They Call Me Wanjikũ by Mũmbi Kaigwa

“THEY CALL ME WANJIKŨ”

This play is the third in my trilogy of plays about identity. The two previous plays are “The Voice of a Dream” and “KigeziNdoto: A Hook for Dreams.”

“They Call Me Wanjikũ” came to life after I tried to include my children in my Kenyan passport, and was informed I needed written permission from my husband.

My husband was a not a Kenya citizen. But that was okay; he is a man, and that fact apparently rushes him to the front of the queue regarding citizen’s rights and legal authority.

In case you’re wondering what they do when there’s no husband, fathers, or brothers (younger and older) are listed first in this permission-giving policy.

You can’t make this stuff up. It’s totally feudal.

So, this play…

Around almost the same time, the Kenyan President had made a speech where he used the name Wanjikũ to describe some “EVERYWOMAN”. The name was used to describe an ordinary or typical Kenyan citizen.

Other countries have their mythical and symbolic ladies of wisdom and liberty. But our “Wanjikũ” didn’t sound like a person the President respected.

I needed a palate cleanser. So I decided to ask about names, and to look for hidden meanings.

The result was a number of “Wanjikũs”, who I found through a number of interviews with potential candidates.

 The search for “WANJIKŨ” starts with Mariamu,

A former Freedom Fighter with the Kenya Land and Freedom Army (KLFA).

 

Priscilla lost her farm and her livelihood after a bitter divorce.

Is she WANJIKŨ?

 

Priya is a third-generation Kenyan of South-Asian origin.

 

 

Louise’s WANJIKŨ-ness seems to have been interrupted by Christianity.

 

 Enter Sitawa Namwalie the Third

She’s had a look at our history, and she’s grabbing what’s hers; reclaiming her names, with no apologies.

 

She is not WANJIKŨ, for sure!

 

The story is narrated by Moombee the Outraged, and Mũmbi the Comforter

Spoiler Alert: none of these women turned out to be the President’s Wanjikũ…

 

They Call Me Wanjikũ premiered at FemFest, a festival celebrating women playwrights held annually in Winnipeg, Canada.

Other performances of ” Wanjikũ”:

Martin E. Segal Theatre Centre, CUNY, New York

Dartmouth University, Hanover, New Hampshire

Women Playwrights International, Cape Town, South Africa