Cut off My Tongue

by Sitawa Namwalie

KSh 550

One of the most sobering and positive things to happen in Kenya in 2008, soon after the post-election violence, was “Cut Off My Tongue”. At a time of great tension and uncertainty, this dramatized poetry show ranted, provoked, inspired and broke into song and dance as it explored the truths that shape us as Kenyans: our beliefs, the way we behave and why.

Cut off My Tongue deals with interrelated stories about life in Kenya grouped around tribe and ethnicity, political critique, identity, tradition and genealogy. Although the main focus of the show is Kenya, the themes addressed cut across post-colonial Africa and the continent’s struggle to deal with the question of “Nation-State”. It was performed by a multi-racial cast to sold-out audiences in Kenya, Uganda and the UK (Hampstead Theatre, London and the Hay Festival 2009). It is moving, entertaining, brave and frighteningly honest. It is politics – and love – that bites as it teases. If you are African in mind, body or spirit, you must see “Cut Off My Tongue”!

Also in July 2015 , Cut off My Tongue by Sitawa Namwalie was performed at the Ubumuntu Arts Festival in Rwanda in memory of the 1994 genocide.

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Sitawa Namwalie

Sitawa Namwalie is a Kenyan poet, writer and performer who holds a Bachelor of Science in Botany and Zoology from the University of Nairobi and a MA in Environment, Society and Technology from Clark University in Massachusetts, USA. She worked in the development sector, with the United Nations and as an international consultant. She is a lyrical storyteller who deals e.g. with the complex issue of Kenyan identity, a topic became crucial for her after the political unrest in Kenya 2007/2008 as a result of the presidential election. From her reflections on ethnicity, identity, land ownership, dominion and love she created Cut Off My Tongue – a poetry collection published by Storymoja that was invited to Hay Festival (UK 2009). In Homecoming (2011) she experiments with the interpretability of the lyrical works by other art forms such as dance. Sitawa is working on her second poetry anthology and has a new performance called Silence is a Woman.