Friday, 25 January 2013 09:28

Prof. Francis Imbuga, 1947-2012.

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‘It was better while we waited. Now we have nothing to look forward to. We have killed our past and are busy killing our future.’ How poignant, how profound and how relevant to our times! These lines from Betrayal in the City were written in 1976 – sadly so little of significance has changed since then. And as if to remind us once again of this truth, the play will be a set-book in Kenyan schools next year, for the third time. In 1977, it was one of two plays chosen to represent Kenya at FESTAC.

Prof. Francis Imbuga was a playwright to whom no other Kenyan playwright writing in the English language measures up to – so says Tom Odhiambo, senior lecturer at the UON. His writings touched on tribalism, corruption, repressive leadership, impunity, poor governance, women’s rights and the tensions between urban and rural. Importantly, he taught writers to be humorous within the limits of decency. So often these days, crude sexual references, abuse and vacuousness are lauded as hallmarks of good literature. As a literary critic he encouraged the serious study of ‘popular literature’ as opposed to focussing on highbrow academic writing.

Mwalimu Imbuga treated his students with the utmost respect. His teaching was always participatory and aimed at ‘igniting sparks of intellection in the learner’s mind’. Always writing as an agent of change, in 1983 he founded the Vihiga Cultural Centre – in that part of the country where he was born into very humble circumstances. His father, Samuel Govoga, worked as a security guard in Nairobi’s City Council. His beloved and resourceful mother passed away when he was 17, Imbuga then a Form One student in Alliance High School.

In 1973 he graduated with honours from the UON and became a lecturer there, and later in Kenyatta University. His academic achievements were many: a Master’s degree (UON, 1975); PhD (university of Iowa, 1991); Dean of the Faculty of Arts and full time professor of Literature (KU, 1992 and 1996 respectively). At the time of his death he was also Quality Assurance Director at KU and Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Kigali Institute of Education. His awards include an OGW (1996) and the Kenya National Academy of Sciences Distinguished Professional Award in Play Writing.

Imbuga was a prolific writer who believed fervently that ‘the artist must participate in the struggle for personal and national liberation’. Though no longer with us, his writings will continue to inspire us for generations to come. He is survived by his wife, Prof. Mabel, seven children and four grandchildren.

Compiled by AwaaZ.

Read 2285 times Last modified on Thursday, 14 February 2013 12:41
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