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Ngugi Wa Thiongo and Micere Mugo’s The Trial of Dedan Kimathi and Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Bansi id Dead treat colonialism, the building and maintaining of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. Colonialism is the child of capitalism and what capitalism seeks out to do is to maximize profit at the expense of labour. This study aims at analysing both texts as responses to colonialism and the ills that it breeds. The study examines apartheid as a product of colonialism in Fugard’s play and treats colonialism per se in the other play. It shows that colonialism breeds ills such as racism, alienation, oppression and capitalism.
Colonialism is the subject matter of the two plays; the playwrights examine the preoccupation from different perspectives but agree that colonialism is injurious to the colony.
1.1 Background of the Study
Colonialism is a process whereby sovereignty over the colony is obtained by the metropole and social structure, government economy within the territory of the colony are changed by the colonists. It is a certain set of unequal relationship between metropole and colony and between the colonists and the indigenous population. Colonialism normally refers to the period from the 15th to the 19th centuries when the nations of Europe established colonies in other continents of the world. The reasons for the practice of colonialism at this time include the profit to be made, the need to expand the power of metropole or escape persecution in the metropole and spread the colonist way of life including religious and political beliefs.
Collins English Dictionary defines colonialism as the policy of acquiring and maintaining colonies especially for exploitation. The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy uses the term “colonialism” to describe the process of European settlement and political control over the rest of the world, including America, Australia and parts of Africa and Asia.
In Africa, colonialism brought a new dimension into the concept of land and various other aspects of the culture of the African people. Colonialism is the child of capitalism and what capitalism seeks out to do is to maximize profit at the expense of labour. Therefore, the incursion of the settlers into Africa is an attempt to utilize, to the maximum, all resources (both human and materials) that are available there. Capitalism can be said to be individualistic in nature while the already existing system in Africa is communal and this points out the fact that the two systems negate each other (Walter, 1972).
Many writers would concede, at least partially, that colonization was a system which functioned well in the interests of the metropoles. Such writers would however raise another issue on how much Europeans did for Africa and it is necessary to draw up a ‘balance sheet of colonialism’. Quite often they will conclude that the good outweighs the bad and that colonialism had just one hand; it was a one-aimed benefit.
It could be based on the above fact that the British came to Africa with the major aim of exploitation and in the process of exploitation; the Africans were oppressed and alienated. Exploitation in this context means the system whereby the British came and used all the resources (human and natural resources) selfishly to serve their own interests. Through their superior weapons, technology and the use of religion, as the case may be, the Whiteman took over the land from Africans and turned them into slaves in their own land. Africans were subjected to the worst form of colonization which is slavery. Able bodied men, women and children were forcefully taken away across the sea from Africa to a new world to work on the continent.
Maurice (1962) states that, ‘the exploiters, as a class, seek all means to consolidate their property, to extract more surplus labour and to increase their wealth’. This means that if colonialists were exploiters and oppressors, they maltreated the Africans and extorted all they could from them and their land. The Africans were thrown into jail at the slightest provocation; curfew and state of emergency were declared at any time pleasing to them. African writers explore this socio-politics in their works. An example of this reflection is when Njeri and Kori, the wife and son of Ngotho in Weep not child by Ngugi Wa Thiongo, are arrested at Ngotho’s door step and all he could do was watch. This reflects a terrible kind of oppression when a man watches his family being taken away without being able to defend them.
Another evil of colonialism is total alienation of the black people. Alienation is the estrangement of a man and even a society from what seems to be the totality of existence. An African man who works as a labourer on the farm loses interest in the society because he has been tuned into an alien in his home. Alienation during colonization comes in different forms one of which is political alienation. This estrangement occurs when the people are not allowed to participate in the government of their land and they do not enjoy the government placed on them. For instance, politics is a game of governance which is intended to provide peaceful atmosphere, but it is threatened when citizens are denied their rights. Political alienation may give rise to class distinction. As a result, we have the privileged class living in opulence in the society while the masses (commoners) wallow in abject poverty.
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