Symbolism in Robert Serumaga play, The Elephants
Gulere, Cornelius Wambi
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Serumaga’s play, The Elephants uses intensive alchemical symbolism of Fire, Water, Air, Earth, Sulfur, Mercury, and Salt to depict the conflicts and changes in post-independent Uganda of June 1969. The two act play shows individuation happening in the lives of the seven characters in four main alchemist stages of transformation: blackening, whitening, yellowing, and reddening. For instance, Jenny, an American Peace Corps volunteer from a wealthy family comes to Uganda in search of her Self-worth. She gets into numerous erotic relationships, the latest one being a marriage proposal to Maurice, a refugee, and David’s longtime friend, formerly a philosophy student turned painter. David, the philosopher stone, rejuvenates Maurice who in turn rejuvenates Jenny against the envy of the fiery Richard, an American literary research fellow. The suffering of both David and Maurice does not kill their hope as their moods swing between optimism and pessimism, sanity and insanity, productivity and unproductivity, learning and unlearning. This mercuric life force overcomes the hurting truth condensed over their six years together. Once the news about his dead relatives is broken, Maurice splits from David like the spider-lily leaves, leaving both men mad. The Elephant symbolizes an urge to move, love, transform, and possess. This is the riddle of the post-World War II and post-colonial, post-independent states like Uganda. Mingling with the Wild West, Makerere University produces academic layabouts that roam with the rest of the world; as the doctors and nurses, turn Mulago Hospital and their patients into permanent casualties.