perspectives on colonialism (a study of ngugi wa thiongo and micere mugo’s the trial of dedan kimathi and athol fugard’s sizwe bansi is dead

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perspectives on colonialism (a study of ngugi wa thiongo and micere mugo’s the trial of dedan kimathi and athol fugard’s sizwe bansi is dead





1.0 Introduction

1.1 Background of the Study

1.2 Aims of Study

1.3 Justification

1.4 Scope and Delimitation

1.5 Methodology

1.6 Organization of chapters

1.6 Literature Review


Perspectives on Colonialism in Ngugi Wa Thiongo’s

and Mugo Micere’s The Trial of Dedan Kimalhi


Perspectives on Colonialism in Athol Fugard’s

Sizwe Bansi is Dead


Comparative Study of both Plays and Summary



Ngugi Wa Thiongo and Micere Mugo’s The Trial of Dedan Kimathi and Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Bansi is Dead treat colonialism, the building and maintaining of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. Colonialism is the child of capitalism and what capitalism seeks out to do is to maximize profit at the expense of labour. This study aims at analyzing both texts as responses to colonialism and the ills that it breeds. The study examines apartheid as a product of colonialism in Fugard’s play and treat colonialsm perse in the other play. It shows that colonialism breeds ills such as racism, alienation oppression and capitalism. Colonialism is the.

Colonialism is the subject matter of the two plays the playwrights examine the preoccupation from different perspective but are agreed that colonialism is injurious to the colony.



Perspectives on Colonialism in Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Bansi is Dead and Ngugi Wa Thiongo and Micere Mugo’s The Trial of Dedan Kimathi.


Colonialism is the building and maintaining of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. Colonialism came into being from the 15th century to the late 19th century when nations of Europe established colonies in other countries. The reasons for the practice of colonialism at this time include economic, political, religious and cultural reasons. The Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy uses the term ‘colonialism’ to describe the process of European settlement and political control over the rest of the world including America, Australia and parts of Africa and Asia.

This study is on the perspectives on colonialism in Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Bansi Is Dead and Ngugi wa Thongo and Micere Mugo’s The Trial of Dedan Kimathi. It focuses on the three African playwrights and their treatment of colonialism. Athol Fugard is a world acclaimed African writer and his works are unique. He uses his work as an instrument for social mobilization and change. He was born in Middleburg, South Africa. He describes himself as an Afrikaneer writing in English. He is a playwright, novelist, actor and most of his plays are always set in South Africa and steeped in the politics of the day (apartheid then and now post-apartheid). Fugard says, “(my) real territory as a dramatist is the world of secrets with their powerful effect on human behavior and trauma of the revelation. Whether it is the radiant secret in Miss Helen’s heart or the withering one in Boesman’s or the dark and destructive one in Gladys, they are the dynamo that generates all the significant actions in my play.”

Ngugi Wa Thiongo is a writer of international repute, a Kenyan,teacher, playwright, novelist and essayists, whose works function as an important link between the pioneers of African writing and the younger generation of post colonial writers. He was born in Kamiriithu in Kenya in 1938 as the fifth child of the third of his father’s four wives. After imprisonment in 1978 for a year without trial, Ngugi abandoned using English as the primary language of his work in favour of Gikuyu his native language. The transition from colonialism to post-coloniality and the crisis of modernity has been a central issue in Ngugi’s writing.

Ngugi prefers his native language to English language; he sees the latter as a sign of colonialism. In ‘On the Abolition of English Department, (1968; 467) an article he wrote with Taban Lo Liyong and Henry Ownor – Anyumba, he says, “If there is need for a study of historic continuity of a single culture; why can’t this be African? Why can’t African literature be at the centre so that we can view other cultures in relationship to it?”1 This shows his total resentment and he finds the power of pen invaluable to work for a desired change.

Micere Mugo is a well known African poet, playwright, scholar, instructor, professor of African – American studies. She was born in 1942 in Bancho. Kenya-born Micere Githae Mugo’s English language verse and drama draw heavily upon indigenous African cultural traditions. As a critic, she has written extensively on contemporary African literature. Mugo was forced to depart Kenya in 1982 after becoming the target of official government harassment. He has worked, written and taught abroad in the years since. She is a professor of African Studies at Syracuse University in New York State. “Mugo is a poet with a mission in her society which embraces the black race, the underprivileged class and her specific female gender”, remarked World Literature Today reviewer Tanure Olajide. “She appears to speak for African and blacks, women and the down trodden”. Her adolescence was disturbed by the MauMau uprising which endured from 1952-1956. This armed revolt against the British colonial government and its economic and social discrimination brought much bloodshed to threat to her life. Mugo is seen as a woman of the people, for the people and her gender.


