Mwana is a new play from Glasgow-based Ankur Productions
Debut play from Tawona Sithole examines culture of Zimbabwe
Mwana is a salad boy. It’s a Zimbabwean joke, what people who live in the country and eat a heavy, starchy diet call the urban lettuce-munchers. Despite this dietary preference Mwana comes to Glasgow to study and Tawona Sithole’s play takes his return to Harare for his brother’s wedding as the starting point to reveal a family’s hidden secrets, and dissect the disappearance of the indigenous culture of his homeland.
While Mwana is not autobiographical it is certainly personal. Sithole, 38, came to Scotland as a student in 1996. A performance poet and writer, this is his first play. ‘The story is close to me,’ he says, while between rehearsals. ‘It’s based on my experiences, being raised in Zimbabwe, feeling that society is ignoring its own influences. In these post-colonial times, people are ignoring traditional learning.’
Within Sithole’s family oral traditions – music, storytelling, ceremonies and celebrations – were all important. ‘I’m so glad I experienced that. It has given me an insight into my own heritage, there’s a knowledge there compared to my peers who have not had these experiences.’
Sithole has been developing Mwana with Glasgow-based Ankur Productions since 2007 and is understandably excited to see it finally coming together. ‘These are my observations,’ he says, ‘but I think these themes are universal in traditional cultures. Zimbabwe now has a cut and paste culture of TV and film. You dismiss your own culture if all you want to do is copy somebody else’s.’
Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Fri 10–Sat 18 Feb; Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Wed 22–Sat 25 Feb