Silent Voices is a powerful poignant war crimes story that mirrors the views and emotions of actual victims of the Northern Uganda war (which do relate in many ways to the victims of the Rwanda genocide and the Kenyan’s post-election violence). It explores how victims have been ignored in the constant calls to “forgive” and “reconcile” at the expense of justice. Through the protagonist, (Mother – a symbolic representation of life and death) Silent Voices examines what good citizens can be driven into by unhealthy policies.
Play Inspiration and Journey
Following the great news from DOEN Foundation that given the success of the Premiere of Silent Voices 2012 Production, they were open to consider funding Silent Voices Luo (Acholi Production), we envisioned the production of Luo translation of the play as well as a re-run of the English production that only needed a refresher rehearsals. We therefore put together a double production proposal and were pleasant surprised and exited when The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust came aboard joining DOEN Foundation.
In October of 2015, Silent Voices English Production was joined by Dwon Ma Peke (Silent Voices Acholi Production) in Kampala where the two shows ran back-to-back at Uganda National Theatre, making it the first experience of a kind.
This was a true dream come true story! But most powerful of all was the healing opportunity the production provided the people of Northern Uganda. “This isn’t just the work of your hands. This is a calling from God to tell the story of the plight of Acholi people”, renowned Acholi Musician Labongo during a panel discussion about the role of artists in society. It was described as the best recorded history of the Northern Uganda war by far.
As an Acholi woman born and raised in the region, Silent Voices Playwright ADONG Lucy Judith was one of the young people who walked every evening to spend the night at the infamous Gulu bus park referenced in the viral “KONY 2012” video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc). Adong attended the high school from which 44 girls were abducted by Joseph Kony and his LRA rebels in 1991 (Sacred Heart Girls Boarding School in Gulu). These horrifying events are deeply personal to her, and yet she was fortunate: due to miracle of a chance, she was able to leave war-ravaged Gulu for college and thereafter work in Kampala. As a result, she knew only the feeling of terror, but was not aware of the bitterness, betrayal and injustice that so many Acholi survivors feel towards local and national government leaders.
In 2006 Adong returned to Gulu and began to interview the men, women and children who survived Kony’s reign of terror. She visited rehabilitation centers for child soldiers in Gulu to study how theater was being used in the psychosocial therapy of the children who filled the ranks of Kony’s army, one of the largest child armies in human history. She also listened to the anger and frustration expressed by victims about the Amnesty Act, which they felt ‘rewarded’ perpetrators for confessing to often heinous crimes. So rather than write a research thesis that would gather dust on the shelves of Makerere University Library, she felt so strongly that these stories – these war-weary yet defiant voices – needed to be heard and witnessed by the world. This is why she wrote Silent Voices. The title isn’t a reference to the people of Northern Uganda, whose voices are powerful, raw and stunning. Rather, it speaks to the repressive silencing these victims feel that their government is forcing on them in the name of forgiveness.”
Developed at the Sundance Theater Lab 2010, Silent Voices had its world premiere at the National Theater of Uganda in 2012 funded by STICHTING DOEN (DOEN FOUNDATION). This production brought victims, political, religious and cultural leaders, members of the Amnesty Commission and transitional justice leaders together for critical, transformative conversations about the compensation of victims and the National Peace and Reconciliation Bill. For many in the Kampala audience, the atrocities in Gulu were unfamiliar and shocking. It was stunning to realize that so many in southern Uganda were oblivious to the horrors taking place in the north. While this performance was a huge critical success, playing to sold-out audiences, few victims had the opportunity to view the play or contribute to this discussion.
Silent Voices English Production 2015
ADONG Lucy Judith,
Director Playwriter & Producer
SSEBAGGALA Andrew Jedidiah
Director, Playwright & Producer
ADONG Lucy Judith
An alumna of Sundance Theater Lab, Royal Court Theatre International Playwrights Residency and Renowned Hollywood Director, Mira Nair’s Maisha Film Lab currently living in her home country Uganda, ADONG is a Theater/Film Creative Director, Writer & Producer, who creates captivating plays and films that provoke and promote dialogue on social issues affecting underprivileged groups.
She is a 2015 graduate of Temple University MFA Film and Media Arts, under the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship 2012, where she also took classes in MFA Theatre Directing and Playwriting. She also taught classes in International Cinema and Screenwriting. She won the Margaret McNamara Memory Fund Education Grant USA/Canada 2014 and was voted among the WHO IS WHO in American Universities and Colleges 2015.
