petina gappah - by Cynthia R. Matonhodze for The New York Times
petina gappah – by Cynthia R. Matonhodze for The New York Times

Petina Gappah shares updates on her upcoming Marechera play.

Early this month, she announced that she was writing a play on “the 1982 banning and unbanning” of Dambudzo Marechera’s novel, Black Sunlight.

The play, which is also titled Black Sunlight, is now completed.

In a tweet announcing the completion, Petina reveals that she sacrificed three nights of sleep to bring the play to fruition.

There will be a table reading of the play in Zimbabwe in August after which the play will undergo a re-write.

Black Sunlight will premiere in Harare in 2021.

Read the full statement (posted on Facebook):

I did it! I have finished my second play! Turns  out all I needed to get over the finish line was three nights of not sleeping! I am so excited about this project. To celebrate my nephew Rindai Muzanechita made me this poster! All that remains is a rewrite after the table reading in August in Zim to  hear how the words sound when spoken by actors.

BLACK SUNLIGHT is about censorship, and what it means to be a creative in a conservative world, but it is also about the wounds that families inflict on each other. Reading Marechera again, and reading what others said about him was wonderful. But it was reading what he wrote about himself that unlocked everything. There is a questionnaire he filled in, with two simple answers that moved me. Asked what he loved about his childhood, he wrote, in capital letters, SCHOOL. Asked what he hated about his childhood, he wrote: HOME.

I would not have written the play I did without Flora Veit-Wild’s Marechera archive. I have visited it every day over the past month, and I am filled with wonder for what she achieved. She even tracked down an extraordinary government questionnaire he completed at age 19 in 1971, in which he ends up having an argument with the questions😂😂

I am delighted that she and the Marechera Trust gave me permission for this. And I am glad to share a take on Marechera that I can, hand on heart, say that no one else has shared. My Marechera is not just the writer, artist, iconoclast and mentally unwell vagrant.He is also the wounded boy from Vengere township in Rusape who was happiest at school and unhappiest at home. And I believe that at the core of everything was that boy.