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Silent Voices, relevant even today

One of the scenes from the play

“How can I be a responsible father when I was forced to be a wife to another man?” asked a witness in the trial of Mother.

The question shocked most guests who watched Dwon Ma Peke, Silent Voices at the National theatre last weekend. You see, people knew about the fact that the Lord’s Resistance Army had raped women but did not know that the men, too, were sodomized.

The play, written by Judith Lucy Adong and set in a society undergoing transitional justice, reveals the untold terrors experienced by countless victims of the two-decade conflict in Northern Uganda.

When Mother – the protagonist – testifies, the audience is reduced to tears. She narrates the painful events that transformed her into wife and mother at 12 years old, and the suffering she endured at the hands of her ‘husband’. All of which turned her into a murderer, herself.

“They said ‘forgive’ but what do they know? Did they go through what we went through? Who are they to ask us to forgive?”

The rhetorical questions leave one questioning how fair government was in telling war victims to forgive and live with the people who tortured them and killed their loved ones. For a moment, one is tempted to think Mother is justified to kill.

Developed at the Sundance Theatre Lab, Silent Voices first premiered at the National theatre in 2012.  This year’s production, dubbed Silent Voices Season Two, followed the achievement of the first season to boldly rise and question government’s approach of forgiveness versus justice in Northern Uganda.

Season Two came with a number of innovations like publishing the play, translating it to Acholi and staging it in Northern Uganda. Children below 16 years were, however, not allowed to watch the production due to the graphic content and mature language used at some points. Ironically, the cast includes children below ten years.

Andrew Lwanga Ssebaggala, the production manager, says these children, all of them pupils of Taibah international school, underwent vigorous training and counseling to prepare them for their mature roles.

The play’s commendable cast includes Sanyu Kisaka, whose portrayal of a bitter woman on the brink of insanity (Mother) was so impressive she received a standing ovation at the end.

“I listened to the anger and frustration expressed by victims about the Amnesty Act, which they felt rewarded perpetrators for confessing to often heinous crimes. I felt so strongly that these stories needed to be heard,” Adong says.

It was a wonderfully- produced play with fresh and captivating performances. For instance, instead of the usual curtain dropping and rising to indicate a change of scene, Silent Voices uses dance interludes.

The play could help governments, the International Criminal Court and other stakeholders to reflect on their conflict resolution approaches. If you enjoyed Julius Ocwinyo’s Fate Of The Banished, then Silent Voices will intrigue you even more.

jjmirembe@gmail.com

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