Project Description

Reading of Cooking Oil Excerpts at Pomona College


By Deborah Asiimwe

C/O Masterly Book and Stationery Point
Plot 59/61 Kampala Road
P.O Box 25565
Kampala – Uganda
Tel. +256-713-374363/+256-783-545504 (Uganda)

© 2011

*****…omwana alikulila ndhala      child is crying because it is hungry alikulila ndhala       child is crying because it is hungry

Nkanda kusilisa omwana}                             I’ve tried to silence the child

Omwana alikulila ndhala}x2                         But it is crying because it is hungry alikulila ndhala                I’ve tried to silence the child

Omwana alikulila ndhala….                           But it is crying because it is hungry


(A moment of confusion. The lullaby disappears. Neeza, having finished her rituals moves her husband like a statue and they disappear where the roads meet. Maria appears. She is pushing a wheelbarrow with gallons of cooking oil. She stands where her grave has been. Silver also appears. Ndeba types-at an appropriate moment, she will join Silver’s crowd).


Maria:             One thousand, two thousand, three thousand…

Silver:             One million, two million, three million….

Maria:            Three thousand shillings cash!

Silver:             Three million shillings cash!

Maria:                         That was not bad!

Silver:             That was not bad!

Maria:                         “No pain, no gain” That is my motto.

Silver:             “Silver is your SILVER” That is my motto.

Maria:             If only I could make seven thousand shillings between today and tomorrow!

Silver:             If only I could make seven million between today and tomorrow!

Maria:                         I would have made ten thousand shillings in just one week.

Silver:             I would have made ten million in just one week

Maria:                         If I could make ten thousand shillings each week

Silver:             If I could make ten million each week

Maria:             By the end of the month I would have made forty thousand shillings

Silver:             By the end of the month I would have made forty million

Maria:                         That means in a year…

Silver:             That means in a year…

Maria:                         Four hundred and eighty thousand shillings

Silver:             Four hundred and eighty million!

Maria:            That should be enough for my school fees for the next two academic terms!

Silver:             That should be enough for my family’s next holiday in the Bahamas!

Maria:             But there is my father; “First, your brothers need to complete secondary school”

Silver:             But there are hungry relatives! “Our son fell into things!”

Maria:                         My mother too! “They need to read and speak English like you”

Silver:             Distant cousins ; “We gave him our votes!”

Maria:                         My aunties; “It is more important for your brothers to study!

Silver:             Aunties and uncles; “My son needs a job”; “My daughter has no school fees!”

Maria:             Those I once shared a classroom with; “Poor Maria, she still hawks and smuggles     Cooking Oil!”

Silver:             The entire village whose names I can barely remember; “That man Silver; he should help us, he is the son of the soil!”

Maria:                         Two years of hard working…

Silver:             Two years of smart calculations…

Maria:                         Two years of risky selling…

Silver:             Where money is, votes will be!

Maria:                         Selling to the locals as Father thinks I sell only across the borders.

Silver:             Two years of non-stop lobbying…

Maria:                         Two years of unfulfilled dream…

Silver:             Every political campaign

Maria:             Every beginning of the term

Silver:             Free Cooking Oil for all!

Maria:                         Father sits my brothers and I down

Silver:             Free Cooking Oil from Silver’s shop!

Maria:                         “One more year Maria, just one more year!”

Silver:             More gallons to Bataka!

Maria:                         My savings go to my brothers again!

Silver:            Two years of practicing eloquent speech

Maria:                         Two years of non-stop hawking!

(They both sing their “slogans” Their voices keep increasing until they begin to sound gibberish)

Silver:             Ladies and gentlemen!

Maria:                         Cooking Oil here!

Silver:             Vote Silver Bibala!

Maria:                         Cooking Oil cheap today!

Silver:             You will have silver in your pockets!

Maria:                         Cooking Oil to give your food a new look!

Silver:             You will have silver in your houses!

Maria:                         Cooking Oil to make your food taste better!

Silver:             Silver is your silver!

Maria:                         No pain, no gain!

Silver:             I pledge…

Maria:                         I pledge…

(Overlapping ends)

Silver:             Five years of political liberation                  Voices:  Silver Oyee!

Five years of economic empowerment                  Long live Silver!

Five years of prosperity for all                               Silver Oyee!

As I lobby and acquire                                             Long live Silver!

Aid for you my starving village                               Silver Oyee!

So help me God!                                                        Long live Silver!

(Handclapping is heard)


Maria:             Commitment to my hawking,

Dedication to my dream,

Focus on every day’s work,

Disregarding every distractive voice

So help me God!


Silver:             I like that part of the Bible, which says; “He who does not work should not eat.” Man eateth where he….(clears his throat!)


Maria:            I don’t understand that part of the Bible which says; “You reap what you sow.”

Silver:             Hard work! That is hard work! I reap from my hard work.

Maria:                         I have sowed hard work, but look at me!

Silver:             Look at me!

Maria:                         Very bad!

Silver:             The fruit of my hands!

Maria:                         I have worn this dress for the last one year!

Silver:             Marks and Spenser is my trademark.

