Theatre marathon across the country and three counties

Nairobi, Nakuru and Mombasa host 4th Annual Kenya International Theatre Fest

In Summary

• Culture is not the nemesis of science and technology. Both are vital knowledge wares needed for a more comprehensive approach to progress

Scene from 'A revolution ate my son'
Scene from 'A revolution ate my son'

Diverse cultural extravaganzas are taking place across the country, mainly in the city county of Nairobi. This month started with the now famous Kenyatta University Culture Week, which this year marked its 27th anniversary with new additions, such as displays of urban culture in its performance dimensions.

One of the pinnacles of the festivities was the reincarnation of the play Redemption by David Mulwa, which was staged by the university theatre students under the directorship of Dr Emmanuel Shikuku. The annual extravaganza has showcased dance, performing arts and visual arts locally and internationally.

Over the years, it has become established in the calendar of the country as a season for tapping rare talents from the youth. Some of the notable alumni include the Reddykulass trio of Tony Njuguna, Walter Mong’are (Nyambane) and Dennis John Kiarie (KJ), who is the current youthful legislature of Dagoretti South.

The recent release of the results of the Kenya National Population and Housing Census confirms that the youth still make up the largest section of our national population. Their stake in the cultural present and future of the country is very high. They continue to demonstrate this through their intensified participation in the cultural life of the nation through their diverse talents.

Apart from the culture week above, Nairobi, Nakuru and Mombasa county troika host, this week, the 4th Annual Kenya International Theatre Festival.

The festival is an arena where the local and international audiences of theatre lovers are treated to high-level plays and acting by youthful theatre companies drawn from inside and outside of learning institutions. Nakuru has been the host city from 1st to 3rd, followed by Nairobi from 5th to 10th. Mombasa hosted its own performances parallel to Nakuru on the same dates. Increasingly Mombasa is reclaiming its fame as a cherished transnational location of culture on the east African coast. It hosted recent national celebrations and continues to witness a facelift that augurs well for its current and future cultural workers.

Nakuru has been known as the political hotbed in Kenyan history. This week the scenic town in the Rift Valley has received a boost to its status. Its county assembly voted unanimously to adopt a report on the elevation of the historic town to city status. More cultural and politic thrill is expected to mushroom from the flamingo town, which also hosts annual sports event such as the famous Great Rift Ten A Side rugby tournament and its attendant art life. The 29th edition of this annual derby that is hosted traditionally by the Nakuru Athletics Club occurred in April this year.

Some of the plays that were lined up at the festival included, Because I Always Feel Like Running by Ogutu Muraya (Nakuru), A Revolution Ate My Son by the multi-talented don Fred Mbogo from Technical University of Kenya (Nairobi) and performances by the fast rising youth poets Mufasa and Shengspear in Mombasa. The Mombasa event was graced by a performance from Rwanda by the Next Move Dance and Theatre Company. Their art work revolves around the poetry and art in penitentiary settings with convicts confronting their past, presents and psychologies.

The impulse for theatre is universal and its para-artistic functional are myriad. From the political to the didactic and from the leisure to religious roles that theatre serve, here in Kenya, emerging thespians, theatre companies and a new generation of directors are to be witnessed celebrating it. The KITF extravaganza, now in its fourth year, continues to underscore the role of culture in national development and youth employment.

Culture is not the nemesis of science and technology. Actually it is the societal software just as the latter hardware are. Both are vital knowledge wares needed for a more comprehensive approach to progress. They are necessities for realization of our national plans including Vision 2030 and the new talent based curriculum.

The theme of KITF 2019 is, “Promoting Cultures and Tourism using Theatre.” Theatre workshops facilitated by some of the major names in the theatre arts and performance sector of the country are part of actions of this year.

Some of the areas covered by the workshops include, the art of transformation and role-play facilitated by the versatile Ronald Rand from the United States. Moreover, the festival has had acting and directing workshops by professional thespians such as Genese Pholo from South Africa and Hesham Ali from the North African cultural powerhouse, Egypt.

As the theatre marathon across three cities comes to an end, thespians and theatre fans should look out for the Lake International Pan African Film Festival, which will be hosted by Nakuru again. The festival is held annually under the auspices of Legacy Arts and Film Lab founded by Zippy Okoth, a don, thespian and well-known television personality in Kenya.

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Dr Makokha teaches Literature and Theatre at Kenyatta University