Film as an Artefact

Confronting Kenya’s History through the Kitchen Toto and Nairobi Half Life

  • Lencer Achieng’ Ndede, University of Nairobi
  • Simon Peter Otieno University of Nairobi
  • Miriam Musonye University of Nairobi
Keywords: Kitchen Toto, Nairobi Half Life, Kenyan Film, Kenya


Films are important sites to access materials about a community's history and heritage. This paper, from an Afrocentric point of view and guided by post-colonial literary criticism, interrogates the two films; Nairobi Half Life and The Kitchen Toto with a view to establish the extent to which filmic representations can reflect the society. It looks at how the forces that were /are present in colonial and post-colonial Kenya have been developed in the two films. The paper, specifically looks at the issues of governance and identity in  the Kenyan society and focuses on how the forces present in the colonial and post-colonial Kenyan government divided people in terms of ‘us’ and the ‘other’ (colonizer-colonized in The Kitchen Toto and haves and have-nots in Nairobi Half Life) with the process of ‘othering’ resulting into alienation and loss of identity. It traces the protagonists’ conscious struggle and move to relocate themselves from the strictures and imprisoning experiences of ‘othering’, appraising the protagonist’s denial of this alienation in his acceptance of homecoming. Thus the issue the study tackles is that of Kenyans loss, the subsequent alienation from their culture and their own selves and the struggle to reclaim these selves once the realization of that loss is made. The paper lays bare social issues such as how socio-economic issues can contribute to one becoming a criminal; in Nairobi Half Life, and how a specific class/group of people in the society can be ‘criminalized’ in The Kitchen Toto. The conclusion reveals that the protagonists find their identity and fulfilment in the totality of their religions, culture ancestral heritage and a sense of belonging. The paper is based on the argument that films mirror the society.

Author Biographies

Lencer Achieng’ Ndede,, University of Nairobi

Department of Literature

Simon Peter Otieno, University of Nairobi

Department of Literature

Miriam Musonye, University of Nairobi

Department of Literature

How to Cite
Ndede, L., Otieno, S., & Musonye, M. (2020). Film as an Artefact. Journal of African Theatre, Film and Media Discourse, 1(1), 57-72.