Performing Power: Ethnic Citizenship, Popular Theatre and the Contest of Nationhood in Modern Kenya
Outa, G Odera
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Performing Power... attempts a comparative [re]examination of the 'nation' and its various contestations from the perspective of the more recent popular theatre tradition in Kenya. It is substantially a re-think and interrogation of entrenched assumptions about the postcolony and its realities, often typified by mind-boggling expressions of ethnicity in many African countries, complete with all the codes, values, mythologies, various stereotypes as well as the language as its most prominent insignia. The book is a fairly comprehensive historical exploration of works produced during the momentous Daniel Arap Moi years as President of Kenya (1978-2002), including in particular, Oby Obyerodhiambo's Drumbeats of Kerenyaga, late Wahome Mutahi's, Jomo Kenyatta the Man (produced with Titi Wainaina) and Okoiti Omtata's, Voice of the People. The University of Nairobi and the neighbouring French Cultural Centre are discussed as some of the most important sites of theatre and power-performance in the entirety of Kenya's postcolonial experience. Texts have been analysed in the context of how artists, literally, end up 'rewriting the nation' in an ethnically polarised postcolony such as Kenya has tended to be. The subject matter covers a controversial and rather un-studied phase of Kenya's political history and will thus be a premier and pioneering work in its own right.