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Monday, 22 April 2013

‘Shackles of Doom’s Day’ At The 2013 Kenya National Drama Festival

MOMBASA, KENYA: The day started with amber sun rays piercing through the large Arabian windows that ventilate the Aga Khan High School auditorium. And as the clock ticked, theatre lovers continued to troop in numbers never seen before during the Kenya Schools and Colleges Drama Festival.
It was as if a Broadway Production was coming to town from Manhattan, New York City.
The fete’s organisers had their crowd control skills put to the test, with a huge battalion of police officers brought in to help maintain order as the sea of humanity turned out to watch Shackles of Doom. For an auditorium with a capacity of 400, it was obvious some of the over 2,000 people gathered outside the auditorium would be disappointed.
“Haki Yetu! Haki Yetu!,” was all they could say after realising their efforts to secure seats failed to bear fruit.And finally the time for Butere Girls’ students to take to the stage came as the adjudicators’ bell rang.The usually easy air turned tense and the arrival of human rights advocate and Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar did not make things any better.
“We have been good to you but you are so heartless. You came and took away our land as our husbands veins drains in labour,” came one of the stinging lines from the play as the young thespians got down to business.
This is the acid reaction by True Kanas to Mrs Kimani’s announcement of the new employees of the newly established Mafuta Oil Company.All plum jobs but those of labourers go to members of one community. Kimani, the proprietor of the land bought from the True Kanas, tries to assuage locals by appointing Lopush, a resident, as a watchman.This does not go down well with the residents, but Kimani cannot hear none of their complaints.Kimani’s meanness is further highlighted when he forcefully demanding to ‘sleep’ with Lopush’s bride on the eve of their wedding.
 Deafening applause
“Let me explain. I didn’t have anything with Kimani,” tries to explain Wamaitha, Lopush’s bride, after the groom busts them in his house. By this time, the audience is silent and their empathy for Lopush is manifest in the applause and deafening cheers. But payback time comes when Mafuta Oil Company catches fire and Kimani’s wife and the rest of the management from his community are trapped inside. Ironically, the person with key, Lopush, had just been unceremoniously expelled by Kimani. Kimani starts begging and as True Kanas realise he is helpless, they corner him. “Lynch him! It is payback time!” “Please for the sake of humanity, let me free, and open the gates!,” cries subdued Kimani.
“But when you took all position and left as slaves didn’t’ you think of humanity? Or when you denied us time out of work, or too all the land and siphoned all the profits, or even when you let effluence into the environment and our women miscarry and men die of Cancer?” asks a True Kana woman as the audience applause. But a voice of reason comes in and one of the community members pleads for forgiveness on his behalf. As the curtain falls on this controversial and much awaited piece, there is a standing ovation and in the Nigerian style, they all go Igwe! Igwe! Igwe! Banning of the play “This play is about us why ban it in the first place? What the drama committee was to have us burry our heads in the sand,” observes John Paul Wafula, a producer at the festival.
Senator Omar concurred: “These children are not destroying society, they are building it. They have raised fundamental issues afflicting us such as police brutality, tribalism, and unequal distribution of resources.”The National Cohesion and Integration Commission Vice Chairperson Milly Lwanga urged those who took offence with the choice of names to face reality and join other Kenyans in appreciating the root causes of national conflict.
“We are glad the play was finally staged,’ she said after watching the play. She denied that NCIC had any hand in the ban as had been earlier rumoured.
And the girls themselves were a proud lot. “I felt we brought it out well. I am happy we drove the point home,” said one of the actresses Mercy Mulama.

1 comment:

  1. This Play was given unnecessary attention and coverage. It wasn't worth all that hype...

    ReplyDelete

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