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Friday, December 1, 2023

THE HAND OF FATE? By Janet Badjan Young (Aunty Janet)

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Published in 2009 by Fulladu Publishers, The Gambia

image 41
By Dr Cherno Omar Barry


Baba Keita                A labourer

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Fatoumata Keita       Baba’s Keita’s wife

Aminata Keita           The Keitas’ daughter

Momodou Keita        Baba’s younger brother

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Musukebba                Fatoumata’s mother

Omar Dibba               Fatoumata’s brother

Sering                        Aminata’s boyfriend

Ibrahim                      Cherno’s uncle

Dr Sanyang                A medical doctor

Dancers (ghosts)        Six or more adults

10-12 year-old dancers   Six or more children

Baba Keita is a well-built man of about 50. He looks quiet and composed. He accepts his status in life – a labourer who will always be poor. He is easily led.

Fatoumata is an intelligent woman of 30.  Although uneducated, she demonstrates that  had she not been a victim of early marriage she would have made a contribution to her society. She is devoted to her daughter and is determined that she is spared the practice of early marriage.

Momodou, about 40, small in build and hyperactive; a manipulative and arrogant individual, who has no problems using his family to get on in life. He has an overpowering personality.

Aminata  A charming girl of 12. She is a bright student, vivacious and energetic. She carries herself well and seems mature for her age.

Musukebba Same age as Baba Keita. She has a slight hearing problem which she uses to her advantage. Her deafness sometimes represents the fact that those who should listen and help to alleviate social issues are deaf. She strongly supports her daughter. 

Omar  Boisterous, full of fun, and very knowledgeable about the rights of the child.

Sering A talented young dancer; 14 years old, a friend of Aminata.

Ibrahim Cherno’s uncle, an elderly man of about 60. A shrewd individual, who has had some experience as a go-between in the arrangement for dowry and marriage.

Musa    Cherno’s maternal uncle.

All the scenes are played on a set which depicts a compound in a town in The Gambia.

ACT One Scene 1

Gut Feeling

Music in the background, preferably a song about early marriage, sung by young girls. (see appendix for song).  A dance of young girls beautifully choreographed under blue lights. The dance should show girls playing games and enjoying themselves. Then suddenly, someone, a masked gardener, comes in with a chain, which he circles around them. This is an activity reminiscent of Africans being caught to be sold as slaves. The lights change to red. The frightened children run off. Blackout.

 Lights reveal a compound in a town in The Gambia. The flats depict the usual house design with a corrugated roof with three rooms, stage right. The doors open out into a courtyard. The action of the play takes place in the compound. On stage left is a flat showing a kitchen. A tree or shrubbery is also downstage left.

Fatoumata and her mother, Musukebba, work on a tie-and-dye tablecloth by the tree. Facial expressions tell us that they are pleased with the colour and patterns. Momodou, Fatoumata’s brother-in-law, rushes in from up stage centre. He sees the women but ignores them. He rushes to the door of the first house but finds it locked. Reluctantly he goes to the women downstage left.

MOMODOU (aggressively)  Where is Baba? Why is the door locked? (The women ignore him) Fatoumata! I am asking you a question! Where is my brother, Baba?

MUSUKEBBA Without so much as Good morning! How are you? Did you sleep well?

MOMODOU  I wasn’t speaking to you. You are supposed to be deaf or have you forgotten?

MUSUKEBBA  I am deaf but not as deaf as a bat. There is nothing wrong with my eyes. I can read your lips, and I can see that you are looking for trouble. Take my advice. Go away! Don’t disturb our peace this morning. We are busy.

Fatoumata is silent. She ignores Momodou and continues with her work on the cloth.

MOMODOU (loudly and rudely)  Fatoumata! Good morning. (Fatoumata does not respond).

MUSUKEBBA (laughing) Well, your ‘Good morning’ is like the wind howling through an empty house. It makes too much noise. The noise has affected your sister-in-law’s hearing. Now she is also deaf!

MOMODOU (visibly irritated but makes another attempt, cautiously) Fatoumata! Good morning! How are you? I have to find Baba. Something important has cropped up, and I want to discuss it with him.

FATOUMATA Good morning, Momodou! I don’t know where Baba is. What do you want from him this time?

MUSUKEBBA (laughing) You don’t know? He wants two hundred dalasi. No, no, that’s too much. He needs a hundred. His wives need the money to buy ndawal. Or he has to pay school fees for his boys. Big brother Baba has to look after his little brother. (Momodou is enraged. He rushes to attack Musukebba)

FATOUMATA: Don’t you dare! Young men in this town don’t attack old women even if provoked. It is not part of our culture to hit our mothers and grandmothers. She is right. You’re a good-for-nothing young man, always borrowing money which you never pay back! And you do nothing for anyone.

MOMODOU: It’s none of your business. He is my brother. What are you trying to do? Come between us? We are brothers. Let me quote the Mandinka proverb to you. “The tampanda became a flat fish because it tried to come between two blood relatives.” Be careful! Baba and I are of the same father and mother. You know, I never liked you. I now know why.

MUSUKEBBA: She is a good wife.  Baba – and he should know – says there is no other wife in this town like my daughter. She works hard, very hard, to help Baba. She is content with what she has. She is also an excellent mother. Don’t you see how she cares for Aminata, your clever niece?

MOMODOU: She may be a “good” wife, but she has a serpent’s tongue. She is not the sort of wife I wanted for my brother. (moves towards her). First of all, Fatoumata, you don’t treat me with respect. And you think a lot of yourself!

