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Art

Brazen women speak on 9-month Kenyan heroines drama

From left: Wanjeri Gakuru, Laura Ekumbo,
From left: Wanjeri Gakuru, Laura Ekumbo, Wanjiku Mwawuganga, Aleya Kassam and Anne Moraa. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG 

Brazen’ women had no intention of keeping quiet after their first five performances at the Kenya National Theatre earlier this month.

The Brazen Edition of the theatre troupe Too Early for Birds was a tour de force that put Kenyan women’s theatre on the map. For not only was it written collaboratively by three brilliant women, Aleya Kassam, Anne Moraa and Laura Ekumbo. Speaking last Sunday at The Alchemist café, they told the incredible story of how the script was actually crafted over a nine-month period (coincidentally the same time required for a woman to give birth to a child).

Brazen also featured an all-female cast, including the writers who framed their expansive story about six phenomenal Kenyan women whose lives influenced the country’s history in critical ways. Four out of the six were portrayed by one remarkably versatile actress, Nyokabi Macharia who dramatised the stories just told in a present-day setting by a group of women who were gathered around their former history teacher, Cucu, played by Sitawa Namwalie.

It was an ingenious means of storytelling, especially as the women group included a sexworker (Akinyi Oluoch), a care giver (Mercy Mbithe Mutisya), a pregnant woman (Laura Ekumbo), a party girl (Aleya Kassam) and the Cucu’s dear friend (Suzi Wanza Nyadawa).

The four great women that Nyokabi dramatised where Mekatilili, the Giriama woman leader who led her people in a rebellion against the British, Wangu wa Makeri, the only woman chief in Kikuyuland, the outspoken former MP Chelagat Mutai who was the only woman among the ‘Seven Bearded Sisters’ so-named by the former AG Charles Njonjo for their defiant activism, and the nameless woman who brought down the legendary Luanda Magere.

Field Marshall Muthoni Kirima, the only female Mau Mau freedom fighter promoted to the top rank of Field Marshall was played by Sitawa Namwalie.

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