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Dancilla In Rwanda: A Short Play by Gbubemi Amas Amanoritsewor

A short play written and directed by Gbubemi Amas Amanoritsewor

First Performed at the Taliesin Arts Centre on the 27th January 2004 at the Holocaust Memorial Day event organized by the City and County of Swansea.


Keisha Allen as Dancilla

Mike Masemola as Gabriel


It is the dead of the night. A streak of light seeps through the cracks in the big church door and it is as if one could see Jesus Christ ascending to heaven. Just like in those scripture pictures.

The dim blue light on stage gives very little away, as Dancilla slowly peels her wrapper away from her exhausted body.

Somber Congolese music is cued in by DJ Ben Nkonu. Dancilla rolls over from the depth of the stage, towards the audience shaking as if in an epileptic fit, because of the bad dream that has haunted her night after night.

Dancilla curls up whimpering like a puppy as the spot light brightens up her curled up fragile body.

The sound of African drums from backstage comes to a crescendo as she steps dramatically to the erratic beat that resounds around the hall.

She sprints to the extreme left of the stage making the audience lean over and takes her lines returning to the centre stage.

DANCILLA   I who have nothing. I, who have no-one, must beg you and plead with you and supplicate to you, my new god of hate and malice. A god made of dust, a human god.

I want my mother. I want my sister back. I want my brother. I want…I want….I want my father. My strong father torn away from us by the wretched hands of controllable fate. Fate and hate entwined in a gory love affair, mating like the praying mantis and bearing ugly off spring. Nothing like the springs of this land of a thousand hills. Springs of beauty and elegance and flow.

Springs of purity that cascade over the heads of silver-back Gorillas, as they moan and groan, peeping through the shady bamboo forest while Diplomats of ‘great’ Countries seek a rest in their air conditioned offices, pondering which word would suit this best.

One million dead in a hundred days.

Dancilla turns around swiftly as there is a bang on the huge church door and a loud male voice say

VOICE                        Say!  How many of you traitors are in there.

DANCILLA               There is no one here.

VOICE                        Who then am I speaking to. ….HA HA HA HA HA ….I must be talking to a spirit then or maybe to Jesu Christi himself. Jesus Christ in Rwanda? This is blasphemy and on a Sunday. You should pay for it. You should pay. You must pay for such a sinful act.

Young girl, do you realize you are inside a house of worship and should therefore watch your mouth?

Come to think of it, washhhh your stinking mouth. I can smell it from here.

Now tell me, how many of you are in there and how many days have you been hiding in there?

DANCILLA               Ten days sir…ten starving days… Please help us. Help us… please. You sound like a good man. The Gendarmes arrived and broke into the church last week, taking away everything. There is nothing here to interest you.

VOICE                        I see you are a good girl yourself and you will listen to your uncle, and be obedient and wise. Open the door my angel, and let me see your pretty young face. The 2,500 soldiers sent by the U.N are gone.

You never know. Maybe they did not like our hospitality or is it our faces. It could very well be the weather or is it something in these coloured mountains.

Take off the safety catch my dear and you shall be safe. I’m a responsible man from an even more responsible family. My brother is a big cattle chief with so many cows you can’t count them on the fingers of many, many hands.

So how many of you did you say there were in there.

DANCILLA        (Shivering with fear)          Twenty…only children and women. Frail children and women who cannot harm a fly. Our husbands and fathers are out there. It is them you want. Not children who are still a-suckling. Not breast feeding women. Not the old and dying women. Please in the name of everything you hold dear, spare our lives.

VOICE (Clapping aloud and mimicking her)            How do you know what my men want? How do you know what I want? For me, I want for nothing…only peace. Yes peace …peace…and more peace…like the peace accord in Kigali… like the peace accord in Germany many, many years ago.

We only want to help you come out of that darkness, bury you fears and give you back your dignity.

The French are come and gone, with their khaki drilled shirts and trousers and their system of assimilation.

The Belgians, come and gone.

The Germans, come and gone.

The Americans, come and going, going and going. Soon gone.

Their friends and puppet the United Nations are gone; if at all they were here. Nigeria’s helpful hands full with stemming fights  in Liberia and Sierra Leone and maybe more…..

We, we shall never leave you. We are here for you, we are part of you- all of you and we shall never leave you. We are Rwandans like you. I swear on my father’s grave. I swear on the love I have for all of you. I swear. I swear on the lives of all twenty of you.

DANCILLA               Ok…I am coming to open the door. (She stumbles in the darkness)    Mon Dieu! I think I have stumbled over some bones. (Human bodies are lying all over the floor of the church. Everything is silent in the dark. Dancilla crawls over the ‘bodies’ and in the dim light between the wrapped up foams that looked like bodies)

DANCILLA               Oh this stench! (Cupping her nose with her hand.) I think I’m going to faint. Wait a minute. Wait. Be patient…Oh I hear cries from all over. I wish this was were all over. I hear cries from the hill tops .I hear cries from every stead and clan. Whose plan is this? I hear machetes butchering suffocating bodies, bodies falling on top of more suffocating bodies, hidden under the living, still suffocating over dying people with muffled screams humbled by the hailing fighters, with amulets left to rut in the dying sun, as the gorillas watch in wonder, and lionesses proudly show their manes to the terrified hyenas, with flying vultures loosing their patience, in this tediously slow but appetizing decay of unfamiliar menu.

