What Does it Mean to be a Man? The Aesthetics of Telling Crisis’ and Conflicts in Ngebe Gaa and Detox

Fredrick Mbogo


This paper is a reading of two films, namely, Ngebe Gaa (2019) and Detox (2016), in an attempt to discuss a supposed crisis of manhood in Eldoret, and the larger part of the North Rift Valley area of Kenya. The paper employs perspectives from canonical African works such as Okot P’Bitek’s Song of Lawino and Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel, as well as Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s I Will Marry When I Want to uncover examples of the meanings of “man” in patriarchal settings but also in situations where shifts in economic, social and political life have taken place. In Ngebe Gaa, for instance, Mzee Maina, the main character, is set in his ways. His father-to-daughter relationship with his biological daughter, Chemesunde, is very much defined by reliable conceptions of being a man in his society. But this is thrown into confusion once matters get out of hand for him financially. This paper is thus interested in this troubled in-between identity that redefines “man” within such rural and peri-urban spaces, where the economy is not diverse, and there is a seeming non-changing culture on the surface but rapid reformulations of ideas at individual levels. Eldoret and its environs, where these two films are set, occupy such spaces. They can never escape the dominant suggestion that is specifically Kalenjin on what a “man” is, especially because the majority of the people around Eldoret and its outskirts are predominantly of the Kalenjin ethnic communities. Through cross-references from texts that explore the Kalenjin world view(s) such as in Kiprotich Arap Sambu’s The Misiri Legend Explored and Bill Ruto and Kipng’etich Maritim’s Kipsigis Heritage, this paper digs into the meanings of “man” and how often times they have been undermined in the worlds presented in Ngebe Gaa and Detox.


Article received: December 18, 2019; Article accepted: January 31, 2020; Published online: April 15, 2020; Original scholarly paper

How to cite the article: Mbogo, Fredrick. "What Does it Mean to be a Man? The Aesthetics of Telling Crisis’ and Conflicts in Ngebe Gaa and Detox." AM Journal of Art and Media Studies 21 (2020): 71-84. doi: 10.25038/am.v0i21.371


perception of man; contemporary Kenyan film; performance; Kalenjin world view; Rift Valley; Kenya.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.25038/am.v0i21.371


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