Art

Play paints portrait of simmering anger among Kenyans

Poster

Tales of the Accidental City Poster Square poster. PHOTO | COURTESY

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Summary

  • Tales of The Accidental City is set in Nairobi and features an all-Kenyan cast. It’s a three-part tragi-comedy created by the Nairobi-based writer, storyteller and founder of Positively African, Maimouna Jallow.
  • It’s a story that feels like it could have been scripted during our lockdown days of Covid-19 since the four Nairobians attending a court-appointed anger management class are stuck with each other for three days of therapy.
  • Scriptwriter Maimouna actually began exploring the theme of Nairobi as an ‘accidental city’ back in 2019, 120 years after the city was officially founded.

Positively African premiered its latest audio-play last night at the opening day of the Ake Arts and Books Festival in Nigeria.

Tales of The Accidental City is set in Nairobi and features an all-Kenyan cast. It’s a three-part tragi-comedy created by the Nairobi-based writer, storyteller and founder of Positively African, Maimouna Jallow.

It’s a story that feels like it could have been scripted during our lockdown days of Covid-19 since the four Nairobians attending a court-appointed anger management class are stuck with each other for three days of therapy.

Scriptwriter Maimouna actually began exploring the theme of Nairobi as an ‘accidental city’ back in 2019, 120 years after the city was officially founded. Meeting with a team of storytellers and writers, everyone came up with their own notion of an accidental city.

The audio-play which can be heard online at www.positivelyafricanmedia.com is not an amalgamation of the group’s ideas although there’s no doubt Maimouna was inspired by her fellow storytellers’ interest in the theme.

The current Tales of The AccidentalCity as all about four very different Kenyans who have been sent by the court to address their problem of anger, especially as it was the cause of whatever misdemeanors they each had been accused and found guilty of.

Attempting to guide and reform the four disparate characters who had never met before they arrived in the class is Rose (Corella Jawi). Her task isn’t easy since her clients are from widely divergent backgrounds.

There’s Jacinta (Mercy Mutisya), a house maid whose husband eloped with another woman, stealing her savings in the process; Diana (Martina Ayara) who gets into a row with the one man in the group, a proud former Nairobi City Councilman named Louis Njoroge (Eddie Kimani), and the youngest member of the four, Sarah Obama (Tana Kioko) who is stunned by these adults’ bad behaviour.

Described as a story about love, loss, and courage, the mini-series is actually about much more than that. It paints audio-portraits of real Kenyans who might never have crossed paths but for the court giving them this opportunity to ‘redeem’ themselves by attending this excruciating anger management class.

All four have had problems handling their emotions and consequently, have done damage to others and to themselves. Rose the therapist requires each one to rehearse the circumstances that led to them being taken to court and ‘sentenced’ to sort out their emotions in her class.

Whether that goal is achieved is one reason for listening to all three episodes of ‘Accidental City’. The first is entitled “Devil is in the Details’; the second, ‘Maize and Beans’, and the last is ‘This city will swallow us up’.

The dialogue is often sassy and occasionally quite sad; but it’s never dull—discordant at times but never dull. It’s intermixed with music by Kenyan artists Juliani, Akoth Jumani, and Udulele John among others.

The series is professionally done, in good part because Maimouna was a professional producer for many years with BBC before she settled here in Nairobi.