Films by Kenyan women directors as national allegories

Ojiambo, Jacqueline Kubasu (2019-04)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2019.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This dissertation examines how selected Kenyan fiction films directed by women filmmakers intervene in national politics. To achieve this, I employ Frederic Jameson’s concept of ‘national allegory’ to understand how within the context of the Kenyan political situation, the private stories of individuals can be read allegorically to refer beyond their immediate circumstances to wider political concerns. Although these films are predominantly realist in narrative form, I propose that reading them as national allegories allows their wider political implications to emerge. The films also draw on local traditions of allegory as a complex didactic form. I critically analyse the films to explore the different allegorical shapes each film takes and how these allegorical shapes, in turn, resonate with the larger national story. I complexify Jameson’s theory, which suggests that all third world texts are to be read as national allegories, and demonstrate that they can, in fact, be interpreted at both a realist and allegorical level. The early films Saikati and The Battle of The Sacred Tree investigate the idea of returning to the past. This discussion contributes to African cinema’s ‘return to the source’ movement, which did not account for the complications women face on their return to the past. I argue that for women, the return is fraught with challenges that must constantly be negotiated and renegotiated. In the next set of more contemporary films, I demonstrate how the daily private lives of the characters illuminate broader social-political concerns. The more overtly allegorical, Soul Boy, together with the social realist Killer Necklace, Project Daddy and Leo, highlight the conditions of the marginalized in the society and decry poor governance. Finally, I explore From a Whisper and Something Necessary that fictionalise real traumatic national events. These two, mix real footage and fictional narrative to provide a path for engagement with broader political implications. I will show how through various imaginations, all the filmmakers transcend their present realities and imagine a more desirable nation. My argument is that although these films can be read as realist films, reading them as national allegories foregrounds the diverse ways Kenyan women filmmakers engage with national politics.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie verhandeling ondersoek die wyse waarop die Keniaanse fiksie films deur vroue-regisseurs hier ter sprake nasionale politieke kwessies aanspreek. Met verwysing na Frederic Jameson se konsep van ‘national allegory’ ondersoek ek hoe in die konteks van die Keniaanse politieke situasie, die privaat stories van individue allegories gelees kan word om te verwys, nie net na die hulle onmiddelike omgewing nie, maar verder ook na wyer politieke kwessies. Alhoewel hierdie films hoofsaaklik in die modus van realisme funksioneer, voer ek wel aan dat om hulle as ‘national allegories’ te lees, verdere politieke implikasies na vore bring. Die films werk ook binne die konteks van lokale tradisies van allegorie as ’n komplekse didaktiese vorm. Dus analiseer ek die films om die verskeie maniere waarop allegorie in elke geval betrek word, asook die wyse waarop hierdie allegoriese vorme tot die breër nasionale storie spreek, te ondersoek. Dit behels onder andere om verdere kompliksiteit to verleen aan Jameson se teorie, wat suggereer dat alle derde-wêreldse tekste as ‘national allegories’ gelees behoort te word; ek demonstreer dat hierdie films eerder op beide die realistiese én die allegoriese vlakke funksioneer. Die vroeë films, Saikati en The Battle of the Sacred Tree, ondersoek die idee van ’n terugkeer na die verlede. Hierdie ontleding dra by tot ‘African cinema’ se ‘return to the source’ beweging, wat welliswaar nie die probleme wat spesifiek vir vroue hiermee gepaard sou gaan, aangespreek het nie. Ek voer aan dat sodanige terugkeer vir vroue vol uitdagings is wat immer weer aangespreek en deurdink moet word. Deur middel van die volgende stel films demonstreer ek hoe die daaglikse private lewens van die karakters breër sosio-politiese kwessies belig. Die ooglopend allegoriese Soul Boy, asook die sosiaal-realistiese Killer Necklace, Project Daddy and Leo, verskaf ’n blik op die situasie van diegene wat in die samelewing gemarginaliseer is en kritiseer swak staatsbestuur. Ten slotte bespreek ek From a Whisper en Something Necessary as films wat traumatise nasionale gebeure fiksionaliseer. Albei films betrek dokumentêre beeldmateriaal by ’n fiksionele narratief om sodoende met breër politiese implikasies te handel. Ek wil aandui hoe al hierdie filmmakers op uitlopende verbeeldingsryke wyses verby hul huidige omstandinghede kyk om ’n meer wenslike nasie op te roep. Dus, ten spyte van die feit dat al hierdie films wel op die vlak van realisme funksioneer, voer ek aan dat om hulle as allegories te lees die verkeie wyses waarop Keniaanse vroue-filmmakers met nasionale politiek in gesprek tree, na vore bring.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/105996
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