What was just a stage recollection of the Gukurahundi massacres in the early 1980s in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces through the play — 1983 The Dark Years — at Theatre in the Park became too hard to bear for actress, Proficiency Kadder, who broke down on stage midway through the theatre piece.

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Kadder plays the role of a young girl, whose mother was raped by a soldier during the Gukurahundi massacres.

While she had played the role with the aplomb of a professional from the onset of the play, towards the end, as the character she plays is praying for the strength to forgive, she could not help the tears.

“During the performance you have that free-thinking (attitude) and start to visualise what you heard. Even if you were not there, the real pain comes through imagination, so you don’t need to have been there. It actually hurts. It’s too much and I can’t explain it,” she said.

“It’s something that is intense and gruesome. Actually, these things were not spoken about. We just have vivid pictures about it. It was gruesome and people are hurting very much.”

Kadder said she was told a lot about the genocidal killings perpetrated by the North-Korean trained 5th Brigade by her parents, who were lucky to survive.

“I cannot be so sure that I lost anyone, but I just heard stories. My parents were affected, but did not die during that time. My father and grandmother were victims.

They told me about what really transpired during that time,” she said.

Kukhanyakwenkosi Mnkandhla, who is part of the cast, has his leg chopped off by the soldiers during Gukurandi as part of the script.

He said he was able to connect with his role because his leg was amputated following an accident in which he was hit by a bus in 2013. The part he plays aroused the audience’s emotions.

“Whenever I get to that scene (in the play), I imagine the pain that I felt when my leg was amputated. For somebody else, who hasn’t been through that, it might be difficult to connect with the character. That pain is an added advantage, because I can always tap into it,” he said.

Although some members of the audience said the play seemed to open old wounds than facilitate healing, others said it was good for the purposes of true national reconciliation and healing.

The play’s director, Adrian Musa, however, said the play — performed by Jahunda Community Arts from Gwanda — was not meant to provoke anyone, but to create a platform to openly discuss what happened during that dark period of post-independent Zimbabwe.

“This is a theatre piece, which does not bring solutions, but instead it’s meant to create a space, whereby, people will come together and discuss this issue, which has been ignored for quite a long time,” he said.

“We are not saying who must do what, but we are only creating a conducive space for dialoguing. We want people to have dialogue and come up with solutions themselves. Maybe that can help. We are only using theatre to push the agenda not bring solutions ourselves.”

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