From Daniel Sironei and Patrick (PD) Shaw to Wanugu, Wacucu, and Rasta, these names are whispered in the streets and only the elite are privy to the details. That is, of course, unless you read Owaah’s blog.
Photo by @JapichaKE
In the late 1980s and early 90s, my father, then a military guy, was busy meeting my mother and falling in love, a story which, by the way, I only gather from small bits that they let on when their guard is down – stolen moments; unearned snapshots to what their lives must have been. Meanwhile, a lot else was happening outside their world. People like Nicodemus Arudhi, Anthony Kanari ‘Wacucu’, Bernard Matheri ‘Rasta’ and Daniel Saronei were becoming common names in the Nairobi. From robbing police officers off their machine guns at gunpoint to gifting their girlfriends with guns, these trigger-happy criminals did everything the Marvel’s movies don’t show.
In the third part of Too Early For Birds, the badassery edition, a play first performed at the Kenya Cultural Center on the 13th of January, stories of crime, that make a mockery of the celebrated Thika heist last year were retold. The play was written by Ngartia and Abu Sense, directed by one Yvonne Mwawuganga and produced by Miriam Kadzitu. While I read Owaahh’s blog every so often, it was a different experience to watch the actors bring their characters to life. The play featured Ngartia, Abu Sense, Laura Ekumbo, Sarah Masese, Elsaphan Njora and Brian Ogola.
I still remember the days when the president’s picture was hanged at every home like it was yesterday. I used to wonder whether it was a government ploy; to distribute and intimidate people into buying those. Or was it patriotism? Regardless, the first thing that caught my eye with the setting was Hon. Moi’s picture hanging on the bar’s wall. Did I mention the play was set in a bar? Yes, it made me think, a man walks into a bar…
The interactive play started a little past the advertised time but was worth the wait. Imagine you are watching Superman enjoy being the strongest man in the universe. The next minute someone tells you that between him and Batman, Batman wins the fight. That was the feeling when we got to the bad side of the stories, the badassery part; when we moved from the floral description of the glorious days of the Harambee Stars football team, way before Gor Mahia, when Kenyan football was still something. Sue me.
Laura Ekumbo’s depiction of Kamene was both riveting and repelling. The embodiment of distrust for a system and a desire to still keep living despite it, because who doesn’t? Couple that with the tension between her and Abu Sense, playing a rogue police officer – Hamisi and you get a scene that you don’t want to leave. Despite the few times when the soundtracks played over their voices so that you missed out some parts, everything was perfect. And the costumes were well, costumes.
Speaking of which, did I see pajamas? Also, is Elsaphan Njora okay?
Towards the end of the play, one of the criminals ‘Adi gladiator’ played by Ngartia gets an epiphany and tells the police officer who was roughing them up that they are all part of someone’s game and he, ‘ the police officer’, was not in control. What comes out as a strong commentary on the police force of the country at the moment was a scene that left the audience quiet for a minute before breaking out into a shout. My immediate neighbor kept whispering ‘say something stupid, say something stupid, say something stupid.’ It was easy to see why the play was sold out.
We were once robbed of the stories that made us who we are as a country. Thanks to Owaahh’s blog and TEFB’s retelling’s, we get an opportunity to take back what was ours; to learn from history and hopefully, to forge a better story for silly pundits to retell in future.