Post-colonial Counter-memory in The Trial of Dedan Kimathi: (Re)membering the Demonized Hero and Subverting the Colonial Discourse




counter-memory, Ian Henderson, Micere Githae-Mugo, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Post-colonial Drama, The Trial of Dedan Kimathi


This paper examines how Kenyan novelist and playwright Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o and Zimbabwean playwright Micere Githae-Mugo have embarked on a dramatic counter-discursive project through their play The Trial of Dedan Kimathi (1976). The researchers argue that the play was intended to subvert the many colonial historical accounts about the figure of Kimathi and the Mau Mau revolutionary anticolonial movement. Drawing upon post-colonial criticism, this paper demonstrates how the playwrights use the heroic fictional character of Kimathi to counteract several historical and fictional colonial and contemporary postcolonial accounts about this controversial freedom fighter. Then, the paper goes on to examine the role of Ian Henderson (the British colonial police officer who participated in the manhunt for Kimathi and succeeded in capturing him in 1957) as a fictional character in the play. While many studies have demonstrated that The Trial of Dedan Kimathi re-writes the colonial history about Kimathi and the Mau Mau movement in Kenya, which was maintained by Ian Henderson and many other colonial writers, to the best of the researchers’ knowledge; previous studies have not presented a comparative examination of both figures of Henderson, i.e., the historical figure and the fictional one. Here, the researchers explain how through the inclusion of the character of Henderson as the antagonist of the play, the dramatists subvert Henderson’s actual written accounts about Kimathi and the Kenyan national movement.

Author Biographies

Imad M. Khawaldeh, The Hashemite University, Jordan

Associate Professor of English Literature

Department of English Language and Literature

The Hashemite University, Jordan

Baker M.  Bani-Khair, The Hashemite University, Jordan

 Associate Professor of English Literature - Corresponding Author

Department of English Language and Literature

The Hashemite University, Jordan


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Date of Publication

2023-10-05 — Updated on 2024-01-02

How to Cite

Khawaldeh, I. M., &  Bani-Khair, B. M. (2024). Post-colonial Counter-memory in The Trial of Dedan Kimathi: (Re)membering the Demonized Hero and Subverting the Colonial Discourse. International Journal of Arabic-English Studies, 24(1), 135–154.



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