Dramatic Irony as an Intervention Strategy in Two Dholuo Films: Kalausi and The Cleansing

Keywords: Kalausi; The Cleansing; widowhood; Luo; dramatic irony; intervention


Kalausi and The Cleansing are two films set in Kenya whose storylines touch on death and rituals among the Luo community of Kenya. Both films are in the language of Dholuo and place sharp focus on widowhood and its prevailing dilemmas and anxieties within Luo culture. It is these dilemmas and anxieties that reveal the injustices that culture metes out to women. While Kalausi engages its viewers up until the burial ceremony, The Cleansing starts after the actual burial and focuses on post-burial rituals. Thus, the two films in a way complement each other in the presentation of the injustices and intrigues that a woman faces during and after the demise of a spouse. Dramatic irony as the trope of ambiguity in the two films builds up tension, suspense and comic relief. Consequently, we examine how dramatic irony participates as a socio-cultural device of intervention in the two films. Reading the two films from this perspective, dramatic irony as a signifying trope becomes paramount in unravelling the multiplicities of interpretations evident in the critical moment of death within the Luo community. It is an extremely intricate signifying device as it plays on the contrast between reality and appearance.

Author Biographies

Christopher Odhiambo, Moi University

Department of Literature, Theatre and Film Studies

Professor and Dean, School of Graduate Studies

Loreen Maseno, Maseno University

Department of Religion, Theology and Philosophy, Senior Lecturer