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Otenyo: A Hero of the Abagusii

ISBN: 978-9966-082-25-1


Christopher Okemwa is a widely published playwright, poet and novelist. His novella, Sabina and the Mystery of the Ogre (Nsemia Inc.) won the 2015 Burt Award for African Literature (Kenya). Purgatorius Ignis (Nsemia Inc., 2016), a French English poetry collection, is his most recent release. Okemwa, who teaches literature at Kisii University, has a number of publications, including short story collections and works on indigenous knowledge of the Gusii.



Otenyo is a dramatization of an encounter of African resistance to colonial incursion. Colonization was an unsettling and painful experience for Africans; what with the white man grabbing their lands, confiscating their livestock and imposing hitherto unknown taxes. With colonialism Africans became slaves in their own land! … but not without resistance! Most African communities (the Gusii included) resisted colonization and fought to keep their lands, livestock and way of life!

Otenyo scrips the life of the legendary Otenyo, the Kisii warrior famed for leading Gusii resistance to colonialism! It depicts the lead-up to the confrontation between the warrior and the white man, Alexander Geoffry Northcote (Nyaitosi). For a better part of the play, we are taken through the white man’s oppression with the Gusii at the receiving end! He takes away their cows, forces them to work for him and compels them to pay hut and poll taxes. Gusii women cry out loud to their men, terming the men cowards who cannot stand up to fight and save their community. Otenyo, is on a mission to disprove the perception! He must live to his community’s expectation! Indeed, he must prove he is man enough in the eyes of his bride, Nyarinda!

Will Otenyo’s spear match the white man’s gun? Will the white man be subdued and forced to leave the Gusii land? The end result of Otenyo’s revolution is one of the powerful creations of any histrionic work.

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