When you think of Kenyan writers, the old names like Ngugi Wa Thiong’o come to mind. However, there are amazing other writers you should know and maybe even meet on your visit to the country. Take away a piece of Kenya, a piece small enough to fit your suitcase; a book by one of these three authors. Or all three!
His name is Binyavanga Wainaina, one of Kenya’s most acclaimed writers and a winner of the Caine Prize for African writing. He is the founding editor of “Kwani?“ Which is Swahili for “So What?” (loose translation). ”Kwani?” has been an endless source of eclectic and pioneering writing in East Africa. While you may know him for his satirical piece, How To Write about Africa his latest work is everything but satirical. His book One Day I Will Write About This Place is a deeply personal memoir and an excellently written one at that. His childhood in Nakuru, his voracious addiction to books and how it dictated his life path. His journey traversing Kenya, to South Africa is quite the read. You can buy the book online here. Look too at some of the Kwani? books, and while some of the stories are in Sheng and Swahili you can find a good number in English that you will enjoy.
Ngwatilo Mawiyoo, a poet, performer, actress and musician. Her first book , Blue Mother Tongue is a compilation of her poems. It is set in Nairobi and the African Diaspora Which is the collective name used to refer to the lands that Africans live away from the continent mostly in Europe and Northern America. It explores the African notions of home and identity. Ngwatilo recently embarked on a project dubbed This Kenyan Life, in which she lives with with 20 diverse rural Kenyan families for ten days each and documents her experiences and observations as well as their own accounts of the same. For a girl raised in urban Kenya, this is an interesting work of curiosity, exploration family and belonging. So far she has documented quite a few experiences, you can read about them here and watch a video of her performance of Two Clocks, one of her poems.
Muthoni Likimani is a Kenyan legend, currently in her late 70’s she is one of the few remaining individuals who have lived in both pre-colonial and post independence Kenya. She was a popular radio broadcaster and producer before she began writing. Among her numerous achievements is that she was the first Kenyan woman to set up an advertising and PR agency-Noni’s Agency. She is also a writer, has a number of fictional works and an autobiography, Fighting Without Ceasing. The autobiography details her various careers as an actress, entrepreneur, writer broadcaster and more. It quite an eye-opener into Kenya’s past, and the present.