THE play UMbiko kaMandlenya narrates the crisis that nearly consumed the Ndebele nation when it became difficult to install a new king.
The story also looks at succession, political greed and the role that women play in any political set-up and one female character that is striking in the play is the character of Zinkabi, a daughter of Mzilikazi played by Bathabile Dlamini.
The Ndebele nation had remained without a king for two years the immediate successor to the throne is Nkulumane, but he is nowhere to beA�found after he was a�?senta�? back to Zululand by his father, Mzilikazi.
Mbiko, played by Memory Kumbota, who is the most powerful man among the Ndebele, rises as the hero who rivals Lobengula (Richard Masuku) to the throne after he is misled by his ambitious and manipulative wife, Zinkabi.
UMbiko kaMandlenya is a Ndebele novel by the late Mayford Sibanda and was adapted into an English play by Playwright Thabani Hilary Moyo.
a�?I changed it to English so that the play can appeal to a wider audience. Zinkabi character can be parallel to that of Lady Macbeth in the Shakespearean play Macbeth. Zinkabi like Lady Macbeth is one of the most famous and frightening female characters, she is stronger, more ruthless, and more ambitious than her husband Mbiko and this is what happens in the bedrooms of leadership where women have power in influencing husbands in political set ups,a�? Moyo said.
In the play Zinkabi seems fully aware of this and knows that she will have to push Mbiko into committing murder by suggesting that the person who has power is one who has the spear and she even wishes if she were not a woman so that she could do it herself.
She is crafty as she uses female methods of achieving power, that is, manipulation a�� to further her supposedly male ambitions.
Women, as the play UMbiko kaMandlenya implies, can be as ambitious and cruel as men, yet social constraints deny them the means to pursue these ambitions on their own.
Zinkabi manipulates her husband with remarkable effectiveness, overriding all his objections. When Mbiko doubts his mantle to lead the Ndebele people, she repeatedly questions his manhood until he feels that he must wrestle for the power to prove himself.
a�?I was challenged by my directors to step out of my comfort zone if I was to effectively portray the character of Zinkabi.
a�?What helped me to pull it off is the fact that I played male roles in most of the plays we did during my days at Eveline High School so I had no difficulties in stepping into Zinkabi character,a�? said 20-year-old Bathabile Dlamini.
UMbiko kaMandlenya premiered at Bulawayo Theatre on Tuesday and is set to bring the curtains down on Intwasa Arts koBulawayo as it shows again at Bulawayo Theatre on Saturday.