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Phillip Luswata writes play out of Sheebah Karungi’s sexual harassment saga

by Editorial Team
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Popular musician Sheebah Karungi made a cry for help in May 2022.  In a sombre video, the singer narrated how she had been sexually assaulted moments before a scheduled performance.

The distressed singer, however, did not mention the perpetrator’s name.  She however offered clues by saying he was one of those people you respect and call real role models that pretend on TV to look good and do good.

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations launched inquiries into the alleged indecent of assault against Sheebah after she formally made her complaint at CID headquarters.  

The play Shame on your hand will be staging next month. Courtesy Photo

While investigations are ongoing, Phillip Luswata, a theatrical icon, storyteller, performer, and teacher of theatre and film at Makerere University has written a play titled:  Shame on your Hand. It delves deeper into the matter even before police can pronounce its self  He spoke to The Kampala Sun about it.

Q:  What is the motivation behind the play ‘Shame on Your Hand’?

A: I am a keen believer in the opinion that theatre is made by those so disturbed that they have no words to self-express but to demonstrate in whichever other way available to them. For some time in the past, theatre in Uganda served this very necessary ingredient of ‘disturbance’.

More recently, unfortunately, the theatre we have consumed in has become simply exhibitionist at best and largely lacking in matter and motivation. Many chose to cease to participate in it, but this hasn’t taken away the disturbance in our heads.

My main motivation is to get back into the practice of shedding my disturbances and probably, in the process, motivate others to return. This should bring competitive theatre back into the hands of those who should hold it.

In May 2022, Sheebah Karungi came out and revealed that she had been indecently assaulted before a performance. File Photo.

Q: What is the relevance of the title ‘Shame on Your Hand’ in contemporary Kampala/World?

A: Be a man and see just how much your hand gets away with in Kampala. Recently my sister in Art, Sheebah Karungi, had an entitled fan shove his hand up (or down) her skirt as she prepared to perform for him. The toughest action a woman, with so grand a stature such as Sheebah, could take was to present it honestly to the court of popular opinion, and no further. Imagine how many ‘hands’ are doing similar and worse things to so many less powerful girls and women out there and getting away with it in the same way? Shame on those hands – I believe.

Q: What are the main thematic concerns presented in this production?

A: My favourite line in this play answers this best. It is a line I picked up from my friend and committed theatre activist in Rwanda, Hope Azeda. The stories of women “aren’t always pretty and they don’t always end well. They hurt to tell and they hurt to hear. Yet we still tell them because we can see that beauty exists in both darkness and light.” These are the stories of women…

Q: Who is this play’s message targeting.

A: By design and content, this is a play that will appeal to an adult audience, but with strong crossover potential for adolescent girls who will recognize themselves in the challenges, upheavals and triumphs of the mostly youthful characters and actors. It specifically shouts out to men, who raise and court women, and the women who everyday experience what it means to be women in this world.

Q: What should the theatre lover get drawn towards?

A: We have invested ourselves into a total and honest theatrical experience. We present a youthful and energetic cast of women in a mix of dramatic expression, music and dance – ingredients that have been away for some time from our theatre.

The biggest pull, however, should be my collaboration with music scholar, composer and conductor, Branco Sekalegga. We will get to experience the result of collaborative art. I am also particularly proud of my partnership with youthful Sharon Atuhirwe as co-director of the show. She guarantees delivery of the feminine perspective of the story we present.

Q: When is it screening (Staging)?

‘Shame on you Hand’ will be staging first to an audience in Gulu on the evening of 12th of August 2022. The venue will be communicated. Being keen believers in the sanctity of the National Theatre stage, we choose to seek such community endorsement as we are in Gulu before the play stages at the National Theatre.

This will be from the evening of Friday 19th August through the afternoons and evenings of Saturday and Sunday 20th and 21st August 2022.

 As part of our Corporate Social Responsibility, the play will be made available to High School students and students of theatre and performance art on the afternoon (2.30 PM) of Friday 19th at a discounted rate.

To attract as wide social representation as possible over this short showing period, we plan to dedicate the 2 afternoon shows of Saturday and Sunday (2.30PM) to Luganda speaking audience with the same cast.

How much is entrance fee?

We do hope that the audience will be in a position to compensate the creative team a humble Sh30,000 for the experience and questions they will leave enriched with.

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