Play banned over upsetting remarks

By George Orido

Mumias, Kenya: The Ministry of Education officials have banned a winning play from the National Drama Festival set for Mombasa this month.

According to the Kenya Schools and Colleges Drama Festival Executive Secretary Sirengo Khaemba, the play from Butere Girls in Western Kenya did not meet the national values of cohesion and integration.

“We have regulations and an obligation to foster national harmony and this play doesn’t meet the standards,” said Mr Khaemba, who warned schools from engaging in hate speech.

Depicts nepotism

Khaemba expressed frustrations with the team who ignored comments from adjudicators as well as from the regional drama committee to deal with the repulsive elements in the Shackles of Doom storyline.

“The play is very strong on production, acting is excellent” said Christopher Odhiambo, who adjudicated the play.

He, however, was quick to add that as adjudicators they were not a censorship board. Part of the recommendations was for the script to use more imagery, allegory and metaphor to achieve some persuasion other than be intrusive.

“The problem is that some few sections are offensive but could easily be adjusted to fit the bill of tolerance and sensitivity,” observes Prof Odhiambo, a lecturer at Moi University, Eldoret.

The play Shackles of Doom depicts a community in quest for black gold, and they get into a binding deal with inhabitants of an oil rich land, but affairs of affliction and blackmail trigger a high-pitched conflict.The play depicts nepotism and bias in giving jobs.

Intuitively, the play depicts life in Turkana where recent oil explorations have resulted in major oil discoveries that have since excited national discourse on how the benefits of the oil will help the locals.

Speaking from Kakamega, the Nzoia region and Kakamega County drama secretary Wycliffe Indakwa expressed sadness following the ban. “We are committed to ensuring that this play is polished as a work of art as opposed to activism,” said Mr Indakwa.

The play is associated with the veteran playwright Cleophas Malalah, whose play Goldless, came tops at the fete last year.