On my commute to work this morning, I read an article in the Express (Out of Africa, a Play is Born) on a play, The Convert, currently being shown at DC’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre (interesting name). The play apparently tracks “the violent European colonization of Africa” via the case of a young female convert to Christianity in modern day Zimbabwe. The play is the product of Danai Gurira, best known to the masses as the new sword wielding character in the 3rd season of the AMC’s The Walking Dead.
The article reports that Gurira, who was born in the US, spent most of her formative years in Zimbabwe. She returned to Zimbabwe three times to conduct research for her play, “paging through tattered 1890s newspapers in the National Archives of Zimbabwe.” My first reaction to this was that it was a shame. One of the best things someone in DC looking to gain a strong knowledge of Africa can do is to visit the Library of Congress and browse the extensive microfilm collections (and help preserve the decaying copies in African archives). I have personally looked at microfilm of the Herald (the state newspaper of Zimbabwe’s capital city) and while I did not use anything dating back to the 1890s, I am fairly confident that the Library of Congress has material from both the Herald and the Chronicle (the paper of Zim’s second city, Bulawayo) covering that era.
To be realistic, I am sure that Gurira did not travel to Zimbabwe solely to read newspapers that are available in the Library of Congress. Nonetheless, it’s interesting that in today’s digital, interconnected world, this is the anecdote that the media picks up on. I probably would have left the matter there (not being a theatre person I don’t think I would have picked this up as worthy of a blog item), were it not for an e-mail that appeared in my inbox that further drew my attention to The Convert.
As the image at the beginning of the post indicates, The DC Mayor’s Office on African Affairs (OAA) is sponsoring a panel discussion on “The Role of Women in Traditional African Cultures and Christianity” following Saturday’s screening of The Convert. While this sounds slightly more interesting than some of the events this office has put on (and the panelists are pretty sharp, though the two names that I recognize are in my estimation overly idealistic individuals), even the discounted price of the special promotional tickets is relatively high, $25. One would think that the OAA would seek to reach people in a manner that has a smaller (or) no price tag.