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Trial of Dedan Kimathi


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A: Ngugi wa Thiong'o and Micere Githae Mugo Pf: 1975, Nairobi Pb: 1976 G: Pol. drama in 3 acts; English and Swahili prose and free verse S: Courtroom, cell, street, Nairobi, street in Nyeri, guerrilla camp in the forest, 1956 C: 24m, 3f, extrasDedan Kimathi is on trial for possessing a firearm. Waitina, a white police officer, and his soldiers terrorize the natives, searching them and demanding their passbooks, and arresting innocent villagers in case they support the Mau Mau terrorists. The soldiers hope that when Kimathi is hanged, the fight for independence will stop. Kimathi challenges the validity of a court set up by colonialist oppressors to administer their own laws. When the Judge adjourns the trial, an armed white settler rages at the blacks in the courtroom. The Judge visits Kimathi in his cell. He is Shaw Henderson, charged by the British to negotiate with Kimathi. He offers to spare Kimathi's life if Kimathi will plead guilty and help him root out the terrorists. Kimathi refuses. He is then visited by bankers who promise prosperity for Kenya if he will end the armed struggle, and is further tempted by a black business executive, a politician, and a priest. When these appeals fail, Henderson strikes Kimathi and orders him to be whipped. In flashback, we see Kimathi generously forgiving collaborators, but they betray him, leading to his arrest. Kimathi is sentenced to death, but two young Kenyans produce a gun and lead a final triumphant chorus.

A: Ngugi wa Thiong'o and Micere Githae Mugo Pf: 1975, Nairobi Pb: 1976 G: Pol. drama in 3 acts; English and Swahili prose and free verse S: Courtroom, cell, street, Nairobi, street in Nyeri, guerrilla camp in the forest, 1956 C: 24m, 3f, extras

This play is an honestly one-sided view of Kenya's struggle for independence: only the gun-toting white settler has lines that offer an alternative perspective; all the others are anonymous figures uttering bland clichés. It is a fluent propagandistic piece of theatre, whose call for freedom resonates well beyond the struggle for Kenyan independence.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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