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Play causes controversy

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 8 – A play that was scheduled to start at the Kenya Cultural Centre\’s (KCC) Ukumbi Ndogo – Concert hall from Thursday to Saturday this week is now facing uncertainty due to the title.

"Mheshimiwa Kihii", a play by the Theatre Impressionists written by Thiong\’o Kanyare and produced by Eduardo Waigwa is now the subject of a public debate convened by the management of KCC on Tuesday afternoon.

"Given the logistical realities of putting on a production such as this and bearing in mind that the show is due to be staged on March 10 to 12, we propose that this meeting happens as soon as possible," KCC Director and Chief Executive Officer Aghan Odero Agan said in a letter dated March 3, inviting theatre stakeholders to the public forum.

Thousands of flyers have already reached theatre lovers across the country since the first dispatch more than a fortnight ago.

But even as the KCC top management acknowledged that Mr Kanyare and Waigwa\’s group may use artistic license to freely translate "Mheshimiwa Kihii" to mean "The Premature Leader" it cautions that English transcriptions have already translated it simply as "The Uncircumcised Honourable," apparently reflecting recent discourses in the political realm.

"The intended public production of "Mheshimiwa Kihii,"  a play by the Theatre Impressionists written by Thiong\’o Kanyare and produced by Eduardo Waigwa, has apparently caused discomfort in the public sphere," Agan says in his letter.

He adds; "Concerns and complaints have been raised about the intended show\’s perceived potential divisiveness within Kenya given our current political context."

With Tuesday\’s public forum expected to reach a confrontational level, Mr Odero sought to clarify a few points that should be noted by all regarding the intended staging of the play; first, by exonerating KCC from the production of the play and secondly; that KCC is not mandated to carry out any censorship of any kind of creative work, whether or not it is staged within its premises.

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He said the play is a production of Theatre Impressionists – an independent private performing arts production company under the tutelage of artistes who have extensive performance experience of over 15 years working in Kenyan theatre and film.

"It should therefore be noted by all concerned that the Kenya Cultural Centre is not involved at all in any part of the production process of the play except for the contracted provision of its public performance space of Ukumbi Ndogo (Concert Hall) as a venue."

"The Kenya Cultural Centre does not have a mandate to carry out censorship of any kind of creative work, whether or not it is staged within its premises. We have not and do not intend to engage in acts of censorship concerning creative expressions and discourses. We appreciate that those who have expressed dis-ease with reports and advertising on this production are invested in the protection of free speech in Kenya; their concern is merely to ensure that responsibility accompanies the same. We are similarly committed to these values," he added.

He has urged restraint on all sides till every issue therein has benefited from open discussion and clarification.

"Had it been the concerns being expressed reached us directly to us from the very onset, we would have already dealt with this matter. However, we are still confident that this is an issue that will be amicably resolved," he concludes.

Recent goings on in the country\’s political arena that have witnessed Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret North MP William Ruto, engage in a public spat has caused concern across Kenya.

Various political stakeholders- both individual and political parties; the public, private sector and religious groups, have called on the leaders to stop washing \’their\’ dirty linen in the public.

Last week, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) warned the three leaders that they could face punitive action.

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