Anatomy of Contemporary Storytelling: Performing National Culture in Kenya
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Throughout time, performance has been the domain of celebrating the process of being and becoming by rejecting, affirming and consolidating identities and cultures. This article argues that contemporary storytelling performances in Kenya can be viewed as a site for the construction of national culture and identity. Postcolonial theory, used in this article, engages dominant discourses in its endeavour to give credible representation to the colonial subject within situations of unequal power relations. Moreover, the theory’s critique of Western pretensions of the universality of knowledge which results in recovery of submerged knowledge systems from the margins enables the article to revive such concepts such as ‘national culture’. Consequently, this exploration attempts to examine how culture is created when opportunities for its deliberate construction avail themselves through the performance of contemporary storytelling. Logically, in constructing national culture, contemporary storytelling negotiates postcolonial interventions in the search for coherence, stability and control of this mode of expression and communication. This is observable in the innovative communicative strategies of storytelling in terms of management, organization, production and performance. The findings arise from fieldwork research conducted in Kenya between 2004 and 2007 which sampled performance of contemporary oral storytelling in commercial, corporate and educational institutions (the chief performers are the youth) with a view to determining how national culture is created, negotiated and perpetuated.