Note from the Playwright
The following text appears as a preface in the script of The Convert.
The iron claw of colonization is bracing to form a fist over Mashona and Matabeleland of Southern Africa in 1896. The colony will be hard won, as the struggle between the white intruders and the African inhabitants is by no means a brief or simple one. Western cultural impositions and Ancient African traditions are making strange bedfellows, indeed, never sleeping with both eyes shut – for fear the other will strike.
The White man has begun a steady and unrelenting infiltration onto this interior African nation, and he is settling for the long haul. Here is where he will experience a dominance he could only witness with envy in his native land – the weight of his lower class status bearing his back to a bend. Here, on this foreign soil vast with fertile possibility he can reinvent himself, reclaim a title and position he never had though always felt he deserved.
He comes with hopes of great wealth and luxury, armed with an inherent philosophy of his superiority over his African counterpart as his guide. He comes to prove himself an explorer, a knight, a discoverer of new and unfettered resources and exotics. He comes to declare himself a man. His strategy is a simple one: leverage his cultural practices above the natives, study them and then cheat them out of land and position, ultimately bend the African’s back low to buoy his superior position as was once done unto him.
The African is caught off guard at first, sure this white storm is a passing one, that they will return to their homeland as other European traders before them. However, through sheer passage of time, the constancy of this pale man with no knees’ presence, the loss of land and position by inexplicable contractual means along with the arrival of the Christian God there is a pulling at the very seams of an intricately woven fabric of life.
There is a grappling with home, place, space and voice – on one side are the ardent keepers of culture and land and language and on the other there are those sure of the white man’s superiority, glad to be free of the strictures of their forefathers, whom they seemed eternally unable to please and thus delighted to declare themselves the ambassadors of the new order; finally feeling significance and a purpose.
But the strictures of this new order – taxes, menial labor and Judeo-Christian morals imposed by an uninvited lord – stirs the spirits of slain warriors, kings and queens who hover closely above, whispering stratagems of vengeance to their kin, urging them to bide their time and strike; to reclaim their birthright.
In 1896, the colony soon to be hailed Rhodesia was crowning, destined to an unwelcomed birth; the sons and daughters of this ancient soil were on the cusp of a battle to reclaim their freedoms, unaware that their hard fought battle led by ancestral voices spoken through brave mediums would seal their bondage for the next eighty years. After which they would regain their strength and rise again, this time to assure a differing outcome, only to repeat the cycle of oppression on their own. The clash of voice, dream, God and song is destined to be mighty, bloody and age long.