By margaretta wa Gacheru (posted March 17, 2017)
While the secondary school finalists were performing last Friday in the Nairobi Region County Drama Festival at Lenana School, one had to be impressed.
It wasn’t just 14 schools represented ten of Nairobi’s 11 sub-counties that day with immense enthusiasm, energy, focus and clear appreciation for the opportunity afforded them by the drama festival.
It was also that during the four days preceding that Friday, no less than 45 schools performed. And many of those, such as State House, Lenana, Parklands Arya and Eastleigh High among many others, acted, sang or danced in several items.
There were seven genres to choose from, including the play, comedy, narrative, solo verse, choral verse, traditional dance and modern dance. So that a school like Precious Blood didn’t just stage a narrative and solo verse, but also a choral verse and modern dance. Even a humble school like Nembu Girls in Dagoretti staged a comedy as well as a cultural dance and a modern dance. That’s how seriously young Kenyans are taking their participation in the Drama Festival.
But just imagine that in nearly all of Kenya’s 47 counties, comparable festivals were underway last week. And even if they weren’t quite as energized or enthusiastic as were the Nairobi youth, just remember that the Drama Festival now operates in both primary and secondary schools as well as in colleges and universities.
And all this energy will be focused next month on Kisumu where the National Finals of the Drama Festival will take place from April 8th through 18th.
So my simple question is why, when both the teachers and school administrators as well as the youth from say ages 5 to 25 and above love to actively participate in this annual exercise (which they don’t get graded on and don’t necessarily make money through), why is drama and the performing arts generally recognized, publicized and promoted more widely by the Government, the media and even corporate Kenya?
We can be grateful for awards events such as those upcoming in Kisumu. But also those that recognize theatrical talent such as the Sanaa Theatre Awards, the Kalasha awards and even the recent Riverwood awards which were held a fortnight ago at Kenya National Theatre.
Given that all this wealth of rich creative capacity is being developed and refined by what Antonio Gramsci called ‘organic intellectuals’, it’s seems a pity that all our performing artists aren’t taken more seriously. One way that could happen is for the corporate sector, and even the Government, got more involved in helping to finance filmmakers, thespians and musicians. After all, fortunes have been made in Hollywood, Nollywood and Bollywood, so why not what “wood” Kenyan artists would like to be called, such as Riverwood.
The winners of the Nairobi county drama festival included: