Jul 29, 2013, 9:38 AM
This is one of four known plays by the late Gambian playwright, politician and nurse and former consort of D.K, Jawara, Augusta Jawara née Mahoney, who wrote under the pen name Ramatulie Kinteh. From 1960 to 1968, she wrote plays like ‘Master brain’, ‘First Inch of a Mile’ and most known of all ‘Rebellion’. For nearly 50 years ‘Rebellion’ remained hidden in some archive of its publishers in 1968, The Philosophical Society in USA. Many a student of Gambian literature had inquired where to find a copy of the play. Now it is here in a new slim edition with a forward by Neema Jawara, one of five children of Lady Jawara. In addition to Hassoum Ceesay’s brilliant exposé of Lady Jawara in his book Gambian Women: An Introductory History (2008), this new edition of ‘Rebellion’ will help once again to put this wonderful playwright in her rightful place in the pantheon of Gambian literature.
The play is themed on the issue of girls’ education; about a little Mandinka Girl, who hails from the village, and who managed to weather the storm of male chauvinism and get a good education locally which enabled her to pursue further education outside The Gambia. It is a play about victory over adversity. It is a play about women’s empowerment.
Adversity because in the play we come across many strong male characters such as Chief Lamin p.45 who commanded so much respect and awe in the community that their words became final. It is only when a hole big enough was knocked out of their chauvinism that Nyasata, the main character in the play, was able to realise her dream of further education.
Nyasata also comes out in the play as focussed and determined to get her education despite the odds.In page 9 she sets herself out as a strong female character who does not allow her human rights to be trampled by anyone: ‘ I insist on going to school, refusing to marry at 14 years, and demanding liberty to marry the man (I) choose... We must save our sex from exploitation of men’.
It is this intrepidness that she shows throughout the play, and it is also this determination and strong will which takes her to high heights in her educational pursuits to become a nurse!
The play has a strong element of the Gambia of the colonial period, when Europeans such as missionaries and charity sisters worked in the country, especially in schools and hospitals. They were useful in motivating young people like Nysata to realise their dreams. The author uses a suspense-filled, flowing diction which keeps raising the readers (or audiences’) expectations throughout.
It is worth a celebration that this wonderful play, which was a pace setter in Gambian literature, and by a great Gambian woman, a trail blazer in politics and society, has come out in a new edition.
The ‘Rebellion’ is a must read for all Gambians. It would be an inspiring text for school students to read, and schools could consider presenting the play. I also encourage all other dramatists to stage this play to diffuse it to the general Gambian public.
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