One of the lead actors who performed in the banned gay play, The River and the Mountain, in Uganda that led to its producer being arrested says he would do it again.
Speaking to Radio Netherlands Worldwide, Okuyo Joel Atiku ‘Prynce’ (28) who played Samson, a gay factory owner who gets killed by his own workers, said “it was really worth it”, but revealed that “literally 100 percent” of the reactions to the play were negative.
“Even from people from whom I least expected it, like fellow artists and guys at UBC [Uganda’s public broadcaster]. ‘Are you not yet killed?’ someone from UBC asked me,” Prynce said.
Nevertheless, he does not regret his part in the production. “I partook in the play because of the artistic challenge and to drive debate, to make people realise that gay people are part of society too.”
Prynce added that efforts such as the play’s production could ultimately lead to change. “Look at apartheid in South Africa. People persisted in their resistance for decades. Ultimately, it paid off.”
His co-star in the play, Rehema Nanfuka (26), is less convinced and believes that the production “has only alienated Ugandans further from homosexuals”.
She told Radio Netherlands Worldwide that “I question the effectiveness of discussing homosexuality the way we did.”
“I had hoped that the play would influence at least some opinions. Yet, of all the people I know, only my mum now slowly starts understanding homosexuality. I am not sure anymore if the people to whom we are preaching, are interested in change at all,” Nanfuka said.
British-born producer David Cecil put on The River and the Mountain in August at the small cultural centre in Kampala that he runs with his girlfriend.
Because the play had been banned, he was arrested and jailed for four days before being freed on bail. If found guilty of disobeying an order from a public authority he could be imprisoned for two years.
Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda. There are plans to impose additional measures, possibly including the death penalty, against gays and lesbians.