Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s controversial play ‘I Will Marry When I Want/Ngaahika Ndeenda’, back by public demand

The Nairobi Performing Arts Studios (NPAS) in partnership with Royal Media Services have sponsored Ngugi wa Thiong’o‘s and Ngugi wa Mirii’s iconic play ‘I Will Marry When I Want’.

The play is coming back to the Kenya National Theatre for one last time due to public demand.

The play was first staged in May 2022 after a 45-year ban in Kenya

New dates for the play: 6 – 16 October 2022.

Banned by Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Moi

The play was first produced in Kenya in 1977, but was banned after just six weeks of stage plays following what was termed as portrayal of post-colonial struggles. The play was again banned in 1990.

The play is set in post-colonial Kenya and features prominent themes on hypocrisy, corruption of religion, capitalism and politics. The play follows Kiguunda and Wangeci as they try to navigate through a post-colonial Kenya where issues of poverty, theft, low wages, the gap between rich and poor are seemingly as bad after independence as they were before.

The play was, however, banned by authorities for alleged portrayal of post-colonial struggles that harmed citizens. The play lays bare the betrayal of the rich aspirations Kenyans had as the country gained independence only for everything to turn out unexpectedly. It brings the post-colonial struggles amidst the foreign influence that was slowly turning locals away from their traditional beliefs. The play also tactfully portrayed the ruling class as taking advantage of the poor.

It also pointed a finger at the church that only acted to drown out the voices of the oppressed citizens. The play was first performed at the Kamiriithu Community Education and Cultural Centre, an open-air theatre at Kamiriithu in Limuru.

The educational and cultural centre was Ngugi’s project that sought to create an indigenous Kenyan theatre in the face of many colonial establishments. The project was targeted at liberating the theatrical process and keeping cultures intact. The play was performed at Kamiriithu for six weeks before it was banned by the authorities.

They said it caused its audiences to feel their vulnerability and lack of capacity to do anything in the face of reality. The play, it was feared, could inspire a revolution. The popular play is also believed to have been the cause of Miiri and Thiong’o’s arrests in December 1977. The writers were released in December 1978 when President Daniel Moi took over the presidency after death of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. They both went in to exile with Miiri seeking refuge in Zimbabwe and Ngugi in the UK then to US. Miiri died in 2008.