Ideology and National Consciousness in Feminist Dramaturgies: A Reading of Four Contemporary Kenyan Plays

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International Journal of Research and Innovation in Social Science (IJRISS) | Volume V, Issue III, March 2021 | ISSN 2454–6186

Ideology and National Consciousness in Feminist Dramaturgies: A Reading of Four Contemporary Kenyan Plays

Christine Namayi and Felix Orina
Department of English, literature, Journalism and Mass Communication Kibabii University

IJRISS Call for paper

Abstract: The purpose of the present paper is to examine the place of ideology in the dramaturgies of feminist drama in 21st century Kenya and the direction it may be taking in its development. We investigate how modern-day Kenya’s socio-historical landscape has left its impression on both the selected playwrights’ feminist ideological standpoints and the resulting dramaturgies. The focus is on three Kenyan playwrights and some of their works: Denis Kyalo’s The Hunter is Back (2010), Francis Imbuga’s The Return of Mgofu (2011) and The Green Cross of Kafira(2013), and Njoki Gitumbi’s A New Dawn (2012). The study sought to not only illustrate the representation of women in the selected plays but also examine the basis and effectiveness of their depictions and portrayals. Since the study is textual in nature, a textual exegesis is conducted through close-reading and with content analysis as the main method of data collection and analysis respectively. Data analysis is supported by secondary sources. The study leans on feminist literary theories, particularly gynocritism and Gayatri Spivak’s view on subalternity and how subaltern experiences diminish the position of women in society. Tenets of Postcolonial theories, particularly those articulated by Edward Said and Homi K. Bhabha, were also used to explore issues and challenges of female re-presentation. The study is important because there is the tendency to associate many an author or playwright’s artistic choices to certain dominant traditions to the total disregard to minor but effective ones. The study confirms that the utilization of socio-political changes and events within which the texts are set, shape the playwrights’ attempt to represent women in various ways.

Key words: ideology, dramaturgies, national history, Marxism, social context, tradition


The intersection of history and literary works is often pegged on the fact that the latter attempt to recreate not only the past and the present, but also, at times, an envisaged future, so that a people’s history is treated as an “ongoing spectacle in which units of experience can be isolated” (Ganyi, 2014, p. 47). Given this close affinity, and the manner in which history is captured in the selected texts, it is important to examine the extent to which Kenya’s national histories, and the so called units of experience, have been reflected on both the playwrights’ feminist strategies as well as the thrust of resulting dramaturgies in Kenya today. Brandy (1993) views history as a ‘real’ past, a belief or a set of beliefs about that past, and claims to report the ‘truth’ about that real past. Burkeywo (2015) in making sense of Brandy’s explication of history in literature, surmises: “history is a