Colonialism is a process whereby sovereignty over the colony is obtained by the metropole and social structure, government economy within the territory of the colony are changed by the colonists. It is a certain set of unequal relationship between metropole and colony and between the colonists and the indigenous population. Colonialism normally refers to the period from the 15th to the 19th centuries when the nations of Europe established colonies in other continents. The reasons for the practice of colonialism at this time include the profit to be made, the need to expand the power of metropole or escape persecution in the metropole and to spread the coloniest way of life including religious and political beliefs.

Collins English Dictionary defines colonialism as the policy of acquiring and maintaining colonies especially for exploitation. The Standford Encyclopedia of philosophy uses the term ‘colonialism’ to describe the process of European settlement and political control over the rest of the world, including America, Australia and parts of Africa and Asia2.

In Africa, colonialism brought a new dimension into the concept of land and various other aspects of the culture of the African people. Colonialism is the child of capitalism and what capitalism seeks to do is the maximization of profit at the expenses of labour. Therefore, the incursion of the settlers into Africa is an attempt to utilize, to the maximum all resources both human and material resources that are available there. Capitalism can be said to be individualisitic in nature while the already existing system in Africa is communal and this points out the fact the two systems negates each other. Walter Rodney (1972; 4), argues that,

Many writers would concede, at least partially that colonization was a system which functioned well in the interest of the metropoles. Such writer, would however raise another issue on how much Europeans did for Africa and it is necessary to draw up a ‘balance sheet of colonialism’ Quite often they will conclude that the good outweighs the bad. He concludes that ‘colonialism’ had only one hand. It was a one-aimed benefit.

It could be based on the above fact that the British came to Africa with the major aim of exploitation and in the process of exploitation; the Africans were oppressed and alienated. Exploitation in this context means the system whereby the British came and used all resources both human and natural resources selfishly to serves their own interest. Through their superior weapons, technology and the use of religion, as the case may be, the Whiteman took over the land from the Africans and turned them slaves on their own land. Africans were subjected to the worst form of colonization which is slavery. Able bodied men, women and children were forcefully taken away across the sea from Africa to a new world to work on the sugarcane, cotton and tobacco plantations and other places outside the continent.

Maurice Comfort (1962; 6) states that, “The exploiters, as a class seek all means to consolidate their property, to extract more surplus labour and to increase their wealth”. This means that if colonialists were exploiters and oppressors: they maltreated the Africans and extorted all they could from them and their land. The Africans were thrown into jail at the slightest provocation, curfew and state of emergency were declared at any time. African writers explore this sociopolitics in their works. An example of this reflection is when Njeri and Kori, the wife and son of Ngotho in Weep not Child by Ngugi Wa Thiongo, are arrested at Ngotho’s door step and all he, Ngotho could do is just watch. This reflects a terrible kind of oppression when a man watches his family being taken away without being able to defend them.

Another evil of colonialism is total alienation of the black people. Alienation is the estrangement of a man and even a society from what seems to be the totality of existence. An African man who works as a labourer on the farm loses interest in the society because he has been turned into an alien in his home. Alienation during colonization comes in different forms one of which is political alienation. This estrangement occurs when the people are not allowed to participate in the government of their land and they do not enjoy the government imposed on them. For instance, politics which is a game of governance and which is intended to provide peaceful atmosphere is threatened and citizens are denied their rights. Political alienation may give rise to class distinction. As a result, we have the privileged class living in opulence in the society while the masses (commoners) wallow in abject poverty.

Another is economic alienation: This arises when Africans who are engaged in hard labour get next to nothing and those who do nothing get the bulk of the profit. Africans who severed as labourers were made to all do the work. They work in factories, mines and sawmills. For example, Ngotho in Weep Not Child by Ngugi Wa Thiongo get just little for his service while the bulk of the gain is enjoyed by Mr. Howland who sits in his office doing nothing. It is however the opinion of some people that labour is treated by capitalistics inclination. This means that it is an attempt to make gain that capital employs labour, which means that the less the money that goes to labour, the more the gain or capital. The aim of capitalism is to maximize interest at the expense of labour thereby disallowing people from enjoying the fruit of their labour.

