Cooking Oil Sparks Conversation on East Africa’s Women

Art can often be the most striking medium for inspiring change and sparking dialogue, and artists in the developing world are harnessing this power to see that their stories are told on a global scale. One recent dialogue-sparker is the play Cooking Oil, written by award-winning Ugandan playwright Deborah Asiimwe, which makes its U.S. premiere this June under the direction of Fulbright Fellow Emily Mendelsohn.

The play, a product of a six-year collaboration between artists at the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles, the Ishyo Art Center in Kigali, Rwanda and Uganda’s National Theater in Kampala, features cast members from Uganda, Rwanda and the United States. After each performance, public discussion of topics brought up in the play is encouraged.

Cooking Oil revolves around an East African village that’s thrown into turmoil after a young woman is murdered while illegally selling foreign aid—in the form of cooking oil—to pay for her school fees. The play raises questions about the effectiveness of foreign aid, the importance of girls’ education and the corruption of exploitative politicians. Starting off as a story about a girl who simply wants to be able to afford school, Cooking Oil escalates into a searing critique of the foreign aid industrial complex.

Don’t miss the opportunity to witness this cultural and intellectual exchange through art. Cooking Oil will be in Los Angeles June 6-9, and you can purchase discounted tickets or find out more about the play here. Different themed discussions will take place after each performance. The June 6th discussion will be on the effects of foreign aid, June 7th will focus on the role of art as a change agent, June 8th on corruption and leadership in developing countries, and the final one on June 9th will explore how we can get girls to school around the world.



Associate editor of Ms. magazine