Hatshepsut, the original feminist?

By Marvis Osweri 

The Woman Who Would Be King opens with a darkened stage as a disembodied voice speaks. It’s Hatshepsut, narrating her life, her story.

The lights come on and a beautifully made up Esosa – bold kohl brows, shimmering gold shadow and her long sister locks exquisitely transformed into the quintessential Egyptian braided bob – gets into the first of many characters she’ll portray in this one-woman show; young Hatshepsut the princess.

Princess Hatshepsut prefers fighting with the princes than playing with dolls much to the chagrin of her uber-feminine mother, the Queen. The queen would like nothing more than for Hatshepsut to be a proper lady, groomed to obey, serve and birth a hire for her betrothed, the future pharaoh. Hatshepsut though has bigger ambitions and her doting father the current Pharaoh lets her know its all within her reach.

Esosa transitions from character to character through clever manipulation of her scarf – one moment its a regal sash for the king, the next a neck adornment for the queen, crisscrossed over the chest for the Royal Adviser, and for the always active Hatshepsut carried gracefully over her forearms. This one piece of costume is regalia, it’s armour, and later on in the play, without missing a beat, it’s a swaddled baby!

Hatshepsut’s rise to the throne was not easy sailing, she had years of tradition to contend with…not to mention one Isis, the Pharoah’s overly ambitious concubine. But you don’t get to the top without stepping on some toes, and in the words of her mother, “ A lie is not a lie if it has some semblance of truth in it.”

Written and performed by Esosa E, The Woman Who Would Be King is a beautiful reenactment of the life of Hatshepsut, dare I say, the original feminist – way ahead of the patriarchal times she was living in. Her actions paved way for thousands of others today; politician’s wives who run for office, female soldiers, policewomen, all the women who eschew traditional stereotypes of male-dominated fields and decide to follow their dreams. Hatshepsut’s legacy lives on.

Photos by James Wasswa

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