Playwright as Guerilla Warlord: Robert Serumaga's Art, Activism, Revolt, and a Performance of Uganda's Political Deficits

Niyi Akingbe



This paper outlines the maturation of Robert Serumaga’s art, politics, and activism as he confronted the dilemma of totalitarianism unleashed by Idi Amin’s dictatorship on postcolonial Uganda. The paper establishes a direct link between literature, resistance, and performance of Uganda’s political failure within the context of the playwright’s individualistic disposition to art as his complicated inclination to revolt. Most obviously, the association between art and politics in Serumaga’s lifestyle is embedded in his undeniable prosecution of rebellion through guerilla warfare against Amin in 1979. The striking tenets of reactance and resistance theories are appropriated to contextualize the struggle, resistance, and liberation propensities grounded in Serumaga’s revolt theater and activism. Disappointingly, Serumaga’s proclivity for resistance has attracted relatively little attention from the earlier scholars of his literary works such as his novel Return to the Shadows (1969), a poem “End of the Road” (1966), and the plays Majangwa (1974), A Play (1967), and The Elephants (1970). His political maturation in his latter productions of Renga Moi (1972) and Amayirikiti (1974) were also rarely discussed, as scholars were more concerned with how Serumaga has sustained tropes of absurdity in his earlier plays. How does revolt exegesis in his latter theater productions reference his involvement with guerilla warfare? Within this evident lacuna, these scholars have also failed to capture how politics and activism have indispensably intruded into his latter theater productions. With respect to the foregoing, the paper aims to interrogate the signification of resistance in Serumaga’s theater productions.


revolt against Idi Amin’s totalitarianism, guerilla warfare, radical theater that portrays Uganda’s political deficits, Robert Serumaga, influence of Baganda oral tradition

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Kritika Kultura
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Ateneo de Manila University

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Anette Horn
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University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

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Bienvenido Lumbera
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Yale NUS College (Singapore)

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Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

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Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)