Adong also holds a B.A (Arts), Subjects-Luo Language, Literature and Drama and a Diploma in Music, Dance and Drama, both of Makerere University’s Department of Performing Arts and Film, where she currently Lectures courses in Creative Writing, Directing and Producing.
Silent Voices English Production 2015 is Adong’s 2nd major Theatre Directing Project in which she directed a refresher rehearsals based on Dennis Hilton-Reid’s directing concept of Silent Voices 2012 Production. This came after her major theatre directing debut in the same year where she directed “Dwon Ma Peke”, the Acholi Production of Silent Voices play, which toured Gulu, Kitgum, Lira and Kampala. She also directed the Refresher Rehearsals of the English Production of the same play as powerful directed by New York based Director, Dennis Hilton-Reid in 2012. Adong has also directed a powerful 50mins Film, Right Song, Wrong C(h)ord, her MFA Thesis Film that explores Racism in the USA through the love story of a young Ugandan woman and a young Caucasian American man, based on her own experience in the Metropolitan City of Philadelphia, where she lived for three years while pursuing Graduate Film Studies.
Play titles to her name includes: Silent Voices (Justice for War Crime Victims in Northern Uganda), Just Me, You and THE SILENCE (Gay Rights Struggle in Uganda), Ga-AD (Uganda’s Pentecostal Church Religious Politics), A Time to Celebrate (Child Sacrifice Practices in Uganda), Holy Maria (A 10mins play on Social Media Deception that featured at Zimbabwe International Arts Festival) and Blood ( Modern Day Adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry’s Les Blancs that featured at 48 Hours in Harlem, a 10mins play writing and production challenge within 48 hours hosted by the OBIE Award-Winning Harlem 9 and the National Black Theatre, New York.
Her plays have been presented in different theatres in New York, London, Toronto and Chicago and/or has been/is being studied at Princeton University, Dartmouth College, New York University and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hills, where she has also been invited as a Visiting Artist.
“… This is an important piece that deserves to be heard and we are pleased to be providing an opportunity for audiences to connect with its message”, Kevin Spacey, Oscar Award-Winning actor and Artistic Director of the Old Vic Theatre in London, on Adong’s play Just Me, You and THE SILENCE that he hosted to a 1, 000+ gala audience in November 2012.
Adong is also a Published Writer by MacMillan and Fountain Publishers and has worked as a Professional Acholi-English/English-Acholi Translator and Interpreter for many Organizations and Companies including the Commonwealth Secretariat Election Observers (2006), The International Criminal Courts and United Nations Children Education Funds (UNICF) among others.
Before going to Graduate Film School in the USA, Adong worked on a number of Film, Television and Radio Drama Projects in Uganda, Kenya and South Sudan among which includes among others: as Screenwriter, Lost Dreams (Land Mines Awareness Film by Great Lakes Film Production Ltd/Handicap International, Uganda, 2011), Creator and Writer, The Nurse Mildred Radio Drama (a 24-Episodes Radio Drama Series on Family Planning and HIV by John Hopkins University Health Department 2011), Staff Screenwriter, The Agency (M-NET Hour Long Original Television Drama Series Set in Nairobi, Kenya 2009) and Creator and Writer, River Yei Junction (a 13-Episodes Radio Drama Series on Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law by Resource Centre for Civil Leadership in Yei, South Sudan 2008).
SSEBAGGALA Andrew Jedidiah
The Producing Director of Silent Voices Uganda, Ssebaggala is also the Founding Director of House Of Talent East Africa Ltd a Performing and Creative Arts Company, who has been an Arts Manager for over 10 years. He is a Professional Business Development Consultant, Producer, Production Manager, Events Manager, Media Planner, Singer, Storyteller and Arts Facilitator.
Andrew supports and collaborates with a number of creative arts initiatives and institutions including the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Uganda National Cultural Centre/National Theatre and Babishai Niwe (BNPA) among others.
He holds a Diploma in Music, Dance and Drama, Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resource Management and Post graduate studies in Business Administration in Marketing from Makerere University.
He has worked for the Eastern Africa Theatre Institute-Uganda National Chapter managing 3 Sida (Swedish International Development Agency) funded Artistic Projects- Dramatool, PACSEA-Performing Arts Collaboration between Swedish and Eastern Africa and EATI. He has also worked for the following creative arts projects: UMOJA-the cultural flying carpet in Uganda, NUVO arts Festival, the Annual World Culture Day, and the annual dance collaborative project between Makerere University’s Performing Arts and Film Department and the Norwegian Dance College.