David Kakuta Mulwa was born in 1945 in Mukaa, Makueni County. He was taught how to read and write by his father while herding cattle before he joined school. He joined class one in 1957 aged seven. He played his first role in a play based on the good Samaritan.
He later joined Mukaa African Inland Mission Intermediate School, where his interest and love for reading was developed. He wrote his first story, My Journey to Venus, when he was in primary school.
He joined Machakos Boys High School, where he continued writing and acting. He represented his school at drama festivals held at the national theatre in Nairobi, where an adjudicator criticised their performance and invited them to watch and learn from another school.
This motivated him to learn and be good at drama. He later joined Alliance High School for his A-levels, where his theatrical skills were nurtured, and then the University of Nairobi to study literature.
He got a scholarship to the University of California for a Masters in theatre. He started teaching at Kenyatta University in 1974.
Apart from Inheritance, he has written Redemption, a play (1990); Master and Servant, a novel (1979) and Glass Houses, a play (2000); among others.
He has also received several awards, which include Outstanding Theatre Personality Award by East Africa Theatre Institute, Tanzania (2006); Head of State Commendation by former president Mwai Kibaki for promoting culture (2005); Lecturer of the year by Kenyatta University Council (2002); and Rockfeller Foundation Scholarship by UCLA (1971-1973).
Mulwa’s play, Inheritance, is about poor leadership and greed and how it affects the socio-economic growth of a country. The play also addresses dictatorship, imperialism and oppression.
The playwright employs irony, imagery and wise sayings to bring out the issues he is addressing.
The play is set in an imaginary African state, mainly in the king’s palace, but shifting to different places in the country.
In the prologue, Thorn Macay, the governor of Kutula Colony and a representative of his Majesty, summons King Kutula XV, the leader of Kutula, to expresses his displeasure at the uprising against his people by the natives and complain about how the natives are not grateful of all the things the whites have done for them.
The king confirms supporting the natives and says that his country is tired of being dominated by the whites. The governor realises how dangerous the kings is, and he wonders how to deal with him.
Bishop Menninger, the empire’s advisor, however, comes with a solution on how to silence the king using his inhuman, greedy and power hungry son Lacuna Kasoo, who kills his father and is installed as the new king.
In movement one, King Kasoo has ruled for 30 years. His leadership is characterised by dictatorship, greed and arrogance, punishing all who are opposed to his leadership.
Bengo, one of the political activists, is imprisoned and his brother, Judah Zen Melo, is sacked from the government and all his benefits, such as his house, cars and land are withdrawn for failing to silence his brother.
He has to go and look for a job, which is not essay because nobody wants to be associated with him.
Tamina, Judah’s wife, and others have to walk for long distances to the coffee farms and work all day long with very little pay which can barely sustain their families, and their children are sent home for school fees.
Through Tamina, we learn that the subjects are forced to sell their land for peanuts to Kasoo’s cronies like Chipande. They are then forced to work on the same farms for very little pay, making them languish in abject poverty. Councillor Chipande also ensures that no one else gets license to grow coffee to avoid competition.
Under King Kasoo, there is no development as revealed by Judah, who takes a long journey due to the rough roads which are full of potholes.
Corruption is also evident as one has to know the king’s tribesmen to get a job and once you get it, you have to work extra hard without resting to retain it.
When workers get old, they are sacked and replaced with younger and more productive ones to ensure maximum production to pay the debt the country owes the financiers.
Kasoo orders everyone to attend the commemoration of King Kutula XV, saying it is a national day and does not allow his advisors like Chipande to express their opinion.
Movement Two highlights the greed and misuse of power by King Kasoo. He takes advantage of his position to be entertained by a 19-year-old Lulu in the name of tradition and detains her in the palace when she refuses.
Through Goldstein and Robert, the foreign financiers, it is revealed that he borrows money in the name of the people and deposits it in his own accounts in foreign countries.
There is nothing to show for the money borrowed and everything is imported from the same countries that lend the money and own the multi-national companies and farms that are operated by the locals.
Goldstein and Robert confront King Kasoo on the misappropriation of the loans advanced to the country.
It is revealed that the employees in the mining company are appointed politically while others are his tribesmen. The machines are rotten due to poor maintenance.
He admits having bought himself a plane “...to soar up the petty people and their complaints, gossip, and hate...” he says. “They must look up to me...” He also confirms that the ministers surrender 30 percent of what they get as a gesture of loyalty so that they can keep their jobs.
King Kasoo requests for another loan to service the other loans but the financiers give him conditions, among them to privatise everything and embrace foreign investment, quadruple production for exports, keep wages low and cut down on employment.
They also tell him to nationalise the fertile valley and let foreigners occupy it so that they can create an inland lake which will irrigate the whole basin and feed the whole of Africa.
He is given one month to pay the debt before they can start the new project. He swears to make his subjects pay for him so that he continues sitting on the throne.
Opinion leaders express their views against evacuating the people from the valley, which he ignores and orders evacuation in two weeks and drastic measures to be taken against all the dissidents. He orders the sacking of all officers who sympathise with the people.
In movement three, the financiers are back after one month and say they are against the forceful eviction of the people who, according to them, should participate fully and willingly.
Robert also transfers all the money from King Kasoo’s private account to clear part of the debt and informs him that they will get their own leader who will comply with their demands. Kasoo panics and orders a freezing of all salaries and 100 percent taxation on profits on all corporations, banks and parastatals. He also sacks all the civilian officers.
Movement four opens in a meeting by Bengo, the opinion leaders and Sangoi, who are planning on how to overthrow the king without shedding blood, after which the masses carry their working tools and march to the king’s palace after surrounding the barracks.
Sangoi, the people’s leader, is installed the new leader and, after ordering the confinement of Kasoo and his people, she tells the people to throw away their weapons and start reconstructing their land to build a new world out of it.
The writer teaches literature at Alliance Girls High School