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Ngugi Wa Thiongo and Micere Mugo’s The Trial of Dedan Kimathi and Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Bansi id Dead treat colonialism, the building and maintaining of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. Colonialism is the child of capitalism and what capitalism seeks out to do is to maximize profit at the expense of labour. This study aims at analysing both texts as responses to colonialism and the ills that it breeds. The study examines apartheid as a product of colonialism in Fugard’s play and treats colonialism per se in the other play. It shows that colonialism breeds ills such as racism, alienation, oppression and capitalism.

Colonialism is the subject matter of the two plays; the playwrights examine the preoccupation from different perspectives but agree that colonialism is injurious to the colony.



1.1     Background of the Study

Colonialism is a process whereby sovereignty over the colony is obtained by the metropole and social structure, government economy within the territory of the colony are changed by the colonists. It is a certain set of unequal relationship between metropole and colony and between the colonists and the indigenous population. Colonialism normally refers to the period from the 15th to the 19th centuries when the nations of Europe established colonies in other continents of the world. The reasons for the practice of colonialism at this time include the profit to be made, the need to expand the power of metropole or escape persecution in the metropole and spread the colonist way of life including religious and political beliefs.

Collins English Dictionary defines colonialism as the policy of acquiring and maintaining colonies especially for exploitation. The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy uses the term “colonialism” to describe the process of European settlement and political control over the rest of the world, including America, Australia and parts of Africa and Asia.

In Africa, colonialism brought a new dimension into the concept of land and various other aspects of the culture of the African people. Colonialism is the child of capitalism and what capitalism seeks out to do is to maximize profit at the expense of labour. Therefore, the incursion of the settlers into Africa is an attempt to utilize, to the maximum, all resources (both human and materials) that are available there. Capitalism can be said to be individualistic in nature while the already existing system in Africa is communal and this points out the fact that the two systems negate each other (Walter, 1972).

Many writers would concede, at least partially, that colonization was a system which functioned well in the interests of the metropoles. Such writers would however raise another issue on how much Europeans did for Africa and it is necessary to draw up a ‘balance sheet of colonialism’. Quite often they will conclude that the good outweighs the bad and that colonialism had just one hand; it was a one-aimed benefit.

It could be based on the above fact that the British came to Africa with the major aim of exploitation and in the process of exploitation; the Africans were oppressed and alienated. Exploitation in this context means the system whereby the British came and used all the resources (human and natural resources) selfishly to serve their own interests. Through their superior weapons, technology and the use of religion, as the case may be, the Whiteman took over the land from Africans and turned them into slaves in their own land. Africans were subjected to the worst form of colonization which is slavery. Able bodied men, women and children were forcefully taken away across the sea from Africa to a new world to work on the continent.

Maurice (1962) states that, ‘the exploiters, as a class, seek all means to consolidate their property, to extract more surplus labour and to increase their wealth’. This means that if colonialists were exploiters and oppressors, they maltreated the Africans and extorted all they could from them and their land. The Africans were thrown into jail at the slightest provocation; curfew and state of emergency were declared at any time pleasing to them. African writers explore this socio-politics in their works. An example of this reflection is when Njeri and Kori, the wife and son of Ngotho in Weep not child by Ngugi Wa Thiongo, are arrested at Ngotho’s door step and all he could do was watch. This reflects a terrible kind of oppression when a man watches his family being taken away without being able to defend them.

Another evil of colonialism is total alienation of the black people. Alienation is the estrangement of a man and even a society from what seems to be the totality of existence. An African man who works as a labourer on the farm loses interest in the society because he has been tuned into an alien in his home. Alienation during colonization comes in different forms one of which is political alienation. This estrangement occurs when the people are not allowed to participate in the government of their land and they do not enjoy the government placed on them. For instance, politics is a game of governance which is intended to provide peaceful atmosphere, but it is threatened when citizens are denied their rights. Political alienation may give rise to class distinction. As a result, we have the privileged class living in opulence in the society while the masses (commoners) wallow in abject poverty.

