Director. Kinjeketile, by Ebrahim N. Hussein.

U.C. Berkeley / Berkeley, CA / Oct. 2011

Kinjeketile is the Tanzanian dramatist Ebrahim N. Hussein's best-known play. It draws from the historical record to tell the story of Kinjeketile Ngwale, a diviner whose prophecies help inspired the 1905-7 Maji Maji War against German colonial rule in what was then called Tanganyika. Kinjeketile's chief prophecy - that warriors who were anointed with water from a certain river would be made invulnerable to German bullets - inspired his people to fight for their freedom but also led to their total defeat and near-annihilation. Hussein's script is steeped in the existentialism of the postcolonial period. Freedom, yes, but for whom - and at what cost?

My 2011 workshop production was the first ever to take place outside of Africa. I conducted extensive research into the history of Maji Maji in order to create a piece that looked backward into the colonial archive as well forward into the postcolonial future. My knowledge of Hussein's entire oeuvre, which I'm translating into English, helped me find a stylistic idiom for the piece somewhere between Brechtianism and the Africanist offshoots of Grotowski's Poor Theatre.

This production featured a talented ensemble cast of undergraduate actors and was stage managed by Valerie Tu. All photographs courtesy of Joshua Hesslein at TDPS.