You Will Not Erase Her

Saturday 28th July was a delicious treat! I attended the 7-9 pm #TEFBrazen show which was much more vivid and engaging than I expected. The production, directed by Wanjiku Mwawuganga, was arousing and brazenly unapologetic with a humor that served well too. Here is a brief recap of what I made of the performance:

Based on a script written by Anne Moraa, Aleya Kassam and Laura Ekumbo, the all-female cast shone, who not only delivered their individual roles beautifully but also greatly complemented each other as an entity. Settings of the past were meshed with great artistry to dramatise exceptional Kenyan women whose history has been solidly effaced – Mekatilili wa Menza, Field Marshall Muthoni, Wangu wa Makeri, Zarina Patel, Philomena Chelagat and the female legend from Nandi who saw to it the defeat of traditional warrior Luanda Magere.

The main cast whose anchor was Cucu played by Sitawa Namwalie, comprised of five other women: Beatrice (Suki Wanza Nyadawa), Ciru (Aleya Kassam), Nakagwa (Laura Ekumbo), Lilian (Elsie Akinyi Oluoch) and Bosi (Mercy Mbithe Mutisya). The setting was reminiscent of round-a-fire story-telling sessions as each of the women swapped to narrate. A most memorable component of the performance was that Cucu staged Muthoni wa Kirima, one of the four Mau Mau Field Marshals and the only woman to have achieved the rank.

Bosi, the crowd’s favourite as was mine, gave a wonderfully dramatic account of the Luanda Magere legend. Her style of delivery which was uniformly exciting and comic captured collective attention. Beatrice too was nothing less than revelatory as she went about – more a weapon than altruistically – quoting the bible, lol! Nakagwa made a viscerally moving performance. Was her being pregnant symbolic of something? Future generations to whom these stories we shall pass, perhaps? Come to think of it, I didn’t think anything of it until now.

I particularly liked Nyokabi Wainaina who I could easily say was the standout of the evening at-least to me. Playing Legends, she brilliantly morphed and adapted to the featured heroines, which couldn’t have been a mean feat! Her commitment was admirable and truly, I think she deserved a special praise for projecting well. Anne Moraa too.

Ciru was for me an underwhelming character. Although there were moments of triumph between her narration which told of Zarina Patel’s fight to have the Jeevanjee Gardens remain a public amenity, she did not do the narration much justice. It was just so different and I thought it a largely miscalculated move to have presented her as an intoxicated character in the first place.

I anticipated being immersed in a world of badass women for badass women (and men) by badass women. A remarkably badass show is what I got! I may never really know the turmoil these brazen women went through, but thanks to the #TEFBrazen cast, the physical, emotional and psychological sketches were strongly realized. I am, for instance also, yet to get reconciled to the fact that Mekatilili was 70 years old when she led the Giriama rebellion! SEVENTY…SEVEN ZERO….whew!

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To the credit of the director, the stage manager, the scriptwriters, dancers and everyone involved, this was a highly spirited show; there were a few unsteady moments but the overall outcome was a well-coordinated and laudable execution. The end, though I felt it a bit of an anticlimax, was deservedly met with an enthusiastic ovation.

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