Hamjambo! This week we turn turn to coverage of Shakespeare in Kenya.
Anyang’ Nyong’o covers the complicated history of studying Shakespeare (and other canonical English literature) in Kenya. Kenya gained its independence from Great Britain in 1963, which made Shakespeare’s works a source of contention–the words of the former colonizing power. Nyong’o, writing for Standard Digital, argues that Shakespeare is still relevant, and can still speak to the people of Kenya’s many autonomous counties:
I find Shakespeare’s historical plays worth studying if we are to understand African politics today. The politics of conspiracy and betrayal that comes out in Richard the Second is very reminiscent of “the traitor” episode of 1983 when Moi quickly dispensed with Charles Njonjo after a rather bizarre debate in Parliament when “the hounds of Baskerville” competed with each other on who would howl against Sir Charles the most.
Mwangaza Art School in Kisumu, Kenya, the only art school in western Kenya, offers art degrees, including a focus on performing arts. In 2012,students updated The Taming of the Shrew to present day Kisumu. Students also produced paintings based on characters and themes of the play, such as “Mutata’s interpretation of Petruchio’s killing Kate with kindness.” Their performance of The Taming of the Shrew may be viewed via Vimeo: Part 1 and Part 2.
Next, we turn to the 2012 Globe to Globe festival. Kenya’s Bitter Pill theatre company brought a lively and kinetic slapstick version of The Merry Wives of Windsor (performed in Swahili). The Guardian gave a very positive review. You can listen to a short audio clip here. Sarah Olive, University of York, reviewed the play and compared it to modern pop culture, such as Desperate Housewives, for the “Year of Shakespeare” component of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s fantastic blog Blogging Shakespeare. There are also several audio clips, interviews, and short scenes available, following Olive’s review.
Finally, the Globe Theatre’s world tour of Hamlet will commence at the Globe Theatre on April 23, 1614–Shakespeare’s 450th birthday. The last three stops are especially poignant:
- Performance #204 Rift Valley, Kenya, (“where human life began on Earth”–artistic director Dromgoole)
- Performance #205, Hamlet’s own home, Elsinore Castle,
- Performance #206, on April 13, 1616, on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, will return back to the Globe TheatreStop