Maria:                         For how long will this poverty be?

Silver:             People are poor because they are lazy!

Maria:                         Three thousand shillings in one day? Makes me somebody!

Silver:             Three million shillings in just one day! I am not a nobody!

Maria:             Today is my lucky day!

Silver:             Today is my lucky day!

Maria:                         One thousand shillings goes to Maria’s pocket!

Silver:             One million shillings for Silver, eh as a contingency fund!

Maria:                         Balance two thousand shillings…

Silver:             Balance two million shillings…

Maria:                         One thousand shillings returns home….

Silver:             One million for my wife and children…

Maria:             Five hundred shillings for the border protectors, to keep them off my back.

Silver:             Five hundred thousand for the media, to keep them off my back.

Maria:                         Five hundred shillings, contribution to my brothers’ school fees.

Silver:             Five hundred thousand, for the inquisitive electorate.

Maria:                         One day, I will go back to school.

Silver:             One day, I will become “His Excellency, Mr. President!” Everyone will sing my name!

(Maria gathers her gallons and takes the cooking oil to the potential buyers, calling out, until her voice disappears. Silver’s dream sequence continues, chanting in praise of Silver)

Maria:                         Eeeeh Cooking Oil!

A Voice:          We support…

Voices:            Silver…

Maria:                         Cooking oil cheap here!

A Voice:          We love…

Voices:            Silver…

Maria:                         Cooking oil to make your food taste better!

A Voice:          We want…

Voices:            Silver…

Maria:                         No pain, no gain!

A Voice:          Everybody…

Voices:            Silver…

Maria:                         Cooking oil cheap today!

A Voice:          Everywhere…

Voices:            Silver…

Maria:                         Are you buying Sir?

A Voice:          Everyman…

Voices:            Silver…

Maria:                         It will give your food a new look!

A Voice:          Every woman…

Voices:            Silver….

Maria:                         A golden look to be exact!

A Voice:          Oh oh…

Voices:            Silver

Maria:                         Cooking oil in plenty.

A Voice:          Eh eh…

Voices:            Silver

(Silver disappears with his “crowd” of supporters; waving).


Maria:                         Leave me alone!

Silver:             The dumb speaks!

Maria:                         Why don’t you leave me alone?

Silver:             Because I don’t want you to be in trouble.

Maria:                         Because you don’t want you to be in trouble.

Silver:             I have provided your father with legal documents for you to sell across the border.

Maria:             Why should I walk ten kilometers, pushing fifty litres, carrying ten more litres on my head when there is market here?

Silver:             Because this is my market!

Maria:                         You make a lot of money in politics.

Silver:             There is no money in politics! It is all about sacrificing, serving the people!

Maria:             Whatever! I used to sell to these people in peace. When you saw that father was making some money, you decided to take the market away from us.

Silver:             Now, watch your mouth! I don’t really need cooking oil money.

Maria:             You are very right. Your hands can land on any money they want. Why can’t you   allow me to sell my cooking oil here?

Silver:             You have legal papers to sell across the borders.

Maria:                         Legal papers or not, I will continue to sell to these people.

Silver:             Maria that is not the way the world works. I am looking ahead into the future. The incumbent president has told me that I am top on his list, among the people he is considering to succeed him.

Maria:                         So?

Silver:             So?! I need to build a strong financial stand ahead of time.

Maria:            So?!

Silver:             So, every source that can bring me money must be tapped.

Maria:              I thought you said you don’t need Cooking Oil money?

Silver:             That is not exactly what I said.

Maria:             I wonder why people trust you!

Silver:             I was seeing you.

Maria:             What?

Silver:             On T.V.

Maria:             On T.V?

Silver:             At your graduation ceremony.

Maria:             What are you talking about?

Silver:             In a new dress!

Maria:           Ah…

Silver:             And high heeled shoes…

Maria:             You have…

Silver:             In the photo studio…

Maria:             You have no right…

Silver:             Your graduation gown was long…

Maria:              To spy…

Silver:             Your dress was short…

Maria:              To spy on my…

Silver:             High above the knees…

Maria:             On my thoughts….

Silver:             Your thoughts were loud.

Maria:             Don’t touch me.

Silver:             I know your dreams…

Maria:            They are my dreams!

Silver:             To share…

Maria:             To keep.

Silver:             You need money…

Maria:             To go to school…

Silver:             And to look good…

Maria:             Finish High School…

Silver:             Like any other girl…

Maria:           Go to university…

Silver:             Get out of those rugs…

Maria:            Get a career…

Silver:             Maria! (Silver pushes some money to her) For you.

Maria:             What for?

Silver:             Get a new dress

Maria:             I don’t need… I can’t take money from you any more!

Silver:             Go to the salon

Maria:           All I need is…

Silver:             Get shoes…

Maria:              I don’t think…

Silver:             Take it.

Maria:             I’d rather…

Silver:             Here, it’s for you.

Maria:             I… (Maria first hesitates but after a thought, she takes the money. Silver pushes the wheelbarrow. Maria contemplates. She follows Silver) It will be a loan!

Silver:             A loan. You said it.