Maji Maji / The Magical Water

From rehearsals in Tanzania, 2011
Film/Photo: Elin Hassel Iversen

The theme of this performance is the scramble for wealth. What will happen when an individual gets access to resources that others in the society are unaware of – resources that belong to the community, and not the individual? What happens when a single person in the local community acquires great wealth, but the rest of the community remains poor?

We take as our starting point the scramble for wealth, as it is presented in the myths and tales of the Iraqw people in the North of Tanzania. Most of the members of Tumaini Group are of the Iraqw people, and know the local tradition of tales, songs and myths well.

In this play, we will be following the Iraqw people from its very beginning to modern times, represented and symbolised by the couple Simboya & Arii, and eventually also by their son, Amo.

We follow them from the moment of their creation by the sun god Loaa, through the fight for survival, against drought and other threats from outside. Water, with the power to give life, is always central to the plot. But the water is also inhabited by Netlangw, the water devil, which is always threatening death and destruction.

Through cunning and hard work, Simboya succeeds in marrying Arii. He is tested in many ways – not least, he must acquire enough wealth to pay the bride price. Simboya and Arii build their own home and have a son, Amo. Simboya and the Iraqw people are faced with new challenges when Simboya finds diamonds on the traditional grazing land of the people, and invites The Big Corporation to exploit the resources.

Daniel, actor in Maji Maji
Daniel, from rehearsals Maji Maji.
Photo: Audun Eriksen

At this point the conflicts take place in a modern setting. As inhabitants of the village today, Simboya & Arii must choose whether to create development for the sake of their own wealth or whether to try to get the entire community involved.

The script is based on local tales and myths, but has been developed further to be relevant to a modern audience. There is a clear storyline, which is told through acrobatics and dance.

Corruption occurs both in Tanzania and in Norway. We have rules and regulations, but we also have traditions that affect how we look at corruption. How do we behave towards corruption? How do we define what is, and what isn't, corruption?

The Swahili title ”Maji Maji” is a reference to the Maji Maji Rebellion in 1905, when the people in the South of Tanganyika rebelled against the German colonial power, aided by 'magical water'. Magicians told the people that the German bullets would not harm them, but turn to water, if they covered themselves in a magic mixture of water and oil. The result was a bloodbath where more than 200 000 rebels were killed. Nevertheless, this rebellion was central to the growth of East African nationalism, which in due course led to the expulsion of the colonial rule in the 1960s.

Program and background information

Program Maji Maji in norwegian
The girl who escaped from Ama Irmi
Iso the poor man
Program and fairy tales for easy print