By David Maillu
Published March 22, 2024

After 4.30 by David MailluI was born in traditional Africa around 1939. My parents didn’t have formal education. My father passed on when I was a small boy. Later on, long after I had gone to school in 1951, I asked my mother when I was born. She told me, “It was when there were rumors of the uprising of the Second World War, during the harvest of nzuu pigeon-peas.”

Since pigeon peas are harvested around September or October, I decided to picked a particular date of my birth to be 19th October. The date was supported by what figure 19 is to me in consideration of numerology. Notwithstanding, over the years whenever I was doodling, unconsciously, I would be writing or playing about with figure 9 which, to me, has become a mystic number.

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I was forced to go to church by the horrifying narration presented in the Bible that if the world came to an end and I was caught up having not taken Jesus as my personal savior, I would be thrown into the lake of fire where I would burn forever and ever without dying!

Without dying? That was an unimaginable horror.

The pressure of going to church to be saved was also exacerbated by stories of the expansion of the Second World War in which, we were told, Mussolini’s warplanes would drop bombs on us. I feared that I might die before being saved, as were constantly told war stories of defending ourselves by
digging trenches into which to hide from the bombing.

So, in order to save myself from the horror of burning in hell, I went to the nearest church, Salvation Army, which also owned the Primary School where I enrolled.

I felt so relaxed after I got saved. The fundamental preaching, choreographed using colonial psychology, dwelt on telling the Christianized people to focus on stopping to think about worldly materials but instead, invest our treasures (soul), in heaven where rust, moths, and thieves cannot reach. It disturbed me that preaching was telling us to surrender to poverty.

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The colonizers saw us as sub-human savages who had neither history nor philosophy. They forced us to drop everything in our culture and demanded that we should stop thinking creativelyLater after Kenya’s independence in 1963, I read somewhere where Jomo Kenyatta, the first President of Kenya, allegorically wrote, “They (British) gave us the Bible, asked us to lift it and shut up our eyes to pray. We did so. But when the prayer finished and we opened our eyes, we found our land had been snatched by the British.”

Kenyatta’s statement should be seen from a wider cultural context; that colonialism destabilized or destroyed or distorted or disoriented or corrupted or messed up with the foundation of African culture.

I am a byproduct of colonialism. I and my generation are the bridge between traditional Africa and post-colonial Africa. During colonial days, we were classified as Africans but not as Kenyans. The package in which we grew had three classes; White people, Indians and Africans.

Indians were brought to Kenya by colonial government to build the railway line. They and their generation settled in Kenya. During colonial days, one of the way of expressing Apartheid in Kenya was classifying toilets as A, B and C where A was for White people, B for Indians and C for Africans. By
virtue of their colour, Indians were given second class.

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This introduction lays down the background in which I grew up to become a scholar and writer, by then disillusioned from the war of colonialism where I survived with big scars. It was only education
which, eventually, uncovered reality about what colonialism was all about and what damage it did to Africans.

In spite of education being frustrated and made difficult by colonial administration, I took strong ground for me to be my own savior and teacher. Out of many years of self-education, I have earned a doctorate in African Literature and Political Philosophy which, nonetheless, has nothing to do with my creativity. I consider it merely as an intellectual medal.

It is my long journey from tradition through colonialism and finally arrival at independence that shaped not only my writing but the writing of my generation writers, broadly embracing Chinua Achebe, Amos Tutuola, Ayi Kwei Armah, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Wole Soyinka, Okot P’Bitek
and others, commonly referred to as cream of African writers.

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The Place of the witch and Witchcraft in AfricaColonizers did not negotiate with Africans regarding how Africans should be colonized because they saw Africans as sub-human savages who had neither history nor philosophy. Psychologically, they modified Africans to drop everything in their culture; and demanded that they should stop
thinking creatively since the quality of their brains had nothing good to think about… That Africans had no religion, and they did not know God and, instead, they only worshipped idols and ancestral spirits. That is why the colonizer brought Christian religion to Africans.

They indirectly demanded that Africans should surrender their way of life because the Whiteman shall be thinking for them and when they would want to do something that required thinking, they will have only two options: consulting the Whiteman’s brain and the Bible.

So, traditionally, Africans stopped thinking and, over the years, got plunged into a culture of not-thinking creatively; hence, developing a culture of not questioning anything, generations after generations. The culture of thinking like babies took root.

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Come Independence Day, African leaders inherited nations suffering from the amnesia of creative
thinking, expecting the government and the Bible aided by the Whiteman to continue thinking for them.

