Bantu Mwaura, an award winning Kenyan performing artist, director, playwright, storyteller, poet and university lecturer is dead.
He was found dead outside his gate at the Sunlight estate in Nairobi’s Lang’ata area, on Monday (today) morning. His family had reported him missing on Friday evening. Police are currently investigating the cause of his death.
Bantu was also a very vocal political and human rights activist and a cultural theorist who worked mostly with civil society using theatre and performance in human rights and developmental work.
The news was first broken publicly online on a news website by one of the leading Kenyan media companies.
However, a Kenyan Writers group on Google were the first to inform writers, critics and Bantu’s comrades of this tragedy.
Renee Mboya, an artist working with Dreamaker Africa in providing Economic solutions for the arts posted this on the forum.
Just to say Rest in Peace Bantu Mwaura. Anyone got details…something
about a car jacking on Langata Road. :-(
Other renown Kenyan writers and poets who have worked with Bantu on numerous occasions such as Rasna Warah, Muthoni Garland, Shailja Patel, Al Kags, Binyavanga Wainanina, Phillo Ikonya, Neema Mawiyo and Simiyu Barasa were equally dumbfounded by the news as scanty details of his death tickled in.
It is still not yet clear, what or who killed him.
Yet another young promising Kenyan male has died today. Bantu Mwaura, a
friend, an academic, a brilliant mind passed away today. No news of how or
whether it was murder. More on this when I get more information. I, for one,
will miss him deeply.
Although the news of Bantu’s death did not receive any slot on any of the Local TV station’s prime time news, many bloggers, online forums and groups are conveying their condolences as they reminiscence their past encounters with him.
KenyanPoet says this on her blog:
I got to know Bantu through the monthly Kwani open Mic nights in its early days where he never failed to read one or two of his poetry. Most of his poetic work was in criticism of the Kenyan Political scene through sarcasm.
A fellow thespian and activist, Phillo Ikonya who is also the President of PEN International Kenya conveyed her deep shock as she wrote the news to a Google forum for poets of which I am a member.
My heart goes out to his Family at this time. I will post more information as I receive it.
Gukira, a blog ran by Keguro Macharia posted this:
The Tragedy of Bantu Mwaura
I have yet to confirm the circumstances of his death. Assassination and suicide are the two competing narratives.
There are many tragedies here, and I choose an idiosyncratic one: human rights defenders have been assassinated in the past few months, allegedly by government forces. As a result, every single suspicious death of a human rights activist is clouded, and the tag cloud is dominated by government-funded figures.
Peter Kimani, a journalist with the Standard group, says this about Bantu’s death
Bantu Mwaura, who has died at the young age of 40, was a leading light in the Kenyan arts whose star dimmed when the skies were starting to brighten.
I recall the bleakness that engulfed the land at our first meeting 15 years ago. Artistic freedoms were very limited, and those who had dared speak out were either in detention or exiled.
Reclining on a pillar supporting the Rahimtullah Memorial Library in downtown Nairobi, and where Bantu was a star performer, I asked what his dreadlocks meant to him
The Nairobi Chronicle, an on-line journal based in the city of Nairobi, Kenya posted this:
It is still not clear how he died but there are several theories doing the rounds in Nairobi. Speculation ranges from assassination by a government hit squad to suicide. Police are already investigating the death.
The news comes amidst revelations that the dreaded KweKwe squad has been renamed as “Eagle” squad. The mission of Eagle Squad is to kill anyone it suspects of having links to Mungiki.
CapitalFM, a Kenyan radio station has also posted the news of Bantu’s Death in a story written by Bernard Momanyi:
Dr Mwaura died on Sunday night but many of his friends and former students at the University of Nairobi said they learnt of the death on Monday afternoon.
“I cannot believe Dr Mwaura is dead, he was such a good lecturer. He taught me two years ago,” a former student at the University of Nairobi said.
It is clear from the comments posted in the various online spaces that many have not yet come to terms with this tragedy.
Incognito posted this comment on the Capital News website(April 28th, 2009, 8:57 AM)
I still cant believe that Bantu is really dead…it so breaks my heart for Bantu was the rarest of species, a free spirit that roamed the world freely and he touched a number of hearts. I hope the truth shall be known. Bantu may the Good Lord rest your soul in eternal peace. You will be greatly missed and you will forever remain in my heart.
Indeed, Kenya has been robbed of one of the greatest minds to ever grace our literary scene, human rights platform and lecture halls.
Below is one of Bantu’s poems:
This donkey is a politician
It don't care
It kicks it owner
Who voted for it!
Toils hard to get kickbacks
From every deal
At the expense of its owner
This politician is a donkey
It don't care
This politician is a praying mantis
It prays and teases
To mate with the male!
But soon as it sucks life's juices
It snaps off the life of its lover
This praying mantis is a politician
(*All poems’ rights remain with the author)
Bantu leaves behind his wife, Susan Bantu and 2 daughters, Makeba in honor the late South African diva, Miriam Makeba and Mekatilili, in memory of the Kenyan heroine who led the Giriama in resisting the British invasion at the turn of the 20th century.