Ugandans sweep BBC awards

Tuesday June 22 2010

By Tabu Butagira


Ugandans yesterday swept three top BBC awards in African Performance Play Writing Competition, displacing Nigerians that have dominated the drama edition in the past 50 years.

Ms Deborah Asiimwe, who wrote Will Smith Look Alike, telling the story of 17-year-old Tereka as he travels to New York with his school music group after they won a national competition, is the overall winner.
Nobel Laureate in Literature, Prof. Wole Soyinka, the chief judge said: “Deborah Asiimwe’s writing was very good, and I became really caught up with the play wondering what the final denouement would be. It was convincing”.

In the play, the Tereka character, once in New York City, believes that his resemblance to American actor Will Smith would help him pursue a better life there.

Mr Kenneth Atwine and last year’s winner Julia Childs tied in second position having authored Kitu Kidogo and The Coffin Factory, respectively.
The writing in the former title chronicles the dramatic life of a corrupt Ugandan police officer who unknowingly extorts money from the anti-corruption bureau head whilst The Coffin Factory – a light hearted play – tackles the HIV/Aids stigma.

Ms Angella Emurwon’s The Cow Needs A Wife, which took the third slot, is a slapstick about a young man who approaches a wealthy, opportunistic uncle for a cow as dowry to the grandmother of his pregnant girlfriend. “I don’t know whether Ugandans think they want to knock Nigerians out of this competition because Nigerians used to take everything,” said Prof. Soyinka, himself a Nigerian. “I am glad, of course, I didn’t know who on earth was writing which play.”

A statement issued yesterday by Mary Lusiba from Nairobi, Kenya, quotes Jenny Horrocks, Drama Producer for BBC World Service English for Africa, as saying: “The competition champions new writing talent across the continent, giving listeners an opportunity to provide different perspectives on a diverse range of contemporary issues.”

Previous dramas were on prostitution, internet fraud, weddings, funerals and football as well as comedy and science fiction. The British public broadcaster began broadcasting African plays in 1960, introducing a play writing competition 11 years later. This year’s winning entries, as were the previous ones, were recorded and broadcast in a unique annual season of brand new radio drama.