Cultural alienation is yet another. The culture of the Africa people, their religion, mode of dressing, food, language etc. were considered by the colonizers as inferior and they therefore work that they be discarded. The settlers’ religion became the only religion acceptable and the Africans are discouraged from going about their own way of life and therefore their culture, religion and language were imposed on them

Psychological alienation is also part of the sufferings of the black people. It can be regarded an outcome of the totality of the political, economic and cultural alienation. Psychological alienation is characterized by frustration, violence, aggression, failure, disappointment etc. In A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi Wa Thiongo, Mugo is artistically portrayed as a character in a state of psychological tension. He is isolated and alienated.


The purpose of this study is to examine the different ways the play wrights have responded to colonialism in Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Banzi is Dead and Ngugi Wa Thiongo and Micere Mugo’s The Trial of Dedan Kimathi. The work aims at analyzing both texts and their portrayal of colonialism. Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Bansi is Dead responds to colonialism within a social – context while, The Trial of Dedan Kimathi by Ngugi Wa Thiongo and Micere Mugo responds to the ideology within a political context. This means that the study will specifically focus on social and political responses to colonialism in the two plays.


Many works have been done on colonialization in African plays among them are Sizwe Banzi is Dead by Athol Fugard and The Trial of Dedan Kimathi by Ngugi Wa Thiongo and Micere Mugo, but the two plays have hardly been together a subject of study. The need to compare the two plays within a colonial framework justifies this research.


This study will only focus on colonialism in the plays used in this study. We shall give an analysis of the two texts used in this research and the study will discuss colonization explored in the plays. In this study, we will only limit ourselves to the Perspectives in Colonialism in Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Bansi is Dead and Ngugi Wa Thiongo and Micere Mugo’s The Trial of Dedan Kimathi. The research work has four variables which are: Perspectives, Colonialism, Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Bansi is Dead and Ngugi Wa Thiongo and Mugo Micere’s The Trial of Dedan Kimathi.


The data for this study will be gathered from the library, internet, and the method is descriptive.


This study will have four chapters. Chapter one will include the general introduction and literature review. General introduction will be about the main focus of the research work, the definitions of the keyword ‘colonialism’. Literature review will examine what previous researchers have done that is relevant to our topic.

Chapter two will be on Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Bansi is Dead. It will be an analysis of the play and on Fugard’s response to colonialism.

Chapter three will be on Ngugi Wa Thiongo and Mugo Micere’s The Trial of Dedan Kimathi. It will be the analysis of the play and on Ngugi and Mugo’s response to colonialism in it.

The last chapter which is chapter four will be on the conclusion, a comparative study of both plays and the bibliography.


There is no doubt that African writers reflect their societies through their work. Therefore it is pertinent to discuss those writers who have had one thing or the other to say on the concern of this study. According to Marie Rose (2006;2),

The genesis of Sizwe Bansi is Dead can be traced to Fugard’s experience as a law clerk at the Native Commissioner’s court in Johannesburg. At that time, it was required that every black and coloured citizen over the age of sixteen carried (sic) an identity book that restricted employment and travel within the country. In court, Fugard saw the repercussions of this law: blacks were sent to jail at an alarming rate.

Marie Rose (2006; 2) also says,

Although, these restrictions are specifically in

South Africa, critics have noted the play’s greater

theme of identity is universal

Sizwe Bansi is Dead is a rich play and its richness is evident in that it can be related to different forms of drama. It is apt to quote Rose again:

Critics and scholars have also observed that Sizwe Bansi is Dead contains elements of absurdism, especially its sparse settings and surreal subject matter.

In the view of Andre Brink (1993; 2),

Reading of Fugard’s dramaturgy in Sizwe Bansi returns us to what himself at a time when he was a particularly enthusiastic exponent of Jerzy Poor Theatre regarded as basic to the theatrical experience an “immediate and direct relationship with our audience.

It means that for a more comprehensive evaluation of the interaction between aesthetics and politics we should look at the text as performance, that is part of an experience that has no outside to it.

In the narrowest sense, the play can be read as a response by a group of artists to the challenge of the sociopolitical situation. In view of this, Andre Brink (1993;2) also says,

Much of the impact of this moment in Sizwe Bansi derives from the way in which it represents an interface between the play’s two key dimension: the socio-political and existential.

