A "powerful and highly poignant" play on the Rwandan Genocide.
The Road to Goma by Ba’bila Mutia (Cameroon)
Directed by Tauriq Jenkins.
With Tshamano Sebe, Sticks Mdidimba, Mbulelo Grootboom, Roysten Stoffels, Glen Arendse, Phillip Cowie, and Ukhona Mlandu-Letsika.
Play Reading at Artscape, Cape Town, on October 29 at 2pm [Event Facebook Page]
Refugees from Rwanda in Goma, DRC, after the genocide in 1994. Photograph: Jon Jones/Sygma/Corbis
Excerpt of a review by Suzzy Bell
“The Road to Goma depicts the desolation of five characters who struggle to survive the havoc and atrocities of a people caught up in ethnic hatred and civil strife,” explains the Cameroonian playwright Babila Mutia, a sought after international storyteller who has performed his stories in Canada, Belgium, Germany, USA and South Africa. He currently lectures Creative Writing, African literature, and Research Methods in the English department at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, University of Yaoundé I in Cameroon.
This play that deserves a full-scale production and touring throughout Africa and especially to countries that have experienced genocide. It has the potential to be in the league of important literary works and can potentially with judicious direction follow in the footsteps of the continuum of epic works like Ayi Kwei Armah’s novel, Two Thousand Seasons which recalls the terror-soaked age from the viewpoint of Africa’s slaughtered millions. It could be very well argued that The Road to Goma’s horrific subject matter of ethnic cleansing and genocide in Africa is a direct consequence of what Armah explored when writing about the harshest century of the Atlantic Slaving War that for three hundred years devastated Africa while lifting Europe to affluent world dominance. Armah argued that Europeans called that period The Enlightenment, but for Africans it was a time of senseless human sacrifice.
Mutia’s dialogue in The Road to Goma is sensitive, lyrical and evocative. He writes: “Here on this desolate crossroads, there is no east, no west, no north, no south, nowhere to go, nothing to eat, no water to drink.” He has created a range of diverse and interesting characters who include a former government minister (disguised as a teacher), a mother and a son, a bishop, and an army colonel who struggle to reach the tents, food, and water in the refugee camp of Goma. “The five characters are bonded by their collective guilt and involvement in ethnic cleansing. Each scene explores the psyches of the characters as they struggle to come to terms with the hideous secrets that lie in the deep recesses of their tormented minds,” explains Mutia.
He says the symbolism of the long trek to Goma (Goma being an actual refugee camp that Rwanda Hutu refugees fled to after the massacres of Tutsis) lies in the quest motif of the characters’ journey. “It is as much an inner as it is an outer search for their deracinated selves. The play is thus an introspective self-examination of humanity’s guilt-ridden subconscious in Rwanda, Liberia, Burundi, Nazi Germany, or Bosnia,” he adds.
The Road to Goma is one of six finalists in a recent African Playwrights’ Competition hosted by Arterial Network, the National Arts Festival, Artscape, TeatrNowy (Poland) and the National Theatre Studio (UK).