

In order to make it more realistic, Stafford roped on Brown Mpinganjira who helped in reconstructing the story, giving it a clear perspective, the audience will be thrilled.

“We sourced the services of Mpinganjira. He was like our consultant on the play. He helped to arrange the story in order to come up with a real picture of what happened at Maula prison. We are grateful for his services,” added Stafford.

The play also incorporates some of Mapanje’s poems and according to Nanzikambe’s Misheck Mzumara, And Crocodiles are Hungry at Night, is set to generate debate under issues of oppression and dangers of allowing leaders turning into dictators.

“With current concern on declining of democratic standards and how our political administration is running its affairs, we hope the play will generate the needed debate on how much powers should we bestow on our leaders and on what dangers that follow when they are left to turn into despots,” explained Mzumara.

Set for a premiere on Saturday evening at Nanzikambe’s office in Naperi. The play will have follow-up performances on Sunday and Monday at same venue but in the afternoon.

“Plans are under way to take it to Zomba, Lilongwe and Mzuzu but that will depend on funding. But in July this year it will leave for UK where we will have a series of performances,” said Mzumara who is acting the leading role of Jack Mapanje in the play.

Other actors include Aaron Ngalonde who is acting as Brown Mpinganjira, Thlupe Chisiza, Maureen Mathala as Mapanje’s wife and some actors from Village and Mudzi dance troops.

“It’s a Nanzikambe and Bilimankhwe co-production. As sister theatre groups we thought of coming together in this production as well as other actors from other groups so that we could share the theatrical experience thereby accelerating the growth theatre in the country,” said Stafford.

Mapanje, based in York, UK as head of the Department of English at the University of Malawi until his arrest in September 1987. After his release in 2001, he moved in exile to the UK, He is recipient of the 1988 Rotterdam Poetry International Award, an honorary doctorate from the University of Stirling, and the 2002 African Literature Association Fonlon-Nichols Award.

When leaders turn into tyrants, when people are oppressed, when critics are detained and when voices are silenced from speaking out the ills of one bad administration, the hope is always on artists to become the needed mouthpiece. And it is of no surprise when Nanzikambe and Bilimankhwe take up such role.

Nanzikambe performing the reality of incarceration in dictatorship

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