Hell hath no fury than a woman scorned!
Finding Temeraire, a play written by award winning writer Stanley Makuwe is a story about love, betrayal and forgiveness that left me in chills. Set in the mining town of Mashava, Zimbabwe, the play is about an estranged lover who returns after serving a 25-year jail sentence for the murder of her new born child. Blazing with rage & fury, the woman seeks sweet revenge against a lover who scoffed when she told him she was pregnant. With patriarchy being his blessing, after he scoffed, he returned to his life like nothing happened. He doesn't even remember her.
I imagine the 25-years she spent behind bars her motivation to see each day was the thought of confronting him, of him seeing what he had done to her. I imagine the pain, shame, guilt and hurt burning inside her skin and resembling an itch that you just can't quite reach so its always there. Come to think of it the revenge she seemed to seek wasn't one of hate and malice, it was the revenge a pained and confused person seeks. She was someone who wanted to be heard. It was from someone who wanted to be listened to.
Without giving too much away, one can say the short of it is: unrequited love is a bitch, something that you and I already know, but throw in there predatory behaviour and a setting of a culture riddled with respectability politics and you got yourself a hot, complex mess! It's right there in the way she describes their encounter, his advances and their joint behaviour that drives my mention of respectability politics home. She is punished for it. Not him. Her. Even though it takes two to tango. I digress.
As she goes on to describe the gruesome manner in which she killed her child, I couldn't help but want to reach out and hold this woman. I wanted to get her a cup of tea, run her a bath & read to her poems. I wanted to part her hair and gently massage it with shea butter, yes that level of intimacy. You're probably thinking, sis are you okay, did you not just say this play is about a woman who killed her newborn child? While her actions are inexcusable and not okay, I thought about her. I thought about the treatment of women in some parts of Zimbabwe. I thought about the stigma around pre-natal & post-natal depression. I thought about how abortions are illegal in Zimbabwe. I thought about if she had access to any healthcare or help.
I thought about how we are conditioned to not consider her. I thought about how we are conditioned to blame her, to feel no empathy for her. I thought how problematic it is. I thought about how we quickly rule something as right or wrong without considering socio-economic factors, equality, gender related violence and the cultural/political/economical setting of some of these circumstances.
What I also found interesting while watching the play was that a few days earlier I had read a piece about how more women were choosing not to have children and the mixed reactions. I couldn't help but think in the words of Frank Ocean is a woman just a container for the child? Do we treat woman like she is a container for the child? I remember thinking about the friends I fiercely support when they tell me in whispered hushes like it's a dirt secret that they don't want to have children. How genuinely surprised I am that they are relieved that I don't react otherwise. My reaction is founded on this belief that it's your life, they are your reproductive rights & you have agency over your body. These are the same women who mention what great Aunties they are going to be and slide in my DMs with videos and pictures of cute children because they know how clucky I am, they know how much I want to have children and instead of looking down at what I hope for the future, they instead celebrate it. So why can't I afford them the same love? What makes my decision to have children more superior than their's not to?
So many questions! Big bravo to Munashe Tapfuya and Tawanda Manyimo for bringing to life such a thought provoking production. A birdie told me that they will be more screenings of the play in the near future and I can't wait because not only is this play amazing in the way it unfolds before your eyes but it is also excellent commentary on social issues. I mean the state she finds Temeraire in speaks of so much more like the political climate in Zimbabwe, the state of affairs of the nation and how it is impacting people, the economy, the effects of colonialisation and the health of people, but that's a story for another day.
A neatly packaged combination of several things, Makanaka is a social development dreamer, book reading, free spirited dynamite. Can be found laughing at inappropriate memes or happenings of life. Hailing from the Southern part of the African continent, Zimbabwe, I am a citizen of the world and above all a womanist.
Makanaka is the Founder & Creative Director of Afrika on My Sleeve & is currently in the process of self-publishing her debut title 'Questionable Intimacy - what goes in, out and around'.