Becoming a Playwright on Manda Island

I came to Manda Island on a Sundance retreat to work on my first production of dramatized poetry, Cut off my Tongue, and to “take it to the next level.” Well, I’ve done much more than that. I’ve tossed it out and started on something entirely new. After two frustrating days I realized COMT is perfect as it is. I took the step to use this time instead to create something entirely new.

I was extremely nervous to begin with. Here I was embarking on a quest to write a play. Would I succeed?

Yes I did. After talking, talking, and talking, I settled on writing on what, for me, is dangerous. I told my own story. You see, I am a privileged African. My story does not conform to the things that have come to signify Africa. Poverty, hunger, famine, flies on faces, HIV/AIDS, war. In my experience no one wants to hear about that life. I was afraid that the other participants would be contemptuous of my story, declare it fake. “That is not the real Africa!” But they did not. They recognized the stories of their parents, their uncles who had similar experiences at the University of Nairobi.

Instead of contempt I was left with the question: How will we know who we are and where we are as a people if we do not write much more from our contemporary lives?


Lead photo: