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Prof. Penina Oliviel Mlama

Penina Mlama is a Professor of Theatre Arts at the University Of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania where she was also the Deputy Vice Chancellor. Currently she is the Executive Director of the Forum for African Women Educationalists, FAWE, a Pan African Non Governmental Organization on gender equality in education. Penina has been involved in mobilization of communities for development through the arts. With a colleague, she introduced the Theatre for Development approach in Tanzania. They also founded TUSEME, a model for empowerment of youth currently applied in over three hundred schools in Africa.

Penina has published eight Kiswahili plays, a book on Culture and development, the Theatre for development approach and over thirty articles on various topics.


Muhando was born in Berega, Morogoro Region in Tanzania in 1948. She gained a BA in theater arts, a BA in education, and a PhD in language and linguistics from the University of Dar es Salaam. She rose to become professor and head of the Department of Theater Arts at the university.

Muhando was among a group of Tanzanian playwrights in the late 1960s and early 1970s who emerged in the aftermath of President Julius Nyerere's Arusha Declaration in 1967. Ujamaa socialism became the guiding philosophy of the country. In this environment, theaters were discouraged form performing plays by foreign artists. Local playwrights were called upon by Nyerere to use their art as a means of disseminating the main concepts of ujamaa to the people of Tanzania and for art to serve as a means of development. Muhando faced a dilemma between writing in English and Kiswahili. Works in English would open up a global clientele but remain inaccessible to most Tanzanians who did not speak the language. Swahili would open up this national audience at the expense of the global. She decided to focus on writing in Kiswahili because she felt that theater was primarily a tool of mass communication and being accessible to the Tanzanian population was more important.

Muhando's earlier works, such as Haitia (Guilt, 1972), are enthusiastic about the prospects of ujamaa socialism. However, in the late 1970s and 1980s, it began to be clear that that the expectations that ujamaa had created with respect to deepening of democracy and development had had not been met. Muhando, along with other writers became more critical in this period. in plays such as Nguzo Mama (Mother, the main pillar, 1982), Lina Ubani (There is an antidote for rot, 1984), and Mitumba Ndui (The Pox, 1989) she registered her disappointment by focusing on political corruption, jockeying for political power and the pursuit of personal profit over community development

Muhando, along with playwrights of various African nationalities, was one of the pioneers of Theater for Development - a movement that sought to let marginalized people use plays to engage in issues important to their lives within their communities and with experts.

In 2013, Muhando was named the chairperson of BASATA (National Arts Council) by President Jakaya Kikwete for a three-year term.


  • Plays
  • Haitia (Guilt), 1972
  • Tambueni haki zetu, 1973
  • Heshima yangu, 1974
  • Pambo (Decoration), 1975
  • Fasihi na sanaa za maonyesho, 1976
  • (with Amandina Lihamba and Ndyanao Balisidya) Harakati za ukombozi (Liberation Struggle), 1982
  • Nguzo mama (Mother Pillar), 1982
  • Abjadi yetu, 1983
  • Lina ubani (Antidote to Rot), 1984
  • Talaki si mke wangu (Woman, I Divorce You)
  • Other
  • "Creating in the Mother-Tongue: The Challenges to the African Writer Today." Research in African Literatures 21.4 (1990): 5-14
  • Women's participation in Communication for Development: the popular theatre alternative in Africa, 1991
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