For Online E-newspaper
The East African : Oct 3rd 2015
The EastAfrican MAGAZINE OCTOBER 3-9,2015 VII s content Refurbished cost of 000 the tre will no er host iocre and teurish’ ductions.” ro Aghan, ctor, Kenya tr Norfolk throughout the staging of The Trial of Dedan Kimathi in 1982. “A police squad, armed with riot gear, was at the ready outside the grounds of the Central Police station,” recounted Aghan. Much later, the hotel would lay claim to the grounds at the KCC, turning it into parking for its customers. Aghan said that: “The Norfolk management fenced off the grounds and erected a gate. They then insisted on using the parking space until the full cost of setting up the fence and gate was recovered.” In the meantime, KBC had claimed the space meant for the expansion of KCC as their own, such that when Norforlk’s “lease” for KCC’s parking space lapsed, the public broadcaster, according to Aghan, entered into a deal with the hotel whereby the latter would use the space for parking and pay the former. Seeing as they had been “dwarfed” in efforts to claim back their land, KCC sought, like a character in Francis Imbuga’s play, Betrayal in the City — which The Kenya National Theatre: Built in 1953, the theatre has had a chequered history. Pictures: Hamis Mkokoteni has been staged at KNT countless times — to consult a “taller relative.” That is how KNT started lobbying the Jubilee government to get the land back. Thus when President Kenyatta came to open the refurbished KNT, he had another mission, perhaps more meaningful to the theatre fraternity — getting back KNT’s land. The recovered land will be the site for the proposed International Art and Culture Centre, one of the flagship projects envisioned in the Vision 2030 blueprint. The tussle over land ownership is not the only controversy to dog KCC. Until two years ago, the institution, despite being government owned, was still deemed to be private property, subject to paying land rates. Indeed, Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero had threatened to auction the institution to recover Ksh400 million in accrued land rates. Records indicated that KCC had not remitted rates since its inception in 1953. Those records further showed that it was owned by Barclays Bank of England. During the colonial period, the Queen of England transferred the institution to Barclays Bank but the matter was not resolved when the first government after Independence started repossessing institutions previously owned by the colonial government and its affiliates. “All those issues have been re- solved, including the restoration of the land title; in the past five years, we have managed to do the impossible,” said Aghan. “We also managed to chase away groups and individuals who were doing business other than art and culture related.” Former culture minister William ole Ntimama, while presiding over an event at KNT in 2008, had dismissed the institution as a den of idlers and drug peddlers. The Kenya National Theatre may have a spanking new look and the director may be waxing lyrical about how the place is going to turn a new leaf, but for Prof Wanjala, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. “The Kenya National Theatre needs to come alive not just in terms of physical beauty, but in the dynamism of the content,” said Prof Wanjala. And like Ngugi said, Kenya is a big country, “with a big history, and a big people, and she deserves a great theatre of our collective dreams.” The refurbished Wasanii Bar. Picture: Hamis Mkokoteni a≥tistes’ complaints Despite Odero Aghan being upbeat about the refurbished KNT being booked till December, it would appear that artistes are not exactly a happy lot. Their bone of contention is what they call arbitrary charges for hiring the auditorium. While the official charges are Ksh50,000 there have been complaints to the effect that some performers are being asked to pay up to Ksh70,000. “There is a lot of uncertainty about the charges,” said an artist who preferred anonymity for fear of victimisation. “There is also a lot of high handedness from the management team of KCC. What they are forgetting is that the statutes that manage this place vests power in the artistes.” The issue of pricing is one that could, might undermine the competitiveness of KNT since as a venue like Alliance Francaise, where performances were taking place the entire time KNT was under renovations, charges an average of Ksh30,000, per day. Aghan had told The EastAfrican that prior to the renovations KNT was charging artists Ksh20,000 per day, while corporate bodies were paying Ksh30,000. Nongovernment organisations and other not-for-profit bodies were paying Ksh25,000.
Sep 26th 2015
Oct 10th 2015