Godwin Muzari Arts and Culture Editor
Old Mutual Theatre at Alliance Francaise last week presented a play titled “Chimbwido: Girl of War” that was written and directed by New Zealand-based playwright Stanley Makuwe. It is a story of a female war collaborator (chimbwido) who helps an injured liberation war fighter through a journey in thick forests and flooded rivers to find his way to his military base.
An attack during a pungwe (all-night meeting) separates Cde Dusvura Grada Mutonganebara (played by Tafadzwa Hananda) from his colleagues and one chimbwido named Makanaka dies during the battle leaving behind a baby. Makanaka’s friend Mashoko (Nyari Nhongonhema) takes the baby and finds herself going in the same direction with Cde Dusvura.
Cde Dusvura runs out of bullets as he persistently returns fire to the enemy and he has to retreat with Mashoko. Profusely bleeding from a thigh injury, Cde Dusvura leads Mashoko through the forest in search of a safe hiding place before he can proceed to his base. As continuous bleeding draws energy from the freedom fighter Mashoko finds herself with a tricky assignment.
She has to assist Cde Dusvura on his journey and try to save the baby from starvation. On their way, they meet various obstacles but hunger becomes the biggest threat to the three. Despite Mashoko’s cunning approach that sees her getting food from white soldiers at one point, the situation turns nasty and the baby dies.
Mashoko gets distraught because her other mission is to find the baby’s father Cde Bhazuka during the journey to the base. However, she does not leave the dead baby’s body as harsh times, uncertainty and stress take centre stage in the tricky assignment. In addition Mashoko has one more life to save as Cde Dusvura’s health continues to deteriorate. The myths of the liberation struggle come to the fore as the chimbwido manages to get honey from a beehive without smoke or fire.
Through Mashoko, the myths surrounding liberation war fighters are exposed. Mashoko talks about how, back in the village, people believe bullets turn into water when the fighters are hit and how the warriors’ footprints can mislead the enemy to an opposite direction. As they go through the journey, Mashoko and Cde Dusvura share experiences about the village and the front in war time. Various issues about the liberation struggle are explored in their conversations and actions.
Mashoko finally uses honey to treat the ailing comrade’s growing wound and they manage to walk to the base. Mashoko discovers that the dead baby’s father Cde Bhazuka is at the same base with Cde Dusvura. There is no time for introductions since Mashoko, as a chimbwido, has to run to the next village to announce an emergency pungwe to be held at night.
Playwright Makuwe said the play was inspired by real life events. “The comrade’s name is the same name that my uncle used during the war. He said a lot about the role of Mujibhas and Chimbwidos and this play is based on his accounts about the war. He proudly spoke about victory at war and I am happy to reproduce his narratives in this play,” said Makuwe.
“I wrote the play three years ago and this has been the opportunity to bring it home. I am happy that we are celebrating the role of war collaborators through this play.”