Another is economic alienation. This arises when Africans who are engaged in hard labour get next to nothing and those who do nothing get the bulk of the profit. Africans who served as labourers were made to do all the work. They worked in factories, mines and sawmills. For example, Ngotho in Weep Not Child by Ngugi Wa Thiongo gets just little for his service while the bulk of the gain is enjoyed by Mr Howland who sits in his office doing nothing. It is however the opinion of some people that labour is treated by some capitalistic inclinations. This means that it is in an attempt to make gain that capital employs labour, which means that the less the money that goes to labour, the the more the gain or capital. The aim of capitalism is to maximize interests at the expense of labour thereby disallowing people from enjoying the fruit of their labour.

Cultural alienation is yet another. The culture of the African people, their religion, mode of dressing, food, language etc. were considered by the colonists as inferior so they sought and worked to discard it. The settlers’ religion became the only religion that was acceptable and the Africans were discouraged from going about their normal way of life and therefore, their culture, religion and language were imposed on them.

Psychological alienation is also part of the sufferings of the black people. It can be regarded as an outcome of the totality of the political, economic and cultural alienation. Psychological alienation is characterized by frustration, violence, aggression, failure, disappointment etc. in A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi Wa Thiongo, Mugo is artistically portrayed as a character in a state of psychological tension. He is isolated and alienated

1.2     Aims of Study

The purpose of this study is to examine the different ways the play wrights have responded to colonialism in Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Bansi is Dead and Ngugi Wa Thiongo and Micere Mugo’s The Trial of Dedan Kimathi. The work aims at analysing both texts and their portrayal of colonialism. Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Bansi is Dead responds to colonialism within a social context, while Ngugi Wa Thiongo and Micere Mugo’s The Trial of Dedan Kimathi responds to colonialism in within a political context. This means that the study will specifically focus on social and political responses to colonialism in the two plays.

1.3     Justification of the Study

Many works have been done on colonialization in African plays among them are Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Bansi is Dead and Ngugi Wa Thiongo and Micere Mugo’s The Trial of Dedan Kimathi, but the two plays have hardly been a subject of study. The need to compare the two plays within a colonial framework justifies this research project.

1.4     Scope and Delimitation

This research project will only focus on colonialism in the plays used in the study. The researcher shall give an analysis of the two texts used in this research and the study will discuss colonialization explored in the plays. In this study, it will not be limited to the perspectives in colonialism in Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Bansi is Dead and Ngugi Wa Thiongo and Micere Mugo’s The Trial of Dedan Kimathi. The research work has four variables which are; perspectives, colonialism, Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Bansi is Dead and Ngugi Wa Thiongo and Micere Mugo’s The Trial of Dedan Kimathi.

1.5     Methodology

The data for this study will be gathered from the internet, library and the metod used is a descriptive methodology.

1.6     Organisation of Chapters

This research project will have four chapters. Chapter one includes the general introduction and literature review. Chapter two covers Ngugi Wa Thiongo and Micere Mugo’s The Trial of Dedan Kimathi. It will be the analysis of the play and on the author’s response to colonialism in the play.

Chapter three will focus on Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Bansi is Dead. It will analyse the play and Fugard’s response to colonialism in the play.

The last chapter which is chapter four will cover the conclusion, and a comparative of both plays with the bibliography at the end.

1.7     Literature Review

There is no doubt that African writers reflect their societies through their works. Therefore it is pertinent to discuss those writers who have had one thing or the other to say concerning this study. The genesis of Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Bansi is Dead can be traced to Fugard’s experience as a law clerk at the Native Commissioner’s court in Johannesburg. At that time, it was required that every black and coloured citizen over the age of sixteen carried an identity book that restricted employment and travel within the country. In court, Fugard saw the repercussions of this law; blacks were sent to jail at an alarming rate. Marie Rose (2006) also says, although these restrictions are specifically in South Africa, critics have noted the play’s greater theme of identity is universal. Sizwe Bansi is Dead is a rich play and its richness is evident in that it can be related to different forms of drama.

Critics and scholars have also observed that Sizwe Bansi is Dead contains elements of absurdism, especially its sparse settings and surreal subject matter. Reading of Fugard’s dramaturgy in Sizwe Bansi is Dead returns us towards himself at a time when he was particularly enthusiastic. Exponent of Jerzy Poor Theatre regarded as basic to the theatrical experience an immediate and direct relationship with our audience”. It means that for a more comprehensive evaluation of the interaction between aesthetics and politics, we should look at the text as performance that is part of an experience that has no outside to it. In the narrowest sense, the play can be read as a response by a group of artists to the challenge of a socio-political situation. In view of this, Andre Brink (1993) also says, “much of th impact of this moment in Sizwe Bansi is Dead derives from the way in which it represents an interface between the play’s two key dimension; the socio-political and existential.

