Cut Off My Tongue (Kenya)

Performed by: Sitawa Namwalie, Melvin Alusa, Aleya Kassam, Willy Rama, Boaz Otieno.
Director: Elizabeth Senja Spackman
Music Director: Alice Karunditu
Choreographer: Veronica O’odal

On June 27, 2008, just four months after Kenya’s violent general election, Cut off my Tongue , a dramatized poetry performance, was staged in Nairobi at the Ramoma Gallery. Cut off my Tongue weaves poetry written by Sitawa Namwalie with music, movement and dance to create a visual feast. 
As Kenyan audiences packed theatres to watch subsequent performances, they began to realize that they had known the reasons for the violence all along, and that it was the national surprise that was actually contrived. Sitawa Namwalie’s dramatized poetry lives on the edge; it will move you, frighten you with its honesty and then slyly make you laugh.

Cut off my Tongue explores the truths that shape the lives of modern Africans. What are our real beliefs — the ones lurking in broad daylight behind the nice ones we claim to be true? Why do we behave the way we do? Cut off my Tongue is politics, razor-sharp social insight, and love. But watch out: it bites as it teases!

Cut off my Tongue has been performed in most theatres in Nairobi, in people’s homes and gardens, in Muthaiga Club and in Langata Women’s Prison. The show was performed at the Hay Festival in Wales and in Hampstead Theatre in London in 2009. In May 2012 the show was performed in Uganda. In each case, audiences have been moved and enchanted.

Sitawa Namwalie is a Kenyan poet, playwright, writer and performer. In 2014 she won Kenya’s Sanaa Theatre Awards Best Spoken Word and Poetry for her show of dramatized poetry called Silence is a Woman, which was also received the award for Best Production on Women Rights and Gender Based Violence.

Sitawa Namwalie discovered her poetic gift in 2007 and by 2008 staged her first dramatised poetry show Cut Off My Tongue in Nairobi. In 2009, her first book of poetry, Cut Off My Tongue, was published. In 2011 her second show called Homecoming was performed in Nairobi.

Cut off my Tongue was invited to the UK’s prestigious Hay Festival in the UK in 2009. In 2010, Cut off my Tongue was selected by the Sundance Theatre Lab in the first East African Sundance Lab held on Manda Island. In the same year, the show received a “Highly Commended” from The Freedom to Create, an international arts prize. In May 2012, two performances were held in Uganda.

In October 2013, Sitawa Namwalie premiered her new show of dramatized poetry called Silence is a Woman and was well received. In April 2014, Sitawa participated in the Spoken Worlds project, an exchange between German and Kenyan poets, spoken word and hip hop artists.

Sitawa has just completed Black Maria on Koinange Street, her first play which will be staged in 2015.

Sitawa has worked in the development sector for many years and with the United Nations, IUCN. She currently earns a living working as an international consultant. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Botany and Zoology from the University of Nairobi and a Master of Arts degree in Environment, Society and Technology from Clark University in Massachusetts, USA. Sitawa has achieved excellence in many areas of life, including representing Kenya in tennis and hockey in her youth.