Getting Heard: [Re]claiming Performance Space in Kenya


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Getting Heard: (Re)claiming Performance Space is the third in a series of publications on art, culture and society released by Twaweza Communications. The aim is to bring to the fore conversations taking place in Kenya about identity, creativity, nationalism and the generation of knowledge. The series is also about the pursuit of freedom through arts, media and culture. In Getting Heard the performance space is shown to offer wider possibilities for knowledge creation. It shows that in post-colonial Africa political leaders have consistently performed over their subjects at local and national levels. There is discussion of: Kenya National Theatre, Story Telling, Radio Theatre, Translation, African Languages, Music, Media and Mungiki This volume opens a window to our understanding of post-colonial Africa through performances.



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Published 15 January 2008
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EAN13 9789966028099
Language English
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Getting Heard:
[Re]claiming Performance Space in Kenya
Edited by Kimani Njogu
Getting Heard
(Re)claiming Performance Space in Kenya
Edited by Kimani Njogu
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Copyright © Twaweza Communications, 2008
Published in 2008 by
Twaweza Communications Ltd., P.O. Box 66872 - 00800 Westlands, Twaweza House, Parklands Road, Mpesi Lane, Nairobi Kenya website: Tel: +(254) 020 375 2009 Fax: +(254) 020 375 3941
Design and Layout by Catherine Bosire Cover design by Kolbe Press
With the support of The Ford Foundation, Office of Eastern Africa
Printed by Kolbe Press, P.O. Box 468 - 00217, Limuru, Kenya
This book is dedicated to Ngugi wa Mirii who was taken away by a road accident on Saturday, 3rd May 2008 in Harare, Zimbabwe. Ngugi was central to the establishment of the Kamiriithu Cultural and Educational Centre and the development of performance spaces in Zimbabwe.
Other Twaweza Publications
Culture, Performance and Identity: Paths of Communication in Kenya ISBN No. 9966 7244 1 9
Strengthening Political Parties in Kenya ISBN No. 9966 7244 0 0
Kiswahili na Elimu Nchini Kenya ISBN No. 9966 9743 9 3
Cultural Production and Social Change in Kenya: Building Bridges ISBN No. 9966 9743 7 7
Governance and Development: Towards Quality Leadership in Kenya ISBN No. 9966 9743 5 0
Fasihi Simulizi ya Kiswahili ISBN No. 9966 9743 1 8
Culture, Entertainment and Health Promotion in Africa ISBN No. 9966 9743 2 6
Dedication Acknowledgements
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
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Njia Panda: Kenyan Theatre in Search of Identity -------1 Mshaï S. Mwangola
From Intellectual Space(s) to Performance Space(s): Strategies of Speaking ‘Truth to Power’ in Bole Butake’s drama ----------------------------- 25 Christopher Odhiambo Joseph
Sigana and the Fight for Performance Space in Kenya: A case for Indigenous Theatre in Kenya -------45 Amadi kwaa Atsiaya
Fabricating Nationhood: Sigana (Narrative) as Theatre in Post-colonial Kenya ------------------------ 57 George Odera Outa
Radio Theatre: Interrogating the Developmental Narratives of Radio Drama in Kenya ------------------- 82 Dina Ligaga
The Task of the African Translator ------------------------ 97 Mukoma Wa Ngugi
African Languages as Key to African Identity ------- 111 Mwenda Mukuthuria
Kiswahili: The Language of National and Regional Integration ----------------------------------------------------- 122 Kimani Njogu
Politics as Performance: Disposession, Elite Transition and the Performative Exercise of Power --------------------------------------------- 148 Kiama Kaara & Amadi kwaa Atsiaya
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Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
A Kenyan Intro: Identity Politics in the Performances of a Kenyan Popular Music Band ----- 164 Tom Michael Mboya & Iddah Wandolo
Mungiki: The Fourth Estate and Kenya’s Public Enemy No. 1 ----------------------------- 175 Kibe Mungai
List of Contributors
------------------------------------------------------------------ 192
vi (Re)claiming Performance Space in Kenya
This book is the result of ongoing work on media, art and culture at Twaweza Communications with funding from the Ford Foundation, Office of Eastern Africa. The project involves important discussions between academia and practitioners in media, art and culture in order to have a clearer understanding of what is being done in the region and its intrinsic and instrumental value. In addition to a journal,Jahazion art, culture and performance, and facilitating regular workshops on the subject, Twaweza Communications is publishing a series of books on art, culture and society.