Kauffman Stanley dismisses the play as “superficial” because it is, he believes only about the troubles of South African blacks (Rev of Sizwe 26). On the other hand, it is well known that Fugard has always aimed at transcending the merely sociopolitical.

Significantly, in the seven-page introduction that precedes the three statement play, Fugard concerns himself with some of the dramaturgical and philosophical problems he confronted in them without a single reference to their ideological or sociopolitical context. In Corroborating this, John Kani (1967;7) provides a cameo of Fugard as a director trying to outwit the censors.

Fugard exposes all the racial problems that the blacks are facing in America and South Africa. Every other writer before, around and after them make protest pronounced in their works.

Ngugi Wa Thiongo and Micere Mugo’s The Trial of Dedan Kimathi is perhaps one of the most ideologically charged, even one of the most intellectually overplayed characters in the entire corpus of modern African drama. Ngugi is one of the most ideologically committed writers in Africa owing to his prominence and consistency in African literary circle. In view of this Gerald Moore (1980; 1) says, “Few African writers have achieved a development as rapid and drastic as that of Ngugi in the half dozen/years.” Ngugi no doubt has been an eloquent exponent of social and political view; His aims and objectives as an artist are to create awareness among the downtrodden masses who are being day to day robbed.

Similarly, W.J. Howard (1973;102) believes that “Ngugi’s Wa Thiongo has decided to become more deeply involved in the social condition of his people. He further stresses that Ngugi’s involvement has been expanded to his day-to-day life as a Kenyan. He is also of the opinion that A Grain of Wheat (1967) marks the return of Ngugi from Leeds and also marks that would be seen as a new phase in his career”

It is clear that Ngugi’s work centre around the masses in his society and their liberation. Ngugi in his book titled Writers in Politics is of the opinion that every writer is a writer in politics because literature cannot escape from the forces of struggle and contradictions that pervade and shape everyday in life.

Emenyonu and B.C. Oguzie (1989; 3) says “Ngugi has become one of the greatest literary artists in Africa today because of the skill and variety of his literary device. He will be remembered for a long time for his versatile literary skill.”10 Technically and aesthetically, A Grain of Wheat reflects a decided change in Ngugi’s literary career. With multiple points of view and fragmentation of narrative by unchronological arrangement of events; A Grain of Wheat bears the stamp of socialist influence. colonialism

Nwankwo (1992;4) also agues that;

The study or reading of Ngugi’s work is not complete without an effort to understand how he arrived at certain kinds of preoccupation in his creative work. Explanation for instance, of his obsession with violence and other preoccupations such as his frequent criticism of Christian and religious leaders, could readily be found in circumstances surrounding his early life and career.” colonialism

The artistic work of Ngugi is richly blessed with natural aesthetics; this gives the reason why his reader easily exploits beauties and message of any of his works available to them, most especially A Grain of Wheat. In support of this assertion, David Cook (1977;5) says, colonialism

A Grain of Wheat is a well planned and well constructed novel. In his early writing, Ngugi’s scenes were not brief and disjointed to allow a truly intimate development of characters. In this novel, he has developed a technique for conveying continuity comparable to a cine camera following a character from place to place so that even when the background is constantly shifting, the separate parts are held together by a particular figure. colonialism

Despite the praises showered on Ngugi by these critics, some still have some things against his works and vision. According to Soyinka and Achebe (1972; 8), colonialism

Ngugi as an African writer was in the danger of becoming too fascinated by yesterday of his people and forgetting the present.  colonialism He forgot that his society was no long peasant with ownership of means production, with communal celebration of joy and victory,  colonialism communal sharing of sorrow and bereavement, his society was no longer organized on egalitarian principle; conflict between the convergent, elitist, middle class and masses were developing their seeds being in the colonial pattern of social and economic development.  colonialism And when he worked up to his task, he was not a little surprised that events in post independence in Africa could take that turn they had taken. colonialism

Actually history is a powerful element or source for Ngugu’s works.  colonialism He is always conscious of the past of his people just like what Soyinka and Achebe said about him.  colonialism Ngugi should take into cognizance that there should be progress and evaluation in ones society. People’s past is their history and history is meant be studied that one may understand one’s past and march it with the present and plan for the future. colonialism.

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