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Ethiopia

"Morning Dew"-an amateur's review

The Monitor (Addis Ababa)
November 13, 1999
By Mesfin Birru

Addis Ababa - The plot revolves around two sisters living together in a house they inherited from their dead parents. Martha-the older of the duo-is a senior university student . The younger one, Abeba, is a jobless capricious girl.

The center of contradiction becomes a property including a retail shop left by the parents. Abeba feels that she was not getting her deserved benefit from the family's wealth because of her elder sister who she thinks was behaving like a protege.

She also suspects that Hunegna-an old gardener and long-time confidant of the family-is in league with Martha. The plot starts with the gathering of former classmates-3 couples including Abeba and her boyfriend Samuel.

Suddenly, it occurs to the youngsters that it was exactly six years since they sat for the Ethiopian School Leaving Certificate Examination (ESLCE). They agree that the anniversary was worthy of celebration.

Money is needed for which they turn to their usual sponsor-Abeba. She goes home and pressurizes Hunegnaw into giving her some money.

Later Martha returns from the university. Her estranged boyfriend Dagmawi is patiently waiting at the gate of the compound.

He unsuccessfully demands to talk to her. Martha told him that whatever he wants to talk to her, he must wait until her graduation.

The girl enters her home to be confronted by her sister waiting eagerly to get money. After some minutes of bickering, Martha relents and tells Hunegnaw to give Abeba her pocket money in advance.

Abeba leaves in a hurry for the anniversary party. But just as she steps outside the compound, she finds her sister's boyfriend standing.

She invites him in. Led by Huneganw, Dagmawi walks into the living room and waits for Martha who was taking a shower.

Enraged but composed Martha begins talking to Dagmawi. Abeba feels that the money she secured was not enough for the night and goes to their family shop.

She confronts the shopkeeper with a fake letter, appearing to be authored by Martha, authorizing her to take money from him. The shopkeeper falls into the trap and gives her additional money.

The next focal point is a night-club where the former classmates enjoy the evening with a lot of drinking and dancing. One of Abeba's girl friends exhibits some wantonness.

She exchanges suggestive glances with another guy while dancing with her partner. Later, the stranger follows her while she walks to the toilet.

What happens thereafter is rightly left for the imagination of viewers. After becoming fairly drunk, the merrymakers argue whether or not genuine love existed.

Only Abeba and Samuel profess to being in real love. The night's festivity ends.

Samuel rents a taxi and takes his love straight to her home. In subsequent, the boys around Abeba learn from the grapevine that Martha is scheming to sell the family shop behind her sister's back.

They realize that if true, Martha's plan goes against their interest because that would mean the drying up of the resources of Abeba-their chief source of money for enjoyment. Worried by this prospect, members of the group inform Samuel and through him Abeba about the issue.

Meanwhile, Samuel gets employed by a firm outside the capital. On his return to Addis after two months of absence, he meets Abeba.

By that time Martha has finished her university studies. She is organizing her graduation party at a hotel.

On the other hand, Abeba has initiated a legal step to stop the presumed selling of the shop by her sister. As a result, Martha has been summoned to appear before the neighborhood administration.

The next scene is a hotel where luncheon in connection with Martha's graduation was organized. Invited guests including Abeba, Samuel and their friends are waiting for Martha to show up.

Meanwhile, Dagmawi, Martha's boyfriend, is playing the role of chief organizer of the event. Martha, clad in black cloths, arrives a bit late.

She apologizes for her delay and begins delivering a speech. She reflects on how the theme of her senior paper was formulated.

Her retrospection accompanied with footage of her past was melodramatic. She says that in order to help her gather data for her graduation thesis, Dagmawi had introduced her to prostitutes in a bar which he used to frequent.

Martha speaks with her voice cracking with emotion: "After several months of contact and friendly chat with these women, I earned their trust, as a result of which they confided in me all their ugly but sad stories. "At one point, I came to know from the prostitutes that they were setting aside a share of their meager income to help their friend- an AIDS patient.

I became interested in the story and went to see the patient-Wubalem. The emaciated and bedridden woman shared with me all her deplorable experience as a prostitute.