I, together with writers of my generation, did not have the broad luxury which found in technologically developed countries where writers indulge in writing for pleasure or in celebration and commemorations of their imperial histories; where you can write poetry about clouds, wind and
weather. Instead, we are propelled by cultural necessity to creatively write books in attempt to reclaim African identity and also to show to the world that we have ability to think comprehensively as intellectuals addressing and analyzing the cultural transition period we live in. That transition has got many pertinent questions regarding what the value of African culture is to the modern man.

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The dictionary describes education as “A process of teaching, training and learning; to improve knowledge and develop skills.” If that is the case, education has got nothing primarily to do with human beings. All young living beings undergo process of being taught by their parents in order to be equipped with skills for their survival.A substantial amount of my works, as well as works of the writers of my generation, have gone great lengths in trying to compare the imported culture to African culture. The works dwell on critical issues regarding governance, corruption, misuse of political power and finding your identity in the present Africa. The works address the damaged glory of traditional Africa.

At the morning hours of independence when I  married a German woman, my late German wife, Hannelore, she used to make me feel uneasy when she called me “Kenyan”; hence, dislodging me from the African package in which I had grown up. From where I sat at that time, I did not see anything
special in being a Kenyan. Kenya, which was a colonial boundary, had not done any special thing to warrant praise. It was the African who had done it. I was an African basically, then a Kenyan for geographical convenience.

As my girlfriend in the 1960s, I remember how passionately she encouraged me to put traditional folktales into books. In response, I took to writing for children. Today I have written about 40 children’s books. There were no published African stories for school children during colonial days. For stories they read books only published in Europe.

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Nobody trained me on how to write books. I had to train myself. My formal education ended after eight years of schooling, after I sat the colonial Standard 8 examination called, “Kenya African Preliminary Education.” I had passed the examination to go to high school, but high schools were rare in my Akamba community that had only Machakos High School, with an intake of 45 students every year.  So I embarked upon educating myself through Correspondence School called British Tutorial College.

It was during my correspondence that my English Tutor told me I was good in creative writing. True, from childhood, I was good at unpublished traditional folktales of which I had a good collection. I
remember my attempt in my Class 5 in 1955, when I attempted translating, “The Prince with Golden Hair,” a children story in Kikamba. That was when I started wondering how anyone wrote a book. From that time onwards, I developed interest in writing. I used to write letters. I remember by the time I finished my formal education, I had a manuscript of love letters, which got stolen by someone. But the thief left me with pride that I must have written something of substance to make him steal

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There were no trainers of writing books. I remember at one time in 1959 asking my Technical School teacher, “Can an African write?”

He looked at me, blinked several times and said, “Wait a minute, I think I’ve heard of
someone in Nigeria who has written a book.”

It is important to bring up the psychological package and foundation of the African to be addressed by the books I have been writing. For example, I planned and wrote my most talked about book, After 4.30, in 1975. I was living in Nairobi, having graduated from countryside life. People lived in the newly independent Kenya torn between the culture from the west and that from traditional Africa.
Urban life was a new phenomenon to many people. I wrote the book specifically to sensitize and educate the girl about the complex urban life. The book has four main characters; a prostitute, an upright girl (secretary), an Oxford University graduate boss and his wife.

It was through those characters that I brought forth, using loose poetry, the deceptive glamour and pitfalls of the imported western culture in Nairobi. I remember a Zimbabwean professor who wrote a paper on After 4.30, giving the book a Marxist color. The book was banned in Apartheid South
Africa because of its critical stand on Western culture. Others people said the book addresses and promotes woman’s rights.

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I am dressed in a Pharaoh spiritual costume as Pharaoh Maillu, to stage the PEACEFUL SOCIAL REVOLUTION based on African traditional values. PHARAOH means “Great House.” I want to build Africa the Great House it deserves. Actors and patriotic people, where are you? Kenya swims or sinks. Africa swims or sinks.My generation of writers stands out as the intellectual bridge between traditional African culture and the imported western culture. Failure for that generation and the present in not-writing-and-publishing enough of what should be addressed to salvage African values will close the chapter of African pride and values.

Unfortunately, it is the unpublished traditional Africa that still holds the largest library of African values, which are on the verge of  extinction. The loss will be unthinkable and the greatest damage to
African identity.

The elephant in the house has been lack of committed publishers. I started writing when Kenya was dominated by British publishers disinterested in African books. I was saved by self-publishing, which
gave me the freedom to publish what I thought people wanted to read but not what bosses trained in overseas thought people should read. As soon as I launched myself successfully as a writer, the same British publishers who had been denying my work started begging me to write for them.