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Fare thee well, Sir Jacob Otieno, the doyen of Kenyan theatre who now becomes our ancestor

By Peter Kimani | October 22nd 2021

Movie clapper [Courtesy]

One of the most important theatre directors to emerge from Kenya, Sir Jacob Otieno, died early this week.

The title before his name is not in jest; he was awarded, without any irony, the title of Chevalier (knight) by the French Ministry of Culture for his contributions to French culture in Kenya.

Well, why would the French honour a Kenyan director for his work in his country of birth? Because such recognition eluded him all his life. As I write this, not a single tribute has been published in Kenya’s mainstream media, in spite of Otieno’s towering stature in the arts.

What’s ironic is that President UK was dishing out national honours this week. Although I haven’t seen the list for this year, it is a safe bet that it mirrors what’s been witnessed before: obscure fellows of dubious distinction made the roll of honour.

But that’s not my problem. Since there is growing consensus that website hackers and online warriors ready to carry out a hatchet job typify our idea of outstanding national service, then we should declare crookedness as a national ethos and honour all charlatans.

Adding some distinguished Kenyans does not, and will not lift the whiff of scandal that has become a monument to public service.

So, it is fitting that those who want to mourn and memorialise the theatre great will converge at the Kenya National Theatre tomorrow afternoon, from 4pm, for a candle vigil, under the iconic poetry tree (poetree).

Go well, Sir Jacob. As our people say: May you dwell where it rains, now that you have joined our ancestors.

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