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Four One One

Celebrating women in theatre

Pamela Keryeko

It is March, and it is the month when we celebrate female achievers in different fields. Over the years, in Uganda, different fields such as agriculture, oil and gas, aviation, and other business sectors.

Only a few times has there been a focus on the arts, usually, even when they have something on theatre, the focus is on managers, female DJs, and runners; mainly because these jobs are not usually done by women.

But this March, there has been some dedication to the art of theatre; it started with The African Theatre Magazine documenting female theatre makers, and then Timeless Art did the talk shows, also following Ugandan women in theatre.

Of course, theatre is primarily about storytelling, and women in African culture were the custodians of narratives. The women who spun words, created humour, and told stories were the ones who kept society running. The girls’ ululations and bosom-shaking in the arena represented the spiritual energy that flexed the muscles of young wrestlers; old women’s dirges at funerals provided families with a fitting send-off for their loved ones. Men from hunting or war would return to the song-singing and dance-dancing of women. The narrative that the woman created was what held the clan, the family, and the country together.

The power of storytelling in African culture was deeply intertwined with the roles and contributions of women, who played a vital role in maintaining social cohesion and passing down traditions through their narratives. Their ability to weave stories that resonated with the community not only entertained them but also served as a means of preserving history and cultural values for future generations.

This is where these talks and spotlights come in; they give us the perspective of women in theatre and open up on the process of creating, writing, and directing.

Timeless released the first episode of the talks, featuring directors Pamela Keryeko and Amelia Mbotto Kyaka. Keryeko has worked on film and theatre  projects such as Prestige, DamaLie, and Popi. Kyaka has stuck to theatre and was behind the successful Merchant of Venice and Charles Mulekwa’s Man to Man.

Keryeko is also directing Timeless Art’s current production, Phantom of the Opera, one of the most successful British musicals.

The African Theatre Magazine, on the other hand, has documented the journey of Mariam Ndagire, one of the female pioneers of Uganda’s modern theatre, and her views open up more than a narrative about the journey of local theatre as we know it.

Ndagire’s influence in the industry has paved the way for other female artists to thrive in Uganda’s modern theatre scene. Her commitment to storytelling and empowering women through the arts continues to inspire a new generation of performers.

As the month comes to an end, there are more celebrations of female theatre practitioners that different platforms will be spotlighting, such as legends, actors, and producers.

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