In Summary
  • A new play, ‘The Green Cross of Kafira’, and a children’s novel, ‘Nyamu Nyamu’s Great Adventure’ have now been published after his death.
  • Do writers really die? It is my contention that they live forever. Not because some of their works are published posthumously, but because their thoughts are continuously implanted in the hearts of those who interact with their ideas.

One year after his death, strangely, Francis Imbuga still lives on.

His latest publications, a play entitled The Green Cross of Kafira and a children’s novel, Nyamu Nyamu’s Great Adventure co-authored with James Munga, have just rolled off the press.

The two books were published by veteran publisher Kakai Karani through his new outfit, Bookmark Africa.

This development is quite enchanting and takes away the pain and shock lovers of literature experienced a year ago when Imbuga passed on.

The loud drums that reverberated in the Kenyan sky at this time last year to announce that the great artist had exited the stage brought sorrow to the hearts of many, who did not realise that writers never die; they live on long after their death.

This realisation was visible at the memorial service for Prof Imbuga at his Kahawa Sukari home last Monday. Friends, relatives, family and colleagues celebrated the writer in a manner that suggested he was in their midst.

PRESENT

It was quite refreshing to hear Imbuga’s 10-year-old granddaughter Wambui, upon spotting me, remark: “Here is guga’s friend” (note the present tense).

Imbuga’s new play completes the trilogy of Kafira, which began with Betrayal in the City and was followed by Man of Kafira.

This new play is dedicated to Nobel Laureate Wangari Mathaai, who died in September 2011.

The foreword is written by celebrated literary scholar Roger Kurtz of the State University of New York.

It is crafted aptly to situate Imbuga within Kenya’s literary history and underscore his achievements, sources of his ideas and contribution to Kenyan literary tradition.

Unlike Kurtz, who writes about Imbuga and his new book from a detached position, I cannot pretend to do so since I was part of the evolution of the play from its first working title, The Temple of the Green Cross, through the heated debate that ensured at Mwikali’s Small World Bar that culminated in its present title.

That is why The Green Cross of Kafira is a special play to me in many ways.

It all started when I received the following e-mail from the author sometime in September last year:

“Dear Egara, at my professional age, I have next to nothing to gain from flatterers. That is why I thought of you. As you know, I have been working on a creative project for a local publisher. I have finally created something that I can only share with a select few. Kindly read critically the attached draft of The Temple of the Green Cross and let me have your honest views, including areas that need clarification etc within a week, if possible. I will really appreciate a fast response so that I can do the necessary revision for possible publication before the end of December. Kindly acknowledge receipt. Imbuga”.

I did not know that the author was racing against time, but intuitively, I read the manuscript in a day and sent him my response.

In many ways I found it an interesting piece of drama that reflected on the history of our immediate past, but with universal themes.

In its initial stages of development, I particularly found the use of a narrator fascinating and recommended that the narrator be given a more prominent role like that of Bertolt Brecht’s in The Caucasian Chalk Circle.

It appeared to me then that a bigger role for the narrator as a commentator on issues discussed in the play and as the conscience of the society and carrier of authorial vision would help enhance the themes even further.

This, the author pretended to buy into, but didn’t change much. That was Imbuga for you.

Generally, the play is about political intrigue, conflict between the state and church, political assassinations, oppression, poor leadership, hypocrisy and effects of a poor education system.

I was particularly fascinated by the use of “Rejects” — those that the system has neglected. Reject One tells us about the tribulations of police officers while Reject Two is a unionist.

Reject Three is student leader and Reject Four is a lover of nature and tells us about environmental conservation. Reject Five is an ex-vice-chancellor at Kafira University.

I recommended the introduction of another Reject from the political class, but the author, instead, weaved all that this Reject would say in building the character of the ex-vice chancellor.

As expected of Imbuga, there are a good number of memorable Imbugan sayings and statements in the play. These, I think, give the play the depth it requires.

Initially the author wanted the play to be set in Agoa, a visibly post-colonial state in Africa.

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