Thursday, 29 January 2015

Bryon Kawadwa

Playwright, Artiste and director of National Theater. Murdered by Amin's henchmen.

The fate of Kawadwa at the hands of Amin's agents was not without its tragic irony. 

Several Baganda theatre artists welcomed Amin's coup, as first. Popular theatre artists like Kiyingi and Kawadwa, and literary dramatists like Serumaga, thought Amin would reinstate the Kabaka, (who had been deposed from his traditional Kingship by Obote). Although the Kabaka was not reinstalled, in the early years of Amin's regime, Kawadwa's productions did seem to spearhead a Baganda renaissance.

Eventually, however, Amin's paranoia took offence at one of Kawadwa's most popular plays. St Charles Lwanga, first produced in 1970, was a play about the nineteenth century Baganda Christians who were martyred by Kabaka Mwanga. Kawadwa decided to revive the play in 1976 and owing to its Christian content, sought and received approval for the performance from Muslim Amin's presidential office.

In 1977, the year of the performance, Amin's notorious Bureau of State security outraged Ugandan and world opinion by murdereing the Anglican Archbishop, Janani Luwum. Suddenly Kawadwa's play was transformed from a relatively innocuous exploration of nineteenth century Ugandan history into a politically sensitive allegory on contemporary state terrorists. Soon afterwards, Byron and several members of his theatre company were picked up by the bureau of state security and their burnt bodies were discovered in the bush 33 km outside Kampala. Kawadwa's fate seems all the more pathetic because he was not an oppositional author of a consciously ideological stamp; it was just that his ability to ceate theatrical forms with a wide popular appeal outside Amin's permitted propaganda machinery eventually seemed a threat to the state.

No comments: