The Burdens (by John Ruganda)

The Burdens (by John Ruganda)John Ruganda, who died in 2007, was considered a shaping force in East African literature, and his published plays – The Burdens (1972) and The Floods (1980) have, over the years, featured among the required texts for literature in English courses at high school level in Kenya and Uganda. The Burdens was first published in 1972 by Oxford University Press.

Set in post colonial times, the play touches on many themes, including education, politics, poverty, and violence. Wamala, the father at the center of the drama, is a man living in denial, unwilling to accept his slide into poverty, after he loses his post as a Minister in the government.

“………….he had found himself a minister, with all the licensed and unlicensed accessories befitting his office. The trouble is once you surprise yourself with this finding, you not only forget your former self but you also look forward to bigger surprises…..there is always an audience to cheer you until one day the axe falls and you are all alone…..”

Once at the top, Wamala feels humiliated by his inability to look after his family, and seeks solace in taking liquor. He blames his wife Tinka for bringing him down. But neither Tinka nor their fourteen year old son, Kaija, is prepared to let him off. Tired of sharing a bed with his bedwetting sister, Kaija feels that he is old enough to have a bed of his own, and pesters his father to buy him one. But the young boy’s pestering is met with silence …”a silence that gnaws…”

Wamala’s humiliation is further compounded by his isolation from his children, who increasingly lean towards their mother. Kaija, in particular, is very close to his mother, and the two enjoy a special bond that goes beyond the mother-son relationship. He always runs his mother errands, and keeps her company until late in the night, when Wamala returns home drunk. And he often stands up to defend his mother when she and Wamala get embroiled in their frequent fights.

The situation in the house is always tense. Tinka exploits sympathy from her two children to taunt and futher humiliate her husband. Rather than confront the present, Wamala looks to his happier past for solace – a denialism that infuriates his wife even further. In the end, the constant quarrels lead to a deadly climax.

The Burdens depicts many of the dysfunctions in post-colonial African society – at a personal and societal level, and is a brilliant portrayal by Ruganda, one of East Africa’s best known playwrights.

Comments

  1. Shelmith R says


    This is a true picture of what is happening in our society to date,it has kept the fire of literature being the mirror of the society blazing.RIP Ruganda.

  2. Machuor Peter Riak says


    I must say that John Ruganda has truly developed the Literature I speak together with others today and for ever shall his spirit rest in eternal peace.

  3. says


    its hard to forget him, besides to me he still lives one cant really say ruganda is dead when his works are alive in us , let the almighty make him last beyond his legacy dear ruganda

  4. jessica mwenda says


    I love ‘the burdens’ it provides comedy and life lessons too. Ruganda, a great writer indeed.” High expectations make frustrated men.” Wamala …….one.of.my favorite lines from the book.

  5. says


    Ruganda dereves to be alive because we all believe whatever that was gonna come again from him is more than he has give so God give him peace

  6. Kinyua says


    Where can I buy a copy of this play?

    I want to see if I can adapt this for a stage performance.

    Kinyua.

  7. Muhoozi jones says


    Thanks for publishing such a nice book……… It has helped me in learning literature and passing examinations.

  8. Agustus Kaingu. says


    I like the relevance of the subjects potrayed in this piece of literature.It makes us love written art more.

  9. Agustus Kaingu. says


    Kimeli,if Africans were as loyal to these books by Ruganda &co.as they are to Scriptures,..just imagine how ‘enlightened’ Africa could have been.

  10. says


    RUGANDA IS A REAL AFRICAN PLAYWRIGHT BECAUSE HE EXPLORES AND EXPRESSES THE FAMILIAL PROBLEMS NOWDAYS BY SHOWING WAMALA’ IRRESPONSABILITY TO HIS DUTIES AND OBLIGATIONS AS A HEAD OF A FAMILY,INSTEAD HE BECOME A DRUNKARD AND A WOMANIZER INSTEAD OF TAKING CARE TO HIS FAMILY EVEN HE WAS DISMISSED TO A JOB AS A MINISTER HE SHOULD COPE WITH THE BRIGHT FUTURE,(A LESSON FOR US).

  11. says


    I ADVISE PEOPLE TO COPE UP WITH DIFICULTIES IN ORDER TO BE STRONG AND EXPERIENCED AND BE QUITE DIFERENT FROM WAMALA’S IRRESPONSABILITY TO HIS FAMILY.NO PERMANENT JOB RESERVED TO A PERSON,A PERSON CAN PERFORM MANY AND MANY WORKS.DON’T TAKE DRUGZ AS ANESTHESIA IN ORDER TO MAKE YOU FORGET YOUR PROBLEMS AS WAMALA DID,TRY AND FAIL RETRY AND SUCEED.

  12. RS Elvis says


    This play will be showing at the National theatre on 10th March 2015, 10am and 2pm.
    I wish they were showing The Floods instead. That was my favorite Ruganda book.

  13. Lewis ole mpoe. says


    l love the book since it speaks of what can be seen in the societytoday.Ruganda u r still painting avivid picture of the contemporary society.R.I.P my best writer.

  14. wilson kambasu says


    I like this text for it is much to oneself and the ready easily associates him/herself with the charactrs

  15. KAMUNTU ISAAC says


    it is aremarkable piece of work that Ruganda left and we learn alot from it on how life moves in trends. we shall live to remember you Ruganda

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *