Women must also be allowed to write Kenya’s history and tell its narrative
Posted Thursday, September 20 2012 at 20:00
- What is the rationale behind the sequence of the profiles of Kenyatta’s Cabinets?
If anyone ever doubted that the (hi)story of Kenya belongs to men, they only need to glance at the contributor’s page in Kenyatta Cabinets, a biography project by the Kenya Yearbook Editorial Board.
Women were not trusted to tell the history of the nation. Even more alarming, a woman headed the editorial board as fellow women were left out of the narrator’s role.
Does this hijacking of the narration of the nation by men reveal the tokenism behind public appointments?
The National Gender and Equality Commission sure has its work cut out.
Get deserving women appointed to office and ensure that those jobs have real work that allows women to add to the (re)writing of our country’s past and future.
Perspective is everything in narrating history. (S)he who tells the story selects the events, plots their sequence, and shapes knowledge.
With the exception of one sub-editor, the editors on this project were all men.
Any wonder the book only profiles two-and-a-half women — half because Rebeka Njau gets a tiny diversionary blurb?
Was the large cast of flower girls — women in various supporting roles in the publication process — meant to echo the place of Kenyan women in the last century inaudible, barely visible and liable to be blamed for housekeeping disasters?
Perhaps I bought a bootleg copy. Could a publication of this importance and high-level support come without a table of contents, with a misleading index and references so chaotic they can’t abide by alphabetical order?
What is the rationale behind the sequence of the profiles of Kenyatta’s Cabinets?
It is not alphabetical order or age, so could it be the size of each ministry’s annual budget or rank? Without an informative introduction or table of contents, we will never know!
Fortunately, the author of a text does not fully determine its public reception or its meaning(s).
So how will Kenya’s women of power respond — critically as well as in the practice of politics and (re)aligning of social spaces — to this audacious hijacking of the nation’s story?
How and why has our nation’s story — through partisan media, the national archives, museums and other state-influenced sites of remembrance — been reduced to the story of (male) politicians?
Efforts to re-situate the idea of heroism to include male and female cultural icons and drivers of socio-economic enterprise; to write a history of Kenya from below, have been left to independent players such as Content House Initiative, Go Sheng and Ketebul Music.
Their multi-media work of building accessible archives tells histories of sporting heroes, inspiring artists and evolving hybrid traditions creating spaces outside of State influence where we can celebrate genuinely selfless and inspiring acts by ordinary Kenyans.
Still, Kenyatta Cabinets is a welcome addition in the arsenal of political history that the majority in this country — those under 40 — should read and treasure.