Land of Distress (play)

Date: 1979

Region: Africa

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Theatre

Artist: Kolosa John Kargbo

Confronting Bodies: Sierra Leone party officials, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting

Date of Action: 1979

Location: Freetown, Sierra Leone

Description of Artwork: Land of Distress (Poyo Togn Wahala) is a play that was performed by Kolosa John Kargbo and his company of 11 others in Freetown. It is about corrupt government officials and a young man who returns from Europe to expose them while introducing democracy (Sierra Leone had recently become a one party state and the government had resisted a coup d'etat.)

The Incident: In the middle of their performance run at city hall, the company was summoned to police headquarters and told, without reason, that the play should be cancelled. When they returned to city hall, it was surrounded by police.

Results of Incident: A month later it was decided that all manuscripts would have to be cleared by the government before being preformed.

Kargbo and company found it difficult to cope. After another uncompromising play, Karbgo was transfered to the city of Bo by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The decision was based on the idea that he could cause less damage there. Another of the comapnies plays was critical of female circumcision, but this was censored due to complaints from the secret society that practiced it. After continued harassment, the group disbanded.

Source: Censorship: A World Encyclopedia. Ed. Derek Jones. Chicago; London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001.