Freedom of expression free in the new dispensation?

Nkululeko Nkala

Ia��M tempted to say the arts are now free to express. But then again, with this country I have learnt to practise patience.

I have a friend who once did a theatre piece that was critical of the Government and has been exiled since then.

He got a beating of his life and had to travel overnight for fear of his life. He now resides in Botswana. I can count in both hands the number of banned theatre pieces which never saw the stage again.

Owen Maseko had to fight for his Sibathontisele Gukurahundi piece for five years in the courts. It now enjoys international appeal as he is currently in the United Kingdom at the Commonwealth exhibition. He has not seen the door of a prison cell or the dock of a court in a while. I am certain he will be back to prepare for another tour.

For years the arts had to find sneaky/clever ways; take Super Patriots by Raisedon Baya for example or Rags and Garbage. One really had to put two and two together. And even though they played, it was with great suspicion.

Then all of a sudden the media can say things, Twitter is alive with real critical comments. People are having those conversations we used to have behind closed doors and serious awareness to our surroundings.

Now I ask again, did 15 November come with a new stance on expression? For weeks now a theatre piece Restore Regasi has been playing at Theatre in the Park and in Masvingo and yet no one has been arrested. I hear the play is about the last days of the Mugabe regime.

I am involved in a play that looks at Robert Mugabea��s life up to the last days. Though the play celebrates the icon it does question a few of his decisions. Back in the day, would we even have tried to produce such? I can guarantee you that had the play been about him then it would have been just sugar and icing nothing else.

Please watch the play next week from 25 to 26 April at Bulawayo Theatre. The playa��s title is Robert-History/ His Story.

This renewed artistic expression is mostly directed at Robert Mugabe. Will the same Government that is letting this happen still let it slide if the barrel/expression is pointed at them?

Is this the start of real free expression or one of these days we will be pushed back into the dark ages of discussing behind closed doors .

Dear artistes, this is the time to tell stories, while we still can. To the Government and security forces, keep it up. Our duty as a sector is not just to entertain but to trigger conversation and tell stories.

Happy Independence week to you all. See you at Bulawayo Theatre on Wednesday.

Until next week, be safe . . . @nkuenkala 0772214373