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

DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.13185/KK2021.003708

Abstract

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.

Keywords

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
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

The Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) declares Kritika Kultura as a CHED-recognized journal under the Journal Challenge Category of its Journal Incentive Program.

International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Professor
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faruk
Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
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)