My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Motswana Playwright/Actor/Writer Donald Molosi has fascinated me for a while now, with his awe-inspiring one-man act. Molosi is so highly acclaimed, I doubt he has any more lapel real-estate to adorn any more accolades, and unsurprisingly, he keeps breaking new ground with his riveting plays. If only he knew he’d already won me over when he did Today It’s Me, a play about Uganda’s celebrated musician who became the face of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Uganda in the 80’s. It had not occurred me before that Philly Bongole Lutaaya was as much an African gem as he was Ugandan.
Blue, Black and White
We Are All Blue is a collection of two plays; Blue, Black and White, and Motswana: Africa, Dream Again. The first and more lengthy of the two, Blue, Black and White is a play about the turbulent start of the interracial romance between Sir Seretse Khama, a Prince of Bangwato and Lady Ruth Williams Khama, an English lady and formerly a clerk Sir Seretse met during his studies in London. This was way back in 1948. Life was still black and white back then, much like the TVs at the time and as such, their blossoming love which ended in an unsanctioned marriage was pigeonholed by all sides from the get-go.
How times have changed. In this 21st century, we see everything in vibrant color; we think nothing much of interracial marriage and matter of fact, Britain’s own Prince Harry is currently dating American actress, Meghan Markle, a multiracial/interracial/biracial divorcée (for some reason, anybody with even a drop of black African blood is considered only black) three years his senior.
Perhaps a better case scenario is Uganda’s own Ganda Kingdom. The current King, Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi has a first-born son, Jjunju Suuna who nonetheless is not in line to succeed the throne for one simple reason: his mother is Rwandese. Of course, there are intricacies as to why which I cannot even begin to comprehend but this draws parallels with the Batswana conundrum at the time.
My favorite scene in Blue, Black and White is the fable of the orphan boy Morwangwedi who travels in search of his father. What I took from this was a message for Africans who share a gaping chasm in place of their inheritance to get up and unearth that which they lost on the arrival of the colonialists.
Bagaetsho, we must write our his-
tory books to prove that we did have a past, and that this is
a past that is just as worth writing and learning about as any
other. My fellow Batswana, we must excavate our history,
dress it up in pride, intelligence, and foresight so that it may
indeed come alive in our consciousness today.
Now Sir Seretse achieved something many African states are still grappling with to this day, and that is racial inclusion. Whether by design or via an organic mental shift, North Africa, home to ancient Berbers and the Arabs cut away the North from black subSaharan Africa most of whom believe Africa belongs to them alone, while turning a blind eye to the Ethiopians, Somalis, Eritreas and other peoples who do not fit the demographic but are undeniably sons of the soil. One wonders how we used to coexist before skin tone became a segregator. As I read Blue, Black and White, I kept asking myself, “How much of our shared history do I really know?” Not much by any standard.
Sir Seretse’s marriage to Lady Ruth Williams sends shockwaves in South Africa and Rhodesia, exposing the disparity in perspective as the Afrikaners harbour intentions to keep the status quo, even going as far as evoking the bible.
…I repeat to my South Africans. Any of you who think
black should mix with white should know that within these
borders it is impossible, unlawful, and un-Biblical. It will not
be allowed here. What is going on in Bechuanaland is nothing
short of unnatural and I hope for your sake that the law is
A Black will always be a Black and inferior to the White
man. If this marriage across the border in Bechuanaland is not
unnatural to you all, shall we also marry animals then? It is
To know that an African Chief and President was forward-thinking in the 40’s, decades before most African countries achieved independence is liberating to know. The thought put into the national flag and the national animals is so touching. And I did get to read about Sir Seretse (It is our history after all) and how he transformed Botswana into the enviable country it is today, a rare African post-independence miracle.
Motswana: Africa, Dream Again
The second play is a cross-roads many Africans encounter in their journey into discovering their identity. I brought this play to Kireka so I could internalise the struggle at a personal level. Uganda as a country much like the rest of the countries in Africa, is an artificial construct of the British colonialists. Uganda as a name itself is what Swahili people called Buganda, the kingdom at the country’s heart. Here’s a suggestion: can we jump off the patriotism unicycle for a second and think about what our collective identity currently is and what it ought to be.
Boemo Gulubani is the vehicle in We Are All Blue through which we are challenged to rethink our perceived identity. Instead of thinking small by throwing patriotism and self identity at the unnatural colonial border constructs, we should look further. To banish our oppressors, we banded together as a continent and pooled our arsenal together and fought, together.
My mind and my knowledge of myself are formed by the vic-
tories that are the jewels in our African crowns, the victories
we earned from Lagos to Juba, from Dimawe to Sophiatown,
as the Ashanti of Ghana, as the Berbers of the Sahara, as the
Swahili of Tanganyika. Being part of all these people, and in
the knowledge that none dare contest that assertion, I shall
claim that I am an African. And I am a Motswana.
With Xenophobia flaring every so often it’s good to remind people of how we are all connected whether by blood, a shared struggle, ancestry. Think on this, I am Ugandan and I have never come in contact with someone who actually speaks Zulu, but I can understand a number of words they use. Why? Because they are similar to Luganda which I speak.
Getting back to the play, Molosi through his vehicle, Boemo writes:
Motswana is part of myself and, like stagnant water, I can-
not run from myself. But instead of keeping a bruised silence,
I often wonder out loud what would happen to that word,
Motswana, if we imagined the southern African region with-
out borders. Would the land not bloom with mobile citizens
and fecund consciousnesses
I always conclude that I could own that term—Motswana—
only if I choose to see it as a diaspora, a more elastic and more
inclusive identity: as a people that lie in the still-colonial terri-
tory I was born in as well as on the outskirts, in the so-called
“neighboring countries” and so-called “other countries.”
I believe, just like Boemo who puts his Motswana identity through a looking glass, fellow Africans should as well. What he sees reflected back at him is something far broader than he imagined. Instead of squabbling over territories we didn’t create to begin with, we should be embracing our often porous borders. As Africans, we rarely give notice of an intended visit; we only see us coming. Isn’t what family does?
This book review was originally published at She Made Me Do It. Sydney Mugerwa is one of the select official book bloggers.