Kinjeketile is a play written by Ebrahim N. Hussein, a Tanzanian author. He first wrote the play in Swahili, and it was also first performed in Swahili. You will read an English translation of the play that was done by the author.
The play tells the story of the Maji-Maji rebellion in 1904-05 that was led by Kinjeketile Ngwale in what was at the time called Southern Tanganyika. Today we refer to this country as Tanzania. Click here to see where Tanzania is located. In the play, a leader called Kinjeketile tries to warn his people of the dangers of war, but the people do not listen, and they wage war against the Germans, who use guns, which the Maji-Maji do not have, to defeat them. For more information on the Tanzanian economy go to Module Nine. To learn more about the Maj-Maji Rebellion, go to Module Ten.
You will read Act I, Scene II of the play. In this scene, a group of men meet to make plans to wage a war against the German colonial settlers. They want their independence from the German settlers who have forced many of the men and women to work on their large farms with little pay, who whip and beat them, and who have brought great suffering and despair to the people. Ngulumbalyo, Kitunda, Mkichi, Mngindo are members of the Maji-Maji resistance group.
Read Act I, Scene II of Kinjeketile and respond to the questions. You may write your responses on a sheet of paper.
Night. Enter Ngulumbalyo, carrying a torch. He goes to Kitunda’s house.
NGULUMBALYO: (calling) Bwana Kitunda!
KITUNDA: Coming. (He comes out.) Ready?
NGULUMBALYO: Ready. (He raises his torch in a signal. From the opposite side a return signal is given, and from another side yet another signal. From each side emerges a delegate, and they all converge to the centre. The people with torches leave.)
MKICHI: Where is Kinjeketile?
KITUNDA: I don’t think he will come today. I haven’t spoken to him for many days, I only see him at a distance now and then. We had better start now.
MKICHI: From the day we held our first meeting until today, nothing has been done. There isn’t a single thing we have done. The Red Earth is still our country, What’s more, he has taken our country from us by force. And we, like women, just stare at him.
Now he has forced us to cultivate his cotton plantation for him. We just stare at him.
He has got us paying him taxes. We just stare at him. Is it for him to demand taxes from us? He should be paying us a tax, but oh no! We, like women, just meekly sit, watching him do what he wants with us, with our land.
How long are we going to remain meek and silent? Are we going to allow ourselves to be persecuted in our own country?
MNGINDO: I say, let us kick him out! Let us decide now. There is only one way – an armed struggle-a war! There is no other way.
KITUNDA: It is easy to speak, and we all want to get rid of the German. But how do we do it? He has weapons, we haven’t. As our first duty, therefore, we must collect weapons. Steal guns from the askaris, seize them if need be, in short do everything to see that we’ve got guns. This will take time. Such preparation will have to be done with the utmost secrecy, for, as you all know, we have got enough spies, informers, and stooges to fill up a pot. You do one thing for today and tomorrow the askari, or even the overseer knows about it. We are a hungry people, and hunger drives us to betray one another. So you can see, we can’t afford to rush into things, recklessly. We have enemies, even amongst our own people.
KITUNDA: Let us wait a while longer. Let us plan. We’ve been patient for a long time ….
AN OLD MAN: No, we must fight! There is only way – fight. Let us propitiate our ancestors, and the spirits. And Hongo will help us.
KITUNDA: Hongo is a powerful spirit, true, but he has no power over matters of life and death.
OLD MAN: (standing up) You blaspheme! Your words are dangerous! How dare you talk of Hongo in that manner?
KITUNDA: We did not come here to talk about Hongo. We came here to decide upon a plan of action.
MKICHI: And what have you to say?
KITUNDA: I have already said it. Let us wait until we have the arms.
MKICHI: That is a coward’s point of view. But then, since when were the Wamatumbi warriors?
OLD MAN: We did not come here to quarrel over tribal issues.
KITUNDA: Let him say that again and I will make him sorry for the rest of his life.
MKICHI: I’ll say it again: the Wamatumbi are cowards. You are nothing but women.
(Kitunda pounces on Mkichi and they roll on the floor.)
KITUNDA: I’ll …ah … I’ll ah … show you who is a woman.
MKICHI: Kinoo’s … ah … slave!
(Mkichi reaches for a spear. Kitunda unsheathes his knife. They circle each other. Mgindo intervenes.)
