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Youth Theater Kenya puts Elephant on Trial

Article by Maureen Kasuku
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Posted: September 29, 2021  

“A child lies dead. An elephant Matriarch stands accused of his murder… Is the Matriarch guilty or is she innocent? You, the audience Jury, must decide.” 

On Trial is a one act play by Youth Theater Kenya set in a courtroom and presents the trial of Athena, portrayed as one of the last old, matriarch elephants left in Tsavo, Kenya’s largest national park. Athena is charged with murder. 

Inspired by the acclaimed Kenyan film, ‘The Elephant Queen’ and performed by a dynamic Kenyan cast, the play lays bare the facts surrounding one of Africa’s most complex conservation issues.

The premise for the play is that Athena, the matriarch elephant, has attacked and killed a young boy of four years old. The boy was with his mother while she was working on the shamba (vegetable farming lands) on the edge of his village.

Human-wildlife conflicts at Athena’s home in Tsavo continue to challenge wildlife managers, researchers and conservationists to date. 

The case in “On Trial” might appear clear cut, but as the witnesses are called forward to testify, a complex story unfolds, illustrating the complex and often tragic conflict which is progressively the norm in areas adjoining national parks in Africa.

Is Athena guilty of murder? Is this a case of manslaughter? Or is she innocent, the child’s death being a tragic accident, a result of mitigating circumstances out of her control and does the responsibility for this death lie elsewhere, possibly with man?

The problem has been compounded more by lack of a clear understanding of the linkages between the ecological and policy factors that drive conflicts and the integration of these factors with Indegenous Ecological Knowledge (IEK), Indegenous Knowledge (IK) and perceptions held within local community domains in influencing their dynamics.

Land is an important natural resource, economically, socially and politically yet a finite resource requiring sustainable utilisation.  YTK has a great play but fails to put on trial land hoarders who’ve taken over Athena’s habitat  and rendered the indigenous people squatters.

This interactive play offers a fascinating opportunity to experience the power of theatre and be immersed in the complex challenges facing the co-existence of man and elephants in Kenya today.

Keep up with YTK activities on KenyaBuzz for new showcasing dates of “On Trial”.

 

About the author

Maureen Kasuku

Maureen is our resident cat lady and Beyoncé stan. She writes about spas, brunch and ballet recitals but has never been to any. Moonlights as a social justice activist in her spare time. She knows things and is obnoxiously opinionated on the internet but not in real life

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