Silent Voices English
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.