Tuf (pseudonym for Samuel Mulokwa)
Illustrated by Tuf. Nairobi, Kenya: Sasa Sema Publications, 1998. 36 p. ISBN 9966-9609-4-5. Ages 8 and up.
Publisher: Sasa Sema Publications Ltd.
Manywele, meaning long hair, is the nickname of a man who wears his hair in the rasta style. The story begins with Manywele in prison, because he is wrongfully convicted for the murder of his mother. Meanwhile, a deadly disease has broken out in his village in Western Kenya. The malady has two unusual symptoms: victims grow hair all over their bodies, and they laugh until they collapse and die. Against this backdrop, the author provides a flashback to Manywele’s childhood, when he was not accepted by his stepfamily because he belonged to a different social status.
Manywele’s stepfather, Wekesa, is a powerful medicine man who teaches him the art of traditional medicine, while his stepbrother, Yusufu, becomes a priest. Following their father’s death, an inheritance battle ensues in which Yusufu kills Manywele’s mother and implicates Manywele. When the story returns to the present, it turns out that the imprisoned Manywele is the only living medicine man who has a cure for the deadly new disease. Through ingenuity, courage, and resourcefulness, Manywele embarks on a suspenseful adventure that gets him a fortune and vindication.
Set in modern rural Kenya, this expertly crafted story deals with the serious social issues of prejudice and religious hypocrisy. The comic book format makes these messages accessible to children, because it intersperses both textual and graphic humour and captures the flavour of Kenya. In the end, truth and honour are triumphant.