Instead of going to work in the faro you sit under this tree making tie and dye for tourists. They say go and plant vegetables and rice to feed the family but here you are making tablecloths for toubabs. These people from Europe don’t want to spend a lot of money on tablecloths. They buy one or two – that’s all. You are wasting your time.

FATOUMATA (patiently)  Momodou, we are busy this morning. But I will take time to give you some  good  advice.

Go get a job. Any job. Go back to the farm. Make a bit of money. Do something useful and stop roaming about this town like a lost goat! Leave my husband and his family alone!

MOMODOU (defiantly)  I will not leave here till you tell me where to find him!

MUSUKEBBA  Why don’t you break open the door? He may be inside. (laughs). Fatoumata kept him a prisoner in his house.

MOMODOU (exasperated)  I don’t want to come down to your level. I’m the only one with brains in this family. I’m the only one enlightened in this town.

FATOUMATA (dismissing him with a gesture)  Why do you want to see Baba? (Momodou does not respond) Well, Mr Brains, when you decide to tell me, I will help you find him.

MOMODOU (hissing)  Tell you!

FATOUMATA  Well, go look for him! (Momodou exits in a rage upstage centre) You know, Musukebba, if we had gone to Banjul with the cloths early this morning, we would have avoided this confrontation with Momodou. He’s nothing but trouble. He has ruined the rest of the day for me. (pause) I wonder why he is so anxious to see Baba! (They continue folding the tablecloths)

MUSUKEBBA  I don’t think we gave him a chance to give us a hint. We attacked him the moment he set foot in this compound. I’m sure we have ruined his day. But don’t worry; Baba will know how to handle him.

FATOUMATA  Baba is like the pulp of a ripe and delicious pawpaw, easy to scoop out. Momodou is crafty and manipulative. He knows how to persuade Baba to do whatever he wants. You and I know that Baba will give his last dalasi to Momodou if only Momodou asks for it.

MUSUKEBBA  They are brothers. There is a special bond between brothers. You know that Baba does not like this constant fighting between you two. It’s not fair to test his loyalty almost every day. You should try to like Momodou; try to be friendly. You must charm the enemy and win his trust. That is the only way to uncover his plans.

FATOUMATA: Charm the enemy! With what? Food and herbs? We don’t have food to spare. And I’m not going to any marabout for herbs. That’s a waste of money. And don’t forget what the marabouts did to the failed coup plotters! Momodou is up to something. I have a bad feeling in my gut every time I see him. (picking up the folded tablecloths). Let’s take these cloths to the market. It’s too late to go to Banjul.

MUSUKEBBA: Where did Baba go this morning? Is he not shovelling groundnuts into sacks at Ebrima’s place?

FATOUMATA  He went to the clinic. He had a rough night. His body felt like it was on fire. His throat was dry. I was up all night giving him water and cooling him down with a wet cloth.

MUSUKEBBA  It’s the weather! This part of the country gets very dry and windy. The wind is thoughtless; it blows dust and germs everywhere –  into huts and houses, eyes and throats. It respects no one or place. You only have to open your mouth, and it enters uninvited!

FATOUMATA (laughs)  Come, let’s go. After the market, we can go and check on Baba. With that devil Momodou gone, maybe good luck will accompany us to the market. But we must hurry up. I want to get back before Aminata comes home from school!

MUSUKEBBA  Aminata will wait for you. No need to hurry home. She’s twelve years old and doing very well at school. You spoil her. Too much attention can prevent a child from becoming a woman. I wish Allah had given you more children. If He had, you would have been forced to share your love with each one of them.

FATOUMATA  Allah has been good to me. He gave me one beautiful girl. I have great hopes for her. Yai, let’s go!

MUSUKEBBA  You want to go to the market, then to the clinic to see your husband, and then rush home before Aminata gets back. Then cook the evening meal! I think I will stay here and rest. You have too many activities, and I don’t have the strength to follow you around.

FATOUMATA  Please come. I need your company. Besides, you never know, we might meet Momodou on our way! It would be good to have you as a witness in case he attacks me! (The women laugh and take the cloths off stage left. Music as lights fade to blackout.)



Aunty Janet, the founder of the Ebunjan Theatre group, has produced excellent pieces of drama in the last decade to qualify her as the most brilliant Gambian dramaturge of our time. Some of her plays have stirred great emotions and have received loud accolades from masters of the theatre and experienced persons in the area of literature. She has set her mark and like all skillful dramaturge, she has taken pleasure in producing for the love of the theatre. She recently published one of her plays Hand of Fate?. She constructed the first-ever theatre in The Gambia. She served as Chairperson of the board for the National Centre for Arts and Culture. Presently, she trains the youth in theatre and trains teachers on how to use theatre to educate, sensitise and entertain.

Some of the staged plays by the Ebunjan Theatre Group

The Battle of Sankandi, staged in May 2002 at the Kairaba Hotel Conference Hall, is a play based on the history of a battle between the indigenous peoples and the colonial masters as a result of an unfortunate misunderstanding.

The Hand of Fate? is a play about early marriage.

A Man for All Seasons, by Robert Bolt, is a classic play centred on the struggle of a man of principles and strong belief against a King.

The Ultimate Inheritance portrays a traditional inheritance practice, which impacts negatively on women. The play also gives an account of the stigma associated with the disease and the care for those infected with HIV. The play was finally funded and filmed in real life setting in English, Wolof and Mandingo for its excellent taste and strong message.

Sizwe Banzi is Death by Athol Fugard is about racism and identity crises among blacks in South Africa.

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