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Title:Casting characters: autobiography and political imagination in central Kenya
Author:Peterson, DerekISNI
Periodical:Research in African Literatures
Geographic term:Kenya
Kikuyu language
External link:http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/research_in_african_literatures/v037/37.3peterson.pdf
Abstract:The interpretation of African-language literature has been clouded by romantic assumptions about the organic connection between writers and their communities. This essay compares two Gikuyu-language autobiographies. The first, typed by the Presbyterian Rev. Charles Muhoro in the 1970s, works like a casting call: it lists duties, sketches heroic biographies, and summons readers to act as partisans of the church. The second, written by Cecilia Muthoni Mugaki in the 1980s, is a tale of personal torment and salvation. Cecilia was an early convert to the East African Revival, which reached central Kenya during the late 1940s. Where Muhoro propels readers to act on principle, Cecilia publicizes the controversies that divided Gikuyu people. Charles Muhoro and Cecilia Muthoni wrote their autobiographies differently because Gikuyu could not agree about how their private interests should be balanced against political consensus. Once we dispense with the notion that vernacular literature must faithfully reproduce the values of local communities, we can glimpse the wider field of argument in which these texts took their place. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]