Imagine in adulthood having to learn how to brush your teeth, buy food and groceries, utilise public transport, having to completely re-educate yourself in the art of just living, loving, caring, simply being human. This was the dilemma Mende Nazer was faced with when she escaped from
being a slave.
Her shocking real life story began in the Nuba Mountains, a tranquil, peaceful existence immersed
in nature, farming and storytelling around the fire. That was until raiders attacked her village and she was bound into Chattel slavery, were people are treated as the personal property of an owner, and are bought and sold as commodities. She was sexually assaulted and sold to an Arab family in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
Mende was forced to sleep in a dingy hut and treated inhumanely. Nietzsche stated that “man is the cruelest animal”, a dictum that’s more than apparent in this tale. Her captor labelled her as Yebit: a girl worthy of no name.
Her childhood consisted of cooking, cleaning and looking after children when she was but a child herself. In 2000, Mende was given as a gift to a diplomat in London where she escaped, only to be embroiled in a new struggle for asylum and liberty.
Slavery predates written records and has existed in many cultures. More than 200 years since the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, the shocking reality is that new forms of slavery are still prevalent today. Forced labour affects millions of people around the world. It can be found in every region, in almost all countries and in every kind of economy, according to the United Nations.
It’s defined as work which is executed under the menace of a penalty and undertaken involuntarily.
Forced labour can be imposed by the state or private agents and takes different forms, including
debt, bondage, chattel slavery and prison labour. A growing proportion of forced labourers are victims of human trafficking. With allegations of Children in Haiti being sold into domestic slavery, the International Labour Organization states that there is evidence to suggest that children
represent a higher proportion of forced labourers in Africa than in other parts of the world.
Mende Nazer’s harrowing story, ‘Slave’, is a must read. It emphasises the power of human tenacity, the fighting spirit. This thought provoking tale has now been transferred to stage in an adaptation by Kevin Fegan and Caroline Clegg for Feelgood Theatre, which has already won the Pete Postlethwaite Best New Play Award 2011. Feelgood’s ethos is to produce theatre with a definite sense of risk and adventure that touches the heart as well as the head.
Caroline Clegg describes the adaptation as inspirational, vibrant and shocking: “The play is a shock to most people and I think, as well as telling Mendes incredible story and her victory over adversity, it starts a chain reaction in most people’s minds. Because, like me, they believed the myth that slavery ended 200 years ago. Yes, it was made illegal; but like many crimes, it doesn’t make it go away, and left ‘unseen’ it’s left to grow”.
Slave: A Question Of Freedom, 4th – 8th October 2011
Unity Theatre, Liverpool
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