In a Zambian village Shula, a small, silent girl with big eyes, is accused of being a witch. Her choice: join a travelling witch camp or become a goat. Thus begins Zambian-born, Wales-raised Rungano Nyoni’s dazzling and audacious satirical fairy tale. Choosing to join the troop, Shula (a startlingly impressive Margaret Mulubwa) is placed onto a flatbed truck alongside witches with long ribbons streaming down their backs, attached to spindles which ensure their captivity. Shula’s big eyes remain inscrutably calm, even when she is subjected to the bizarre absurdities of being a tourist attraction in a travelling freak-show.
Nyoni explodes onto the global stage with this thrilling debut and its exhilaratingly cacophonous array of cultural influences. Rooted in an attack on a specific tradition – witch camps – this allegorical tale is also a blistering critique of attitudes to women. And if the details are specific to Africa, its themes are globally resonant.