"Wubalem told me that her life was changed for the better when one man became more interested in her than other clients. She loved him because she said he treated her with respect.

She said that one day this man came very enraged and desperate-he had learnt that he was HIV positive. From that day on, her life was shattered.

The thought of being the cause of that man's ailment and eventual death haunted her. Wubalem told me that since that eventful day she hadn't heard from Dagmawi.

On hearing this name, I was flabbergasted. I realized that the guy referred to in the narration of the prostitute was in fact my lover Dagmawi.

Thus I learnt that I too had contracted the disease." At this point of Martha's speech all the guests sob. Abeba weeps uncontrollably.

Martha further says, fighting back her tears, that her delay for the lunch was caused by the death of Wubalem. "I had to dispatch Wubalem's dead body to her village of origin," she says.

Finally, Martha goes on to read what she said was her will. She said she voluntarily abandons her 50 per cent claim to the residence so that her sister and Samuel can get married and live in it happily.

She also expresses her wish for the retail shop to be sold. She dedicates her share of the proceeds from the sale as well as 50 per cent of the 2 million birr in the bank for the fight against AIDS.

The climax of the drama is a moving one. Abeba jumps to where her sister was standing and asks for her forgiveness.

She is remorseful for having misunderstood her sister and deplores the prospect of losing her to the disease. The two sisters hugging each other are immersed in a pool of tears.

Martha pledges to live with Dagmawi in childless matrimony. Abeba vows to take care of her sister along with her husband.

It is encouraging to see the power of theatrical arts being employed against AIDS-the major killer of our time. In this regard all those who cooperated in one way or another in the production and broadcast of Ye maleda teza (Morning Dew) must be praised.

Morning Dew which was shown on ETV on November 3 and 10, 1999, will surely be a subject of public discussion in the coming days. This observer will share with readers some of his impressions of the show assuming that they have watched the two-series TV drama.

Abeba hasn't shown an iota of fear for herself when her sister disclosed her HIV status. Abeba may be a faithful lover of Samuel, but one can't simply forget the hedonistic impulse she exhibited in the initial stages of the show.

Given the type of friends she had and their pastime, it can't be said that Abeba was in the ideal surrounding which could protect her from AIDS. Even if she could be sure of herself, it would be illogical if Abeba was sure of her lover.

Imagine their two-month separation during which she hadn't heard from him. The other point concerns some of those who were present at the finale.

The climax was an exceptionally emotional and touching one. But some of the guests were deadpans.

The last and maybe most important point concerns the characters. It can be said that most of the characters in AIDS-related plots so far were either people of success or ambitious persons on a firm path towards it.

A similar TV drama shown a year ago had a couple-an ambitious professional preparing to go abroad for his post-graduate studies and his fiancee-a senior university student. One of the major characters in another TV drama was a successful Ethiopian returning from the U.S.

to get married with his long-time girl-friend. The chief characters of Morning Dew are rich girls who just inherited millions of birr in money and real estate.

How representative of our AIDS victims are these characters? Of course, nobody will say that the characters in the TV series are entirely out of place. But since the disease is having its thrust at the lowest segment of society, which is most vulnerable because of ignorance and poverty, those writing plots must take into account this reality.

The teenage boy who after drinking three or more flasks of tej (honey mead) rushes to one of the ubiquitous sex-booths for a quickie; the housemaid sexually abused by drunk male employers or their boys; the migrant worker who after working for many months in towns returns to his wife in a rural village with money and clothes but also with the HIV virus; the married truck driver who can maintain several mistresses along his operational route just by dropping a sack of charcoal for each of them; the mechanic who looks for drinks and casual sex after a busy day. All these members of vulnerable groups shouldn't be forgotten by those composing plots for anti-AIDS education.

Majority of our AIDS victims have never been to discotheques. The rich and extravagant can't be the ideal representatives of HIV/carriers in our society for the mere fact that they constitute a negligible percentage of our population.


Copyright (c) 1999 The Monitor - Addis Ababa. Distributed via Africa News Online (www.africanews.org). For information about the content or for permission to redistribute, publish or use for broadcast, contact the publisher.

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