Tuesday, April 28, 2009


THE WORLD OF BANTU MWAURA


Two weeks ago we met in the streets of Nairobi. Bantu Mwaura was still in his true self: jovial, candid. We were both in a hurry but spent 10 minutes chatting. For five minutes he had lectured me on politics. We talked about arts - the Kenya National theatre and the general trend that arts business is taking.

We promised to "meet soon" at have a beer!

I met Bantu Mwaura in early 1990s at the Kenya National Theatre. I was loooking for the most promising thespians to profile. Bantu fell in the category and was one of the few that I recognised instantly.

From the days of the Okoth K'Obonyo Memorial plays at Rahimtulla Theatre along Mfangano Street and at KNT I watched Bantu's career progress. His dreadlocks mesmerised most of us. His could only match one other thespian, Wakanyote Njuguna.

Every time you stepped at KNT, when the bar was a real theatre pub in the 90s you could hear him engage everyone in debate. He theorised and philosophiswed. We had our different takes on how to review plays. We debated endlessly on whether art critics should be such brutal in pouring cold water on plays. What role should media play in promoting local theatre? Was the theatre still hostage of the colonial era and has African theatre surfaced? We could discuss forever?

Later on Bantu would earn a scholarship to Leeds University. I had a interview with him after he grdauated and was then on my way to University of London for a different course - human rights! Not media anad not anything to do with arts where I had started my career. We talked over a beer as we did the interview. It was a candid talk.

By the time we met again, he was going for his PhD. and on the streets of Nairobi during his summer breaks we would meet - talk and remember the good days.

When me met on the streets of Nairobi recently it was yet another of those - "hey Mundu uri o kuo? He man are you still there?

I joked about his take on national politics on a television show at KTN where he dismissed politicians as "actors" - but who "act violence" . I liked his thesis....

Here is a man I would have like to see him grow. He had a positive mind, was radical but sofy spoken.

When I learnt about his death it struck me as odd. It still is. But Bantu Mwaura will live among us for a long long time



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