How would you describe the role of the playwrights as heroic in their staging of The Trial of Dedan Kimathi?
Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Micere Githae Mugo’s influential Kenyan play The Trial of Dedan Kimathi was an exceptionally daring stage production for the two to produce, especially when one considers the subject matter and the time period in which the play was produced. The Trial of Dedan Kimathi examines the trials and hardships of a key figure in the Mau Mau Uprising, an attempt from a number of Kenyans to challenge the colonial rule of the time. Kimathi was, at this point, a polarizing figure; to base an entire play on this man, and then to equate his story in with the Kenyan population as a whole, was a daring, heroic role for the playwrights to take on. In the preface to the play, Thiong’o and Mugo acknowledge that this was their ultimate aim for the play:
“We agreed that the most important thing was for us to reconstruct imaginatively our history, envisioning the world of the Mau Mau and Kimathi in terms of the peasants’ and workers’ struggle before and after constitutional independence.”
They offer a vivid portrayal that considers Kimathi as both a man and a myth. By examining Kimathi, Thiong’o and Mugo heroically challenge the norms and values inherent with British imperialism, and give a compassionate story to a figure that has been maligned in the West.