Volume 1 is onCultural Production and Social Changeand carries essays on music, youth, media, art, space and leadership.
Volume 2 is onCulture, Performance and Identityhas essays on and gender, disability, music, media, sports, literature, religion, language and youth.
In this Volume we focus onPerformance Space, examined from a range of angles. The aim of the Series is to capture thinking and practice as experienced in the arts and to initiate debate on the subject. In the final analysis, it is anticipated that the dialogue between practitioners and academicians will lead to greater centralization of the arts and culture in the public and private spheres. It is also hoped that the role of art, media and culture in social and political change will be appreciated and supported. It is our view that any nation that ignores the arts and culture of its people does so at its peril. Equally, any nation that does not develop its youth deliberately to take up leadership is doomed to fail.
The Volume asks key questions that have local, national and regional implications. At the centre is the role of culture in the development of national consciousness, governance and human rights. The essays seem to point to the fact that the capabilities of people can be increased through deliberate creation of spaces for creativity and self-expression. It is a call to shift paradigms in African institutions of higher learning and in the
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public eye towards innovative and creative ways of knowledge generation and social transformation. The essays are also about popular culture as a site of struggle; a place for the negotiation of ethnicity, gender, nation and other identities and for the engagement of power. As is a locus of public debate and of individual and community agency, popular culture can be an important arena for social change. In the consumption of popular culture we engage power and create and express identity - a process of formation and change.
We are grateful to the Ford Foundation for supporting our work and making it possible for us to convene the dialogue sessions and the publication. Dr. Tade Aina, the Regional Representative and Dr. Joyce Nyairo, Program Officer in charge of media, arts and culture have always provided much valued guidance and support. The team at Twaweza Communications deserves gratitude for organizing the Seminars in which ideas in this Volume were shared. Catherine Bosire designed this publication and I am grateful to her.
Kimani Njogu Nairobi.
viii (Re)claiming Performance Space in Kenya
1 Njia PandaTheatre in Search of Identity: Kenyan
Mshaï S. Mwangola
Nestled in a corner of the capital city Nairobi is an area whose relatively small size belies its importance as a significant historical site performing the evolving discourse on Kenyan identity.Separated from the heart of downtown Nairobi by the busy University Way which marks its southern boundary, what I will refer to here as the official cultural hub of Kenya extends on both sides of Harry Thuku Road, proceeding northwards towards Museum Hill where the national headquarters of the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) is situated.
Harry Thuku Road begins, at its junction with University Way and Moi Avenue, with a row of building marking the eastern edge of the 2 University of Nairobi (UoN), which faces the Central Police Station. The road proceeds beyond the university to its oldest institution, the Norfolk Hotel, which is separated from the police station by the buildings hosting the university’s Faculty of Engineering. That spills across the road from the rest of the campus, and its entrance faces the official entrance to the university. The Kenya Cultural Centre (KCC) and Kenya National Theatre (KNT) complex on the road’s western side is the northern neighbour of the university and lies next to the headquarters of the national broadcaster, the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC). Opposite the entrance to the latter is Kijabe Street which historically has served as Nairobi’s “Publisher’s Row,” even though it no longer accommodates the majority of Kenyan publishers. Further along, Harry Thuku Road comes to an official end at the gateway to yet another hotel, the Hotel Boulevard, although a pedestrian path allows passage to Uhuru Highway and the Museum Hill.
This chapter explores this site as performing the tensions and conflicts inherent in performance space central in the making of a Kenyan identity. Its symbolic value is embedded in the collective memories and official histories of different interest groups associated with it, all of which combine to make it a stage performing the intense power struggles over what is the
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