Friday, April 19, 2024

Garden Weights as Political, Social and Spiritual Realism


By Ofuonyeadi Chukwudumebi Mercy

  • Title: Garden Weights: An Original Stage Play
  • Author: Andrew Busingye
  • Publisher: KHAMEL Publishing
  • Number of pages: 104
  • Year of publication: 2018
  • Category: Drama

Most works of literature are clearly products of the writer’s immediate environment or society. This is because most writers base their works on societal happenings and use their works as a form of constructive criticism of society at large. Literature has also been a powerful tool for depicting societal norms and values. Some writers like Wole Soyinka, J P Clark, Chinua Achebe, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Micere Mugo and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie have been able to use their works to promote African culture beyond the boundaries of Africa.

The playwright Andrew Busingye was born in South-Western Uganda. He studied and taught Literature in English at secondary school level before furthering his education at Makerere University, Uganda, where he studied Business and Entrepreneurship Studies. Busingye’s Garden Weights: An Original Stage Play is a play that addresses the subject of corruption and bad leadership in an African society. The play depicts how these vices eat deep into the administrative system and spread to other sectors of society. Unlike those African plays that centre on matters relating to colonisation, slavery, racism, class stratification, etc, Garden Weights explores a subject that arguably has more urgency in Africa today. With creative characterisation, the playwright is able to capture the political, social and spiritual essence of humans.

The play is divided into three acts, with each act containing no less than two scenes. The plot deals with a union of farmers called The Munga Farmers’ Union, headed by the corrupt Kondo. The play explores how the issues of corruption and bad governance, especially in the aspect of financial management, are becoming an integral part of every sector of the African society.

The play captures the vivid reality of modern-day society. With the use of realistic characters, Busingye explores various themes under the subject matter of bad governance. Objectively, the play reveals how the selfish, dishonest and irresponsible President of the Farmers’ Union, Kondo, does everything and anything to make sure that his dirty dealings are never exposed. He ensures that he maintains a saintly image in the public eye. With the help of the Union’s Secretary, Shapa, the Treasurer, Banda, the Journalist, Wenda, and the newspaper Editor, he is able to cover his tracks. However, the charade is short-lived as he is unable to fool certain members of the Union, especially the Executive Farmer Representatives, Mura and Kangine. Mura is never scared to question the dealings of their so-called President whenever he is in doubt. As such, Kondo sees Mura as ‘a thorn in my side, constantly thwarting all my strategic plans’ (p 15).

Kondo is depicted as an intelligent and cunning man who believes in doing whatever it takes to attain his goal. He uses Shapa and Wenda, and gives them their fair share of the ‘tea’. However, he disposes of them as soon as he no longer has any use for them. This spells his doom and that of his cohorts. He then becomes rather desperate. His actions and inactions lead to his arrest.

Busingye is able to paint a clear picture of a society with the provisions for an organised leadership system but which ends up disorganised by virtue of its lack of proper, sincere and responsible leaders. Although the Union possesses an organised structure with a suitable constitution, a board of trustees, and other organs, it is gradually torn apart by corrupt leaders. The playwright is also able to create a balanced society by connecting the different aspects of the society in his characterisation. He uses different characters to depict the essence of the social, political, spiritual and moral dimensions of society as all these ought to work together to make a complete society.

Kondo is a politician that cares only for himself. He claims to have a ‘visionary grand plan’ (p 34) for the Union, but Mura sees this vision as one of ‘selfish, scandalous and thieving ideals pushed by sectarian and shallow-minded individuals!’ (p 34). Kondo with the assistance of his loyal accomplice, Banda, plots to influence Zamwa, a prominent lawyer and the Speaker of the Union, in a bid to conceal their dealings from the protesting members of the Union. However, this plot spells their doom as Zamwa’s return from a trip creates a new problem which results in more problems. They rape her while under the influence, resulting in the arrest of Kondo and his cohorts for all their misdeeds.

The play is set in contemporary Ugandan society. The subject of the play is farming which is the essence of most rural societies. However, after considering various details in the play, it is noted that the type of farming practised in this society is mechanised farming, making it a contemporary rural society. Busingye also chips in fragments of the urban society in his choice of certain locales, like ‘Hotel Vibrations’ (p 91). It is therefore safe to say that the play is set in both contemporary rural and urban Uganda, as suggested in their farming operations, as well as the following exchange:

WENDA: This drink is classic. I only get to taste it when I visit you village people.

SHAPA: You live by a forced fasting, sorry boy, the town stuff is too expensive for the likes of you. (p 88)

Also, the author deploys his literary skills to show how the African turns to the spiritual to provide explanations for the unexplainable in society. Kangine claims that it is impossible for them to start the meeting with ’not even a prayer to guide us’ (p 47). Due to the gravity of the crisis in the Union, some of the Union’s members become sentimental and claim that the prayer is essential to guide the course of the meeting. ‘Beginning on this note, I see no near end to the current troubles if we intend to counter darkness with more darkness’ (p 48).

It is due to the ideological nature of this play that the playwright examines the theme of corrupt leadership evident in Kondo, Banda, Zamwa, Shapa, Wenda and even the newspaper Editor. Furthermore, certain parts of the play’s dialogue inform the reader that the vice of corruption is existent in higher leadership bodies, such as the national government. With the use of clear and simple language, as well as vivid and realistic characters, Busingye successfully addresses world-acknowledged vices in the African leadership system.

Photograph: ‘Farm’ by stitchenal

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Ofuonyeadi Chukwudumebi Mercy
Ofuonyeadi Chukwudumebi Mercy
Ofuonyeadi Chukwudumebi Mercy is a student of English Arts at the University of Lagos, Nigeria. She believes herself to be a personification of the Arts. She prefers writing to all other art forms as it allows her express all the others at once. She aspires to become an ambassador and a renowned writer. She was a Wawa Book Review Young Literary Critics Fellow.

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