My Kenyadian Experience – Part 1

Muoi Nene is an actor in Glo and Shine Your Eye and has been an active contributor to both development processes.

by Muoi Nene

Like one of my favourite satirists and TV pundits, perhaps I should begin by cementing my place in the English language by claiming the word KenyadianKenyadian: A person of Kenyan descent living in Canada and vice versa. To Webster, Oxford, and the rest, you’re welcome.

The conflict between the Kenyadian artist, the Kenyadian academic, and the Kenyadian politician in me could not have asked for more fitting dramatization than in the characters of Hyde in the play Glo by Christina Anderson and Naija Boy in Shine Your Eye by Binyavanga Wainaina.  These plays, along with one that I am not acting in, Peggy Pickit Sees the Face of God by Roland Schimmelpfennig, constitute The Africa Trilogy. Upon hearing about the project from its dramaturge, Weyni Mengesha, I knew I had to get involved somehow, since I felt I could be a poster child for at least one of the relationships portrayed therein between Africa and the West.

Rarely will an actor find characters that are as stimulating and appropriate for them as I did with my experience in the workshops of The Africa Trilogy. The Africa Trilogy is an ambitious project by Volcano Theatre Company.  At the time of my first audition, I was a full-time , bilingual, sleep-deprived overnight employee at a major bank’s call centre.  I was also a full-time student in a Toronto university’s renowned International Relations (IR) programme.  Throw in an acting gig here, an emcee job there, some writing here, and a whole lot of volunteering for my beloved Kenyan Community in Ontario, and you have what I have come to call a true “Kenyadian” or “Mkenyadian Halisi” (Authentic Kenyadian in Kenya’s National language Kiswahili.)

As an IR major I was forced to explore my own continent and the Kenyan struggle for independence, especially as fought by the Land and Freedom movement (more commonly and indeed erroneously known as the mau mau) from books and as taught by my middle-aged Caucasian professors. I couldn’t help but wonder why I had to travel hundreds of thousands of kilometres, scaling tremendous bureaucratic hurdles, and at great cost to family and friends, to learn about my own country and continent.  I was indeed disoriented, disappointed, and disenfranchised by some attitudes I came across in the classroom and was ready for a different format to explore these international relationships in which I now find myself.

Since I first stepped onto a Toronto stage, I have used my roles as a portal for me to access my own heritage.  A heritage that, thanks to colonization and the global economic and political power dynamics, many of us who grow up in developing countries are taughtto ignore if not reject.  The aspiration to be more Western drives those who are able to immigrate to the West in pursuit of their birthright: a wealth that flowed for decades and in some cases centuries, and that continues to flow out oftheir mother countries thanks to unfair trade agreements and “aid” (a.k.a. crippling debt and neo-colonialism).  This is perhaps why The Africa Trilogy will mean more to me than any of my previous performance efforts.

This is the first in a three-part series by Muoi Nene on The Africa Trilogy. Stay tuned for parts two and three.

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~ by volcanotheatre on February 10, 2010.

3 Responses to “My Kenyadian Experience – Part 1”

  1. […] Muoi is an actor in Glo and Shine Your Eye who has been an active contributor to both development processes. Click here to read part 1. […]

  2. […] in Glo and Shine Your Eye who has been an active contributor to both development processes. Click here to read part 1 and here to read part […]

  3. […] Click here to read part 1 of My Kenyadian Experience […]

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