I was recently opportuned to watch the stage play of ‘The Killing Swamp’ by Adinoyi Ojo Onukaba at the Terra Kulture Theatre. The book/play is an ‘imaginative dramatization of the final hours of Ken Saro Wiwa, the Nigerian writer and environmental activist hanged on the 10th of November,1995 with eight others for the alleged murder of four(4) pro-government chiefs‘.
Firstly the author must admit that he had not, at the time of watching the play, done any significant research on the Ogoni 9 but every NIgerian alive is aware of the current struggle of the Niger-Delta region and the people living therein. One thing I can say though, regardless of my lack of research, that it is unfortunate and sad to see any sort of Amnesty program for the current militants of the Niger Delta ( not that I am completely opposed to the current Amnesty program but I AM opposed to the current implementation of the program) while the very first ‘intellectual militants’ were managed in such a dishonourable fashion.
Back to the play, I am guessing by the description of the play ( as an ‘imaginative dramatization’ ) that the events depicted were not factual but the wit, humour and sarcasm of the play are a tribute to the legend of the man, Ken Saro Wiwa. The acting was very good ( although some of the actors seems to mix up their lines , but after watching near-perfect performances of other plays by the same actors, this is forgiveable) especially that of Keneth Uphopho. Keneth plays the role of Ken Saro Wiwa( or ‘Kenule’ as used in the play) and I must say that I am quite impressed with his performances. His ability to play both vengeful and sadistic characters as well as intelligent and thoughtful characters is quite unique. As well as the mans voice.
The play centres on the conversation between Kenule, his hangman( played by Sola Roberts Iwaotan, another amazing actor), the hangman’s foot-servant as well as Kenules woman being played out in the scenery of a ‘bush near the prison’. One of the recurring themes of the play is the question of ‘Who chose this bush’? A question posed by Kenule to his hangman and associate, referring to the haste,rashness and inappropriate location involved in executing his ‘sentence as decided by a court of law’.
Although quite short (I think the play lasts for about 35-50 minutes), the play is quite fulfilling. Through witty, humorous and enlightening dialogue, you are taken through a fictional re-enactment of the last moments of Ken Saro Wiwa and as you walk out of the theatre you can imagine Ken Saro Wiwa asking Shell Petroleum Development Company, the Abacha Government and his actual hangmen… ‘Who chose this bush?’
Another review of this play by the Vanguard Newspapers can be found here.