State to start funding varsities drama festival, say PS Nabukwesi

University of Eldoret students stage a play

University of Eldoret students stage a play during the 4th Kenya universities national drama festival at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University in Bondo, Siaya County.

Photo credit: Anthony Njagi | Nation Media Group

Drama presentations based on history, myths and legends dominated the plays category during the ongoing Kenya Universities Performing Arts Association (Kupaa) National Festival, which has been taking place at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University in Siaya County.

Two plays by the University of Eldoret and Turkana University College captivated the audience and proved that stage drama is one of the most effective and entertaining methods of telling stories, whether based on real events or fictitious.

Whether on screen or stage, drama based on legendary and historical figures have been very popular worldwide. Most of Shakespeare’s plays were based on real kings or leaders in history and events which actually took place. Most exceptionally outstanding leaders from all over the world in history, whether renowned for bravery, good or bad deeds, have been immortalised in plays.

Eldoret University staged a brilliantly scripted and acted play, “Maryann”, based on the famous legendary Luo warrior Lwanda Magere. The play re-enacted Lwanda Magere prowess in battle between his community and their neighbours, especially the Nandi, whose warriors were no match to the Luo legend who was said to have some superhuman powers.

Bringing history to life

The other historical play that riveted the audience and brought history to life was “Kokoi Lolel” by Turkana University College that tells of a Turkana hero who used his mystical powers to fight and resist the white man's invasion of Turkana land. He was eventually arrested by the colonialists on accusation of practicing witchcraft and was sentenced and imprisoned in Kitale where he died.

Turkana University College also presented a modern dance on conflicts among pastoralist communities.

“This re-enactment of our history on stage is very important, both as an entertainment and educating tool. We are going to encourage it,” said Kupaa Secretary-General Patrick Ogutu.  

Outgoing Higher Education PS Simon Nabukwesi announced that starting next year, the Ministry of Education will be fully funding the Kupaa festival, bringing a sigh of relief to universities which have been funding the event themselves. This puts the Kupaa event in the same league with the annual Kenya Schools and Colleges Drama Festival which is funded by the government.

Following the announcement by PS Nabukwesi, event chairman Boniface Isalambo said that government funding means that the festival will be expanded and next year’s event will feature more institutions. 

“It is very expensive to hold a festival like this and it is only through sacrifice and goodwill that we have reached this far. This news is very good for us,” said Isalambo.

This year’s Kupaa festival is the third edition and featured 33 universities from Kenya with 230 items being staged and more than 50 short films as well as radio plays being showcased.

For the first time, the event featured a beauty pageant where models took to the catwalk last Friday. The adjudicators of the event Bwire Odhiambo, Aghan Odero and Nice Githinji said that they were highly impressed by all the items presented in the festival.

Apart from the high standard of the items presented in the festival, the choice of Bondo University as the venue was said to be very good. The institution is based in a quiet rural setting, providing the performers with the ideal settings for their presentations.

The event ends on Sunday, November 13, with a gala event featuring the best items in the festival. Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu will be the chief guest.