One of the country’s celebrated playwright, Smith Likongwe has launched an anthology of five African plays written by eight distinguished dramatists.
The launch took place on Sunday in Lilongwe.
Through Chancellor College Travelling Theatre under the Fine and Performing Arts Department, University of Malawi, the project has seen local, South African, Zambian and Zimbabwean plays compiled in one book. This is the first collection of plays from across various countries in southern Africa.
Titled Southern African Plays Collection, the anthology features established as well as up-and-coming playwrights, said Likongwe in an interview.
He said in Africa there are a number of plays that are not published and if the continent continues on that route, all the works will go into oblivion.
“The motivation is to keep alive the artistic works not only in Malawi but this part of Africa, for the sake of posterity. At the same time, we are registering our presence,” said Likongwe.
The five plays are Strategy of Grey by Tau Maserumule and Robyn McHarry and Cards by Mpumulelo Paul Grootboom and Mothusi Mokoto all from South Africa, The President’s Prerogative by Likongwe, Blood Ties by Cheela Chilala from Zambia and Burn Makwerekwere, Burn by Blessing Hungwe and Rumbidzai Karize from Zimbabwe.
Likongwe, who funded the project and collected and analysed the submissions, said there is something “sublime” he was looking for in the plays.
“I received over 20 submissions and I responded to each and every play, giving them reasons as to why their play could not feature in the collection.
“Actually, one of the plays I rejected won an award in South Africa. I was looking for sublimity. Plays that were good and shall be good, against bubblegum plays which are just good now.
“So, apart from the quality of how they have been written and issues being tackled, I wanted something which can be relevant in future. We had a benchmark like our own versions of Shakespeare which in future people can use as a reference point,” he explained.
After the Lilongwe launch, Likongwe takes the book to Blantyre with a possibility of another launch in Zambia.
One of the contributors, Maserumule, who was present during the launch, said this marks a new chapter in the history of playwriting in southern Africa.
Maserumule said by merely publishing the book, they have broken barriers that have been long existing.