MNGINDO: We came from far, to unite with one another, not to fight. If we fight one another, tribe against tribe, how can we hope to fight the white man?
(Silence. They resume their earlier positions.)
What we must first do is unite.
MKICHI: What we must first do is fight.
OLD MAN: But to be able to go to war against the Red Earth we must be united. To go to war disunited, fighting one another, is impossible.
MNGINDO: Quiet. Please, let us have peace.
KITUNDA: I am ready to make peace with Mkichi. However, let us not fool ourselves that even if we manage to unite our people, we can go to war by ourselves. We must get the other tribes. Let us approach the Wazaramo.
MNGINDO: The Wazaramo made their stand a long time ago. If it is a question of fighting, they will fight alone, but they won’t fight side-by-side with the Wangindo. They think they are superior – let’s forget them. Who needs them, anyway?
KITUNDA: What about the Warufigi?
MKICHI: The Warufigi are ready. But we must start the war first.
KITUNDA: But that is silly. We don’t start the war first, and then get united. We must first unite, the go to war. With the people we have we will be snuffed out in no time. I hear there is a big gun that kills many people at once.
MKICHI: Have you heard – or seen?
KITUNDA: I don’t like what you are trying to imply.
(Mngindo and Mkichi exchange glances. Kitunda sees this.)
MNGINDO: He is just asking.
KITUNDA: If you have anything to say then say it openly.
MNGINDO: Mkichi asked you – whether you … saw the gun, or … heard about it.
KITUNDA: I heard about it.
MKICHI: We have heard that you went to Kilwa.
KITUNDA: I went to Kilwa to visit my brother. He was in trouble with the government.
MKICHI: And you were able to help him.
MNGINDO: People say that if one goes to Kilwa with the right kind of news, one is rewarded. The white man pays well to get valuable information.
KITUNDA: If I was one of them, would I have these?
(He reveals some scars on his back.)
MKICHI: Then why are you so hesitant about declaring war on the white man?
KITUNDA: The people who will die. I see thousands and thousands of our people dying.
MKICHI: But it is better to die than to live like this. We are made to work like beasts in the cotton plantation. We are forced to pay tax. We die of hunger because we cannot work on our shambas. I say death is better than this life.
KITUNDA: It’s better to live like this than to go to war and lose thousands of our men. And the few who will survive will get the same treatment, or worse, as before.
(A long pause)
MNGINDO: So, what have we decided?
KITUNDA: (quietly, almost to himself) I see smoke … and where there’s smoke, there’s fire. There will soon be fire.
MNGINDO: Yes, but a fire that is at a distance does not singe.
KITUNDA: (aloud) I don’t know what to say. I can’t think clearly. My head is full of fog.
(Ngulumbalyo comes in with a torch.)
NGULUMBALYO: Quick, the overseer is coming.
MNGINDO: What have we decided? Let’s make up our minds quickly!
MKICHI: We can’t say anything now. We must meet again.
KITUNDA: I will get in touch with you. Quick, they’re coming. (They disperse. Kitunda goes into his house.)
- Why do the men want to wage a rebellion against the German settlers? Look back at the play and locate the reasons that the men give for wanting to resist the settlers.
- Does Kitunda agree that they should fight the settlers? Why or why not? Do you agree or disagree with Kitunda? Why or why not?
- The people are not united in their resistance? Why is this a problem if they go to war?
- Mkichi, one of the men at the meeting, argues that “it is better to die than live like this.” How are the people living? And what does Kitunda say in response to Mkichi? Who do you agree with? Why?
Think back on Ngugi’s Weep Not Child. This novel described a colonial situation in Kenya. How is the relationship between Ngotho and Mr. Howlands, as it is described in Weep not Child, similar to and different from the relationships between the Kinjeketile and his people and the German settlers?
Here you will be asked to work with a partner. You will work together to write another scene of the play Kinjeketile. Both of you should write out your scene. Write it on the same sheet of paper where you wrote the answers to the questions above. Use what you have learned about Africa and what you learned in reading the play to imagine a scene where Kitunda tries again to convince the men not to go to war. What will he say to them? How will they respond? Your scene should have at least three characters and you should try to imitate the format used in the play Kinjeketile.
- Activity One: Reading African Poetry
- Activity Two: African Folktales
- Activity Three: African Novels
- Activity Four: African Short Stories
- Activity Five: African Autobiography
- Activity Six: African Drama