There’s a play called ‘Ruka’ opening at the Curve theatre in Leicester this weekend, marking the 50th anniversary of the Ugandan Asian exodus. It’s a family-friendly story, written by Chandni Mistry, and inspired by first-hand accounts of those who fled to Leicester in 1972.
It was in August of that year when Ugandan President Idi Amin ordered the country’s Indian and Pakistani communities to leave within 90 days. Many of the displaced were British citizens and, as a result, around 27,000 people emigrated to the UK, with thousands settling here in the city.
Friend of the diocese and local actor, Christian Obokoh, plays a guide in the drama. We spent a little time talking to him about ‘Ruka’ and how his faith and own family’s journey has inspired him to help tell the Uganda 50 story…
The synopsis for the play reads: “Riya’s computer game Ruka has leapt to life, and she needs YOUR help to reach the next level and complete the game by Finding Home. As the game plays on and the story unfolds, Riya discovers her Mum’s past was not as simple (or boring!) as she always thought.”
How and why did you get involved with Ruka?
Christian says: “My cousin, Chandni, has links to people coming over to Leicester due to the displacement of Uganda and this impassioned her to write the play, Ruka. At a family dinner she told me the story and I immediately thought I would like to get involved.
“I feel like it pays respect to my mum and dad who moved off their own backs to this country and took the brave decision to bring us into the world. My (late) mum is Indian and came to Leicester after living in Kenya and my dad came from Nigeria in the ‘80s. It just felt significant as the play focuses on the relationship between parent and child - the child having to go on a journey to relate to their parent’s history.”
Why is the play important to you, in terms of reconciling communities and witnessing a message?
He says: “As Christians, we respect people’s journey through life, whatever their background. I believe God uses our experiences and stories, especially when dealing with injustices.
“To hear an elder’s story enriches us all and Ruka encourages us to hear these stories and build on them, picking up where our elders left off.
“Humans can get selfish and build empires at the expense of others - like Idi Amin. God wants everyone to unite and prosper together, so when people show heart and work to make the best of a bad situation, I believe God’s love appreciates that.
“There is a child-like curiosity throughout the play, and I think that’s how we should approach life and God. It’s important to ask questions and be eager to find things.”
Where is God in all of this for you?
Christian says: “God is everywhere in this play for me – in my expression of joy (it’s so fun!), but also as my character is a guide in the story and gets in amongst the plot.
“I believe God is a strong spirited guide who always gets involved in life, leaving clues, options and insights. One of my lines is, “look out for me.” I believe we need to look out for the things that show up in life and help us in good and bad situations.”
As a diocese, we are committed to being communities of reconciliation, and of unconditional inclusion for people of all cultural backgrounds. Social Policy Advisor to The Bishop of Leicester, Florence Gildea says: “Anniversaries like Uganda 50 provide a powerful reminder of why that is so important, the human tragedies which result from prejudice, and the stories of resilience and triumph which we can play a part in when we choose to welcome, accept, and learn from people who are different from ourselves.”
Ruka is on at Curve Leicester, between Saturday, July 30 and Saturday, August 6. For more info, and tickets, see www.curveonline.co.uk