Mothering a nation : the gendered memory of Kenya’s Mau Mau rebellion

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2015-05

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Murimi, Wanjira

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Abstract

This paper approaches fiction as a site of gendered history and memory and presents two pieces of literature by Kenyan authors - Passbook Number F.47927 by Muthoni Likimani and The Trial of Dedan Kimathi by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o and Micere Githae Mugo - as examples of countermemory production that disrupt dominant and colonially and post-colonially perpetuated narratives of Kenya's fight for independence within the context of the Mau Mau uprisings. I assert that historical fiction can be a medium of challenge and disruption of hegemonically formed reports of history, reweaving into the tapestry of national memory voices forgotten or excised. I posit that this contestation of history and memory through countermemory can be an ethical and feminist project. However, countermemory, much like the history and memory it challenges, does not exist in a vacuum, and is subject to structures of power that may result in its being participant and enacting of oppressive power. Using gender as a lens, I elucidate the ways in which both these pieces participate in and challenge heteropatriarchal notions of manhood and womanhood as resistance strategies for nation building.

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