Historic Victory for Kenyans/The Mau Mau, four elderly Kenyans have been granted the right to sue the UK government. Given these recent developments, the screening of this film I attended in London was very timely.
The First Grader tells the story of Maruge, an elderly Kenyan man who has never learned to read and write, and who decides to go back to school.
Maruge has received a letter from the government and wants to read it for himself. In the course of the film, we catch glimpses of what he suffered at the hands of the British – his imprisonment and torture and the killing of his family during the “Mau Mau” uprising of the 1950s.
The First Grader graphically depicts the lack of knowledge of subsequent generations, who don’t understand what he fought for, or what he is fighting for now.
When I told my 90-year-old dad that the subject of this film was a man in his eighties, he immediately replied, "That's wonderful!". This was my response as well.
So I was shocked to see the reactions of some of the locals, who resented the fact that Maruge was going back to school, even though he was not taking resources away from any children. This showed how far the African tradition of respect for the elders has been eroded.
Some even assumed the headmistress, played by Naomie Harris, was being bribed to educate this senior learner.
This film is a must-see for those who, like many, know little or nothing about the history of Kenya under colonisation.
After the screening, we had a panel discussion which included one of the lawyers representing the elderly Kenyans who have just been granted the right to sue the British government. For more about this, see: Historic Victory for Kenyans/The Mau Mau
The screening was held before that decision had been reached. The panel explained that the UK government had, for many years, denied the existence of any documentation about what had happened in Kenya.
Then an archive was discovered which contained documentary evidence of what was done in Kenya and many other countries under British colonisation.
Thus the decision was granted. We will be discussing this on What U Need to Know on Saturday the 13th of August, as part of our discussion of African Emancipation Day. Click here to join us or go to Success Strategies for Black People on Facebook.
See also: Africa and Africans on Film