Kenyan Autobiographical Writings and the Use of Orature: An Analysis of Writings by Benjamin Kipkorir and Wangari Maathai


  • Elizabeth Jumba Mukutu Department of Literature, University of Nairobi, Kenya
  • Wanjiku Mukabi Kabira Department of Literature, University of Nairobi, Kenya


autobiography, diary, Kenyan autobiography, memoir, orature


Kenyan autobiography is a cultural production that embraces orature. Although the flexibility of orature gives the individual greater leeway and enhances the ‘literariness’ of the autobiographical text, its use contravenes conventions and contests boundaries of autobiographical writing as signalled by the West. Orature in an autobiographical text is mediated by the individual sense of style, by the available cultural models of identity and the oral discourses evident.  This paper analyses selected texts and how they borrow imagery from their cultural backgrounds and embed forms of oral literature such as myths, legends, oral narrative, songs and oral poetry into their writing. The present is the point of departure which organizes the autobiography. Autobiographical writers from Kenya have consistently returned to childhood, looking back at a childhood rich in orature and passed on knowledge, to find their personal as well as the historical roots, to expose the colonial past and to comment on present day issues.  This paper engages theory of autobiography, African feminism, and Autobiographics to show that the choice of particular narrative strategies like orature is influenced by the relationship between context, gender and genre. It also interrogates how the chosen authors collectively articulate the nation albeit differently. The study falls within the context of trends in autobiographical studies that privilege location and positioning of autobiographical writings over conventions.


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How to Cite

Kenyan Autobiographical Writings and the Use of Orature: An Analysis of Writings by Benjamin Kipkorir and Wangari Maathai. (2018). International Journal of Research and Scholarly Communication, 1(1).