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Together in the same pot

29 December 2011

Zulema Cadenas, MRG’s Street Theatre Project Officer, reports on a correlation between a popular Kenyan recipe and the rich ethnic diversity of the country.

There is a very popular nourishing dish throughout Kenya called githeri. The combination of beans and corn cooked together make it a simple but complete meal.

During my week in Mombasa working with SAFE Pwani (Sponsored Arts For Education) I will get to better understand the challenges faced by different ethnic groups in the coastal region of Kenya. Fifteen actors, who are part of this organization aiming to address social issues through street theatre, gathered for one week to research ethnic-related issues in the region and start putting together the play that will be part of MRG’s Street Theatre Project.

Zulema (front row second from left) and the cast

During the community research process prior to the performance SAFE found that racist attitudes and negative stereotyping between the Pwani (mainly Mijikenda people originally from the coast) and the Wabaara (people from inland who migrated to the coast) communities were common. Both groups are seen to be undermining each other and there is a palpable lack of trust, cohesion and integration between the communities. Suspicions and rumours about negative behaviours are common and have exploded into violence on previous occasions, especially during the post-election violence in 2007-2008. The two communities both express disillusionment that they blame on failed leadership, as well as a lack of mutual respect.

The performance

As in the githeri recipe, diversity is a key part of the richness of Kenyan society. Tribalism and corrupted politics, unfair distribution of resources and stereotypes are a big threat to this national treasure. The street performances that will take place at the beginning of next year in the coastal region will confront these issues in an effort to promote understanding and cooperation amongst the different communities.

“Maharague na mahindi, yapikwe chunsu kiimoja” (Beans and corn should be cooked in the same pot) recites Mwikali, one of the actors, at the end of our workshop on stereotypes and discrimination.

This article reflects the sole opinion of its author and does not engage MRG’s responsibility.