52 Minds on Kenya’s Destiny: The People Speak


This proposed documentary project, “’52 Minds on Kenya’s Destiny: The People Speak,” is based upon, and is inspired by, my forthcoming book, “Mau Mau Crucible of War: Statehood, National Identity and Politics in Postcolonial Kenya,” that is currently under contract with Lexington Books. Mau Mau Crucible of War has been described by leading academics and acclaimed experts as an important and impressive study of the social and cultural history of the mentalité of struggle in Kenya, which reached a high water mark during the Mau Mau war of the 1950s, but which continues to resonate in Kenya today in the ongoing demand for a decent standard of living and social justice for all.

Furthermore, it has been described by one veteran scholar of Kenyan history as an “exciting and path breaking” study. Dr. Robert Maxon, who supervised it in its dissertation form, has described it as a not only a discussion of political discontent and protest in colonial and postcolonial Kenya but also a remarkable work that, for the first time ever, treats the Mau Mau war outside “the years of the rebellion and the state of emergency declared by the colonial authorities to contain it.” Indeed, the book traces and gives voice to marginalized sections of Kenyan society as they have sought political participation and a chance to shape the country’s destiny. Unlike scholarly works that have sought to document the construction of the Kenyan state from a top-down elite perspective and, as such, forming a monolith of monotonous and cliché nationalist revisionist meta-narrative, Mau Mau Crucible of War and “The People Speak,” afford the rare opportunity for people to tell their stories and have their voices heard.

The proposed documentary, “The People Speak,” is not only part of my book project’s dissemination strategy but, more importantly, seeks to render an educational version of the monograph that captures, and transmits the peoples’ voice (through the use of a popular medium and genre) in their bid to effect social transformation, and shape policies that affect their everyday lives, in the process of seeking meaningful participation in civic and political life in Kenya since the dawn of independence to the present.

In so doing, the documentary follows in the intellectual tradition and creative legacy of the renowned American historian, Howard Zinn’s book A People’s History of the United States (1980) and Matt Damon’s film The People Speak (2009). Like these pioneer works, the Kenyan version of The People Speak will seek to dramatize and perform archival sources among them copious speeches, a multitude of letters, numerous works of fiction such as plays and novels, newspapers articles and popular culture sources such as music, graffiti and cartoons that form a considerable portion of evidentiary material adduced and utilized in the writing of Mau Mau Crucible of War.

As such, the documentary film production will seek to incorporate hitherto unknown and unheard voices of the faceless and nameless marginalized poor and conscientious creative writers and artists that have echoed their plight in the search for equality, redress of historical injustices and the championing of human rights in postcolonial Kenya.

It will be the third documentary production in the American The People Speak’s original mold, and the first of its kind in Africa after similar versions of the film in the UK (2010) and Australia (2012).

Potential collaborators: “’52 Minds: The People Speak” advances several organizational objectives of Ford Foundation in East Africa,the German Cultural Centre (Kenya Goethe-Institut Kenya), and Heinrich Böll Stiftung’s East and Horn of Africa, among them freedom of expression, the support of diverse arts and education spaces, democratic governance and accessibility of government, strengthening of civil society, advancing livelihoods, human rights and equality and giving voice to marginalized sections of society. Attempts are being made to secure the financial support and collaboration of these organizations to bring The People Speak to fruition.

It is my earnest hope that it will be possible to produce “The People Speak” to coincide with the publication and launch of my book Mau Mau Crucible of War in August 2015.

Once out, The People Speak  will be aired on leading TV stations in Kenya and also screened in prominent film festivals like the New York African Film Festival and the Annual Cascade Festival of African Films (in celebration of the Black History month) and at the Annual African Studies Association Conference, 2016 (USA), African Studies Association, 2016 (UK), the African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific (AFSAAP, 2016) and the Kenya Scholars & Studies Association (KESSA) conference, 2016).

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Nicholas Githuku

Assistant Professor, African History at York College, CUNY
Nicholas Githuku is a Ph.D. holder in African Studies. His research interests include: War & Peace Studies in general; Conflict and Security and mediation in general and trends in the Great Lakes the Horn Regions of Africa; Memorialization of War; Development studies (Sub-Saharan Africa): Postcolonial/Contemporary Kenyan Politics; European History (1648 to 1900); First and Second World Wars; and Post-1989 Eastern Europe (Balkans) History.