VOICE                        Stop this madness and open the door. It is 1994 and I do not want to grow old here waiting in vain. You sound fifteen. A sweet fifteen eh? Open the door. My men are hungry. You might not know this but they could be very erratic and I would hate to loose command and let these animals have their way with you. Not to mention the use of their advanced imported guns.

Wha…wha…wha what… (He stutters losing patience with Dancilla). What is this? Some kind of joke? You!! .This is not your school play ground. Orders is orders. I cannot fail. I will not fail. This is my first test and my initiation. You do not want to muck it up.

(Softly)            What is your name by the way and what province do you hail from? I am looking for a young wife and you sound as good as any. If your voice does not belie your looks, you must be a pretty girl.

If I am to have anything to do with you, I should at least call you by a name.

My men expect me to prove my loyalty. Open the door and lets ROCK AND ROLL LIKE OUR BROTHERS DID IN THE HULL OF THE SLAVESHIPS. Let’s get it on baby. (He sings this line from Marvin Gaye’s song ‘Let’s get it on’).     I bet you know that tune… right from the soul. Do you know the man was killed by his own father… his own flesh and blood? In my case I don’t even know you from Eve.

DANCILLA               I hail from… (She hesitates) What does it matter where I come from? What does it matter if I come from Kigali or Ngali, from Gisenyi or Ruhengeri, from Umutara to Gitarama or Byumba. It’s all Rwanda. You said we were one.

VOICE                        You should have been a lawyer…unfortunately the courts are closed for now. There is something about your voice. Yes your voice sounds distantly familiar. Anyway, so do the voices of all soon to die cockroaches, dancing to our tune.

(Soothingly and back to his cunning) Now my darling what is your name? As I might in the heat of the moment have to croon your name into your tender ear as I do as I am expected to by my animals. (He says screaming and laughing his head off)

DANCILLA               My name is Dancilla. I hate you and will never dance for you, you scoundrel. You bastard and coward! You killer of children and women! You regurgitating intestine of a desperate chameleon! Green snake in green grass!! You devil. You.. you…you (she sobs searching for words).

VOICE:          (He buts in anxiously)             Wait. I say wait. Shut up! Shut up you whining little beast and listen!! Stop sobbing and listen for God’s own Pete’s sake. What do you say your name was? You did not say Dancilla? The Dancilla who…

DANCILLA               Yes Dancilla that is what I said you dumb fool. Dancilla as in dance and I will never dance for you.

VOICE                        Not the famous dancing queen whose name is on ever body’s lips in Kigali and beyond. In every secondary school and all over…

DANCILLA               What is it to you?

VOICE                        Oh my God…my God… (Close to tears)

DANCILLA               What is it now?

VOICE                        Oh Jesus…You are an Ntamara. I knew there was something about that voice…some kind of  ring and pride only of the Ntamaras…I am doomed…I am doomed…I am worth nothing   I am a scoundrel you were right…Oh my God….What will my people say now…what will my men say….Dancilla ..Oh Dancilla…it is your cousin Gabriel.

DANCILLA          Yeah right!!!. Angel Gabriel

VOICE                   (Sobbing) Dancilla it’s me Gabriel Atamara

DANCILLA           Gabriel Atamara? I can’t believe this…Gabriel oh Gabriel… So you joined them. I am so sorry   so sorry for you …all of you. I can’t believe this. Why did you have to join them? You never looked to me like a traitor…you have turned your back on your tribesmen and have taken the laws of humanity into your dirty hands. Some fool in a uniform…….your poor fiancé. What will the poor girl say now?

(Dancilla starts to shake door trying to open it)                    Come right in and have me for tea now the leaves are plucked. Pity you have picked on a very thorny rose.

What a disgrace….oh what a rat race…this is a rat race (Dancilla recites words similar to Bob Marley’s song ‘Rat Race’)

You have the rat race, you have the human race

Yours is a rat race

When the cat is away, the mice will play

Political violence in Kigali yeah

Know your history, Shape your destiny

In the abundance of water the fool is thirsty

Rat race…rat race….

Man to man, its so unjust, people

You don’t know who to trust

Your worst enemy could be your best friend

And your best friend your worst enemy

Hypocrites and parasites

Would come on and take a bite

Only your friend knows your secret

So only he could reveal it


All Characters and events portrayed in this play are fictional. Any similarity to actual persons, both living and dead, is purely coincidental.

(c) Gbubemi Amas Amanoritsewor

Anthill Africa, Wales

Gbubemi Amas Amanoritsewor
Gbubemi Amas Amanoritsewor
Gbubemi Amas Amanoritsewor ran the now legendary Anthill at Nsukka, Nigeria.  He lives and works in Crosshands, Wales, as an African art consultant and performer. He is heavily into masquerading, drumming, dances and other such areas of the arts that show off the beauty of Africa. Sculptor, artist, orator, Gbubemi also leads Jazzy Africana, a band. His 'Dancilla in Rwanda' was commissioned by the City and County of Swansea, Wales, for the holocaust event 2004.


  1. The Rwandan story is righteously gory and this very short play has depicted it in just one character. It ended awkwardly, which has both its good sides and bad sides. The ending is good in the sense that this could be as far as the frame of mind of the playwright could go. The ending is also bad in the sense that somehow, if it was meant to have some kind of absurdist touch, it still needed a good directorial concept. I feel this short play could be improved, and I believe that if done so, it won’t affect its time limit (for it looks like a five-to-ten minute play).

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