Inventing Women: Female Voice in Kenyan Television Drama

Published in: Eastern African Literary and Cultural Studies
Volume 3, issue 2-4, 2017 , pages: 131–149
DOI: 10.1080/23277408.2017.1369735
Author(s): Charles KebayaLiterature, Creative and Performing Arts, Kenya


This article examines contemporary women's voices mediated through Kenyan television drama while focusing on Mother-in-law and Tabasamu. It investigates how female characters’ revelation of self transforms their silence into visibility and action, in the process, showing how they move from the periphery to the centre of action. The theoretical framework combines Womanist and Interactionist theories. Womanist theory allows us to interrogate the female character's self while Interactionist theory gives us a chance to link women's interactions with processes of meaning construction and invention. A textual exegesis of purposively selected disparate episodes of the selected TV dramas was conducted with thematic content analysis used in interpreting findings. The findings show that local television drama not only attempts to define the nature of the contemporary Kenyan female voice but also invents women through distinctive choices of characters, language, conflict and union. The findings further show that women are at the vanguard in reconfiguring subjectivities and social complexities of sexuality in contemporary Kenya. Consequently, this article concludes that artistic sensibilities in local television drama crystallise in the characterisation of women as being at the forefront of and integral to the reconfiguration and visibilisation of emergent practices of feminine power and agency in Kenyan society.

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