Kauffman Stanley dismisses the play as superficial because it is, he believes, only about the trouble of South African Blacks. On the other hand, it is well known that Fugard has always aimed at transcending the merely socio-political. Significantly, in the seven-page introduction that precedes the three statement play, Fugard concerns himself with some of the dramaturgical and philosophical problems he confronted in them without a single reference to their ideological or socio-political context. In corroborating this, John Kani (1997) provides a cameo of Fugard as a director trying to outwit the censors.

Ngugi Wa Thiongo and Micere Mugo’s The Trial of Dedan Kimathi is perhaps one of the most ideologically charged, even one of the most intellectually overplayed characters in the entire corpus of modern African drama. Ngugi is one of the most ideologically committed writers in Africa owing to his prominence and consistency in African literary circle. In view of this Gerald Moore (1980; 1) says, “Few African writers have achieved a development as rapid and drastic as that of Ngugi in the half dozen/years.” Ngugi no doubt has been an eloquent exponent of social and political view; His aims and objectives as an artist are to create awareness among the downtrodden masses who are being day to day robbed. Similarly, W.J. Howard (1973;102) believes that “Ngugi’s Wa Thiongo has decided to become more deeply involved in the social condition of his people. He further stresses that Ngugi’s involvement has been expanded to his day-to-day life as a Kenyan. He is also of the opinion that A Grain of Wheat (1967) marks the return of Ngugi from Leeds and also marks that would be seen as a new phase in his career” It is clear that Ngugi’s work centre around the masses in his society and their liberation.

Ngugi in his book titled Writers in Politics is of the opinion that every writer is a writer in politics because literature cannot escape from the forces of struggle and contradictions that pervade and shape every day in life. Emenyonu and B.C. Oguzie (1989; 3) says “Ngugi has become one of the greatest literary artists in Africa today because of the skill and variety of his literary device. He will be remembered for a long time for his versatile literary skill.”10 Technically and aesthetically, A Grain of Wheat reflects a decided change in Ngugi’s literary career. With multiple points of view and fragmentation of narrative by unchronological arrangement of events; A Grain of Wheat bears the stamp of socialist influence.

The study or reading of Ngugi’s work is not complete without an effort to understand how he arrived at certain kinds of preoccupation in his creative work. Explanation for instance, of his obsession with violence and other preoccupations such as his frequent criticism of Christian and religious leaders, could readily be found in circumstances surrounding his early life and career.” The artistic work of Ngugi is richly blessed with natural aesthetics; this gives the reason why his reader easily exploits beauties and message of any of his works available to them, most especially A Grain of Wheat. In support of this assertion, David Cook (1977;5) says, A Grain of Wheat is a well-planned and well-constructed novel. In his early writing, Ngugi’s scenes were not brief and disjointed to allow a truly intimate development of characters. In this novel, he has developed a technique for conveying continuity comparable to a cine camera following a character from place to place so that even when the background is constantly shifting, the separate parts are held together by a particular figure.

Despite the praises showered on Ngugi by these critics, some still have some things against his works and vision. According to Soyinka and Achebe (1972; 8), Ngugi as an African writer was in the danger of becoming too fascinated by yesterday of his people and forgetting the present. He forgot that his society was no long peasant with ownership of means production, with communal celebration of joy and victory, communal sharing of sorrow and bereavement, his society was no longer organized on egalitarian principle; conflict between the convergent, elitist, middle class and masses were developing their seeds being in the colonial pattern of social and economic development. And when he worked up to his task, he was not a little surprised that events in post-independence in Africa could take that turn they had taken.

Actually history is a powerful element or source for Ngugu’s works. He is always conscious of the past of his people just like what Soyinka and Achebe said about him. Ngugi should take into cognizance that there should be progress and evaluation in one’s society. People’s past is their history and history is meant be studied that one may understand one’s past and march it with the present and plan for the future.

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