Kenya, like many African countries, has a rich history characterized by pure ecstasy as well as utter turmoil. Formerly a British protectorate, my country has grown to become the best economy in the East African region and the 8th best economy in Africa, and that’s just on the business side. There are a lot more achievements in various fields that we have accomplished over the years that are worth being proud of.
In as much as Kenyans occasionally celebrate and commemorate certain personalities and events that shaped the course of the country through national celebrations in stadiums and national holidays, I believe it’s time we took it to another level. I believe it’s time we explored Kenya’s untold stories and make them known to the world through a medium that is all too familiar, film. Without further ado, here’s my list of 5 historical figures and events in Kenya deserving of movie depictions.
1. The Mau Mau rebellion.
Kenya’s pace in its long and strenuous journey to independence from British rule escalated several notches in 1942 when members of the Kikuyu, Embu, Meru and Kamba tribes took a pledge of unity and secrecy to fight for freedom from oppression. The Mau Mau Movement began and as you would expect, there had to be consequences, and there were. Since the Mau Mau fighters had inferior weapons and war tactics compared to the colonialists, the movement incurred a huge number of casualties. Additionally, the revolt saw the imprisonment of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta as well as the detention and eventual hanging of Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi.
I believe a good wartime drama film can be crafted from this incredible story, the latter pivoting on an integral character in the war. Kimathi would be my preferred choice given that he payed the ultimate price for his unique role in movement in the manner that he did. The fallen Field Marshall, in my opinion, has the makings of a great hero who the audience members can empathize and root for in the course of the film. The inclusion of other generals and soldiers who also devoted their lives in the war would definitely be a plus for the narrative.
Furthermore, the incarceration of thousands of Kenyans in detention camps during the State of Emergency period (October 1952 to December 1959) due to the Mau Mau rebellion can be integrated into the story as well as the consequent politics of inclusivity centred on the Legislative Council of Kenya.
2. King’s African Rifles.
The King’s African Rifles (KAR) was basically a multi-battalion British colonial regiment raised from Britain’s various possessions in East Africa from the early 20th Century until independence in the early 1960’s. The regiment performed both military and internal security functions within the colonial territory, and served outside these territories during World War 1 (1914-1918) and World War 2 (1939-1945).
Yet another wartime drama, a movie highlighting the King’s African Rifles right from it’s inception to its distinct role in mankind’s most devastating wars can pack quite the punch on audiences, if the story is fashioned the right way of course. From the perspective of a notable Kenyan serviceman in the regiment e.g Waruhiu Itote a.k.a ‘General China’, the film can also highlight the reluctance of Africans to serve amidst heightened complaints about conditions, detachment of males from their families etc. and their frequent attempts to evade compulsory enlistment.
3. The Life and Times of Wangari Maathai.
A champion of environmental conservation, an accomplished scholar, an author, a human rights activist, the first black African woman to win a Nobel Prize; there are a lot of ways to describe this incredible Kenyan woman and the roller-coaster of a life she lived. Born Wangari Muta Maathai on April 1, 1940 in Central Kenya, she lived through some of the worst times in the country’s history post-independence. All the same, she was able to use her education, resilience and passion to fashion substantial change in Kenya despite all the odds that were stacked against her.
Keeping up with the female empowerment theme that has taken a life of its own worldwide, a Wangari Maathai biopic would be a breath of fresh air amongst movies of the mentioned genre. I believe a roughly two and a half hour film is enough to feature her incredible journey in life with special emphasis on some key events i.e. protests against the construction the 60-storey ‘Kenya Times Media Trust Complex’ during the Moi regime, her push for democracy as well as her groundbreaking Nobel Prize awarding.
4. Assassinations of key political figures.
Josiah Mwangi Kariuki, Pio Gama Pinto, Tom Joseph Mboya, Robert Ouko, Mugabe Were; these just but a few of the many fallen Kenyan politicians who were assassinated over the decades, mostly in mysterious circumstances. In as much as political assassinations aren’t uncommon in the world over, it should be noted that most of the families of the deceased almost never get justice for their loved ones. This is because the assassins are often allied to the ‘big-fish’ personalities in society who are nigh untouchable.
Do you remember the Nicholas Cage movie National Treasure where he, alongside his partners, go on a historical adventure in search of hidden treasures? Well, a Kenyan version of this film can definitely be done but this time, it would be the main character going on a historical adventure in search of certain clues that will uncover the unknown truths behind one or even all of the assassinated politicians. The protagonist will do this in service of the affected families who have always wanted to find closure despite the passage of time. This type of movie will probably never happen for so many obvious reasons particularly legal ones nevertheless, it has the makings of a great film.
5. Barack Hussein Obama Sr.
First off, Joel Gilbert‘s 2012 film Dreams from My Real Father: A Story of Reds and Deception doesn’t count for anything as far as telling the real story about the father of America’s 44th president. It isn’t factual and it was done in bad taste, period. Frank Marshall Davis wasn’t Former President Obama’s biological father, not in the very least. The biological father of Barack Obama Jr. was a Kenyan who certainly needs no introduction, but will get one anyway.
Born and raised in Kenya’s Nyanza Province, Barack Obama Snr. was a Kenyan senior governmental economist who in his early life was lucky enough to have been educated in the West in a program supported by Tom Mboya. It is in the United States at the University of Hawaii where he met Ann Dunham and they eventually had a son who went on to become the first African American President of the U.S.
From his upbringing, the rocky relationship that he had with his son, his experience in America, his marital issues leading up to his divorce with Dunham, his conflict of interest with the Kenyan government; there’s a gold mine of material about Barack’s life that can be explored in a well done biopic. It can possibly be a coming-of-age story, a ‘fish out of water’ story, just to name but a few, which incorporates certain narrative conflicts e.g. Human vs. Self as well as themes of sacrifice and fate, while also focusing on the central character from an emotional level. There’s no limit to the potential of this would-be movie, for sure.
The idea of coming up with such an article was certainly off the cuff and I wasn’t sure whether I was going to do it. However, upon completion, I can say I enjoyed doing it irrespective of the time it took me to finish it. My only hope is that you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing this feature. Anyway, thanks for stopping and be sure to check out more content I have on my blog. Until next time, God bless!