You only get to appreciate that being female is tough after watching Niqabi Ninja. The play written by Egyptian playwright Sara Shaarawi raises awareness about the horrific consequences of sexual violations endured by women in different places, especially by people they confide in and are supposed to protect them.
Set during the political revolution in Egypt 2011 popularly referred to as the Arab Spring, the play depicts the wanton sexual abuses suffered by a girl named Hana throughout her early teenage years. Sadly, the violators are men and young boys who call themselves freedom fighters.
The reproduction of the play at Uganda’s National Theater was made possible by Ugandan Award Winning Director Judith Adong. Two artists a Ugandan Rehemah Nanfuka and Zimbabwe’s Lisa Guti formed the cast. Nanfuka played Hana while Guti acted as her Niqabi Ninja or saviour.
Uganda’s Rehemah Nanfuka did not disappoint. She clearly expressed what is done when a woman is harassed in real life and the blame game that follows after the incident. Even when her Ninja convinced her that the world was just not a good place, she continued to blame herself for talking back, for having fun, moving at night, for trusting her boyfriend she blamed herself. Hana had self-directed resentment because she could not do anything.
The soul-stirring sound and lights fully complemented every scene. The sounds that accompanied Hana’s scream during the Tahrir square incident easily gives you goosebumps. The cries provoked by men’s hand all over her body were palpable.
Hana’s tears could not heal her, though. But she finally listens to her imaginary Niqabi who empowers her and she gets courage to transform.
The play has a deserving climax when Hana effectively acquires self-defence skills to fend off attackers. For example, when she’s insulted by one man called Mustapha, uses her acquired skills to hunt him down, beat him up and use her Ninja skills to engrave the word pervert on his face so that everyone gets to know the kind of abuser he is.
The play teaches women to be cautious with their movements and always strike back at the oppressors. For society, the play is a reminder of the prevalent injustices, stereotypes faced by our sisters, mothers and daughters.
Other members in the reproduction of Niqabi Ninja include: Kaz Kasozi as the sound director, Dan Ozminkowski on the lights, Zziwa Guy on the costumes, Shakirah Kibirige as the make-up artist and Grace Ibanda as the stages manager.