Revisiting ‘I Will Marry When I Want’

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Revisiting ‘I Will Marry When I Want’

THE SouthernTIMES Mar 20, 2018

    Gracious Madondo

    Ngugi waThiongo and Ngugi waMirii’s play “I Will Marry When I Want” is concerned with power.   

    Power struggles from the basis of their work of art as they write from a socialist perspective whereupon attaining political consciousness, the oppressed becomes conscious of his or her place in the economy decides to rise against the oppressor to attain freedom, equality and economic recognition.

    WaThiongo and waMirii are celebrated for their direct dramatic representation of the socio-political and cultural milieu outplaying in post-independence Africa. Their concern for the downtrodden and the betrayal of the independence promise in Africa puts the two writers in the same mould as Frantz Fanon, Sembene Ousmane and Chinua Achebe, among others.

    “I Will Marry When I Want” (1982) critically examines at micro level the broader malaise that has afflicted post-colonial Kenya.

    The drama questions Kenyan’s new rulers, their monopolisation of national resources, their selfish alliances with the former colonisers and the defilement of traditional values through the adoption of Western aspects of life.

    One is forced to draw parallels with similar texts that echo the same sentiments like “The Trial of Dedan Kimathi” (1977), novels “Devil of the Cross” (1980) and Ousmane’s “The Last of the Empire” (1983), which all deal people’s disillusionment with the post-independence black leadership.

    Class struggle dominates the play between the haves and the have-nots. The have-nots are always at the mercy of the haves and any attempt to climb the social ladder, for example, through courtship always ends in disaster.

    What is depicted in “I Will Marry When I Want” are the effects of neo-colonialism on the ordinary people of Kenya, as exemplified by farm labourers and factory workers who through the development of their political consciousness unite to fight against the system.

    Farm and industry workers such as Kiguunda and Gicaamba, respectively, are part of the workers’ union that mobilises others in the fight for a “fair deal” of independence.

    Of particular concern to Kiguunda and Gicaamba is that they never get to enjoy the sweat of their labour, as profits from the factory are shipped out of their country without any improvement of

     their 

    livelihoods.

    Like a historical griot, Gicaamba recounts how the masses had toiled during the struggle for independence. He puts everything in perspective when he says; “But though Mau led Kimathi and Mathenge and through organised masses, we beat the whites and freedom came. We raised high our nation’s flag.”

    In other words, Gicaamba laments how the masses had been short-changed by the nationalists by simply having to flag independence without the direct transfer of ownership of the means of production.

    “We give them, the profit on our work, our blood. They take to Europe to develop their country. The power of our hands goes to feed three people, imperialists from Europe, imperialists from America, imperialists from Japan,” Gicaamba laments.

    Exploitation of workers through low wages and slavery are some of the push factors for Kenya’s liberation struggle. The white man is portrayed as deceptive and manipulative by brandishing the bible on one hand while the other is holding a gun. Religion thus becomes the opium of the oppressed, meant to lull the masses into accepting their depressing conditions.

    The two writers, WaThiongo and WaMirii artistically deride imperialists’ laws, which clearly give an advantage to the white man and deprive indigenous Kenyans the same privileges and rights.

    The white colonialists used religion to pacify the black man’s will to fight for equality, as described by Gicaamba who describes religion as “the alcohol of the soul…the poison of the mind”.

    Religion is depicted as the colonialist’s most effective weapon of control used in conquering the African psyche. Western religion, Christianity, benefits and safeguards the economic interests of the white man displacing Africans physically and emotionally in return, as Gicaamba points out in a sermonic address:

    “The white man wanted us to be drunk with religion, while in the meantime, was mapping and grabbing our land… Had we not woken up and sworn readiness to die fighting the British imperialists, where would Kenya be today?

    “The white man had arranged it all, to completely soften our hearts. To completely cripple our minds with religion! And they had the audacity to tell us that earthly things were useless!”

    In writing the drama, WaThiongo and WaMirii’s premise is to influence human social behaviour and the transformations of the human through and reason. They do this through redefinitions of theory and practice, as instruments of the social enlightenment and transformation of African society.

    But Africa is not the only place where the battleground for the reversal of alienation and the deconstruction of imperial laced historicism is being challenged.

    All over the world, nations share a history of slavery and neo-colonialism and drama is an enterprise of “cultural nationalism” and the political practice and commitment to “political correctness”.

    African post-colonial drama like “I Will Marry When I Want” are attempts at interrogating dialogue with history, an attempt to transcend the boundaries of political, economic, social and cultural alienation.

    In “The Empire Writes Back”, Ashcroft, Tiffin and Griffith (1989) draw attention to the categories of ‘dislocation and displacement, which fuel the tension between the colonial imperial ‘centre’ and the colonised at the ‘margins’.

     

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