Every morning, Nancy would get out her Rosary and say her prayers. It began in the same way each time, “Dear Lord, I am a woman, weak in all ways. My mind, body and spirit have failed to meet your expectations. I have wronged you in so many ways, but I do it for love…” She called it a woman’s prayer, full of hope and dreams to be loved, full of repentance for the wrongs committed. She had been saying this prayer for years, the only thing that changed were the names of the people mentioned in it
It all started when she was 19, when her step-brother came into her room. Being 12 years older than her, he had been protective of her from day one. When boys got to close, he would scare them off. Her friends envied the attention he gave her. She was scared of him, but she couldn’t say why. He only came to her room once that was all it took for her life to change.
She had not seen her family since that fateful day; they had abandoned her in her time of need. When she came out claiming rape, she was termed the family slut. Her mother kicked her out; she couldn’t let a lying slut ruin her marriage. He only smiled and said if she had kept quiet and enjoyed it, she would have a home. Cold and angry at the world, her prayers began. 9 months later she safely delivered twin daughters. She vowed to protect them with her life.
The Commonwealth Short Story Prize short-list has been announced.1 I had a particular interest in the announcement of this short-list because I submitted a story to competition.2 My name was not on it but the winner for the Kenya region is a friend, and his story – a gritty tale about a woman retaining, reclaiming, and asserting her dignity despite the depredations in the Kakuma refugee camp – is worth reading.3
My expectations, when I write and submit anything, never really include the possibility that I will be published or that I will win a prize. I send and try to forget until reminded.
Literary competitions are often merely black boxes into which manuscripts are inserted.4 Some churning goes on within; we are not privy to the operations of the concealed, magical text-mangling machine. At the end of the process, winners are announced, funding dispensed, contracts signed, books and anthologies published, trips undertaken, careers launched or propelled, and so forth.
Literary prizes are also, unavoidably, political. It has been said of the Caine prize (as well as other prizes, and vital publishers such as Femrite) that it has fostered a certain style of writing, inculcated certain expectations of how African writing should look like, how an African voice should sound like, and how an African narrative should be read. An “African” writer seems expected to work as closely Continue reading
Sara Karay is a 21 year old designer currently in 3rd year pursuing a degree in International Business Administration and marketing at USIU. She officially launched her 1st collection dubbed the ‘earth collection’ in May 2012 at the Hilton Hotel.
Her design aesthetic ranges from prints, especially animal print and tribal prints loud but tasteful colors to subtle hues and is quite unpredictable. Her slogan is “runway to street inspired”. She designs clothes that can be worn straight off the runway but at the same time is not the ‘normal’
Her work has featured at the Nairobi Fashion Market and the Naivasha Fashion Market. She has also been selected to showcase her work at the Africa Fashion Week New York in July 2013.
We had a few questions for her, and this is what she had to say:
Contemporary literature in Kenya from Kenyan writers is hard to come by. It’s a sad reality. The truth is that it’s difficult to get published especially locally. Most writers opt to self-publish which is an expensive venture. That being said, it is always welcomed news when a Kenyan writer publishes a book. It is even more welcome when the said book is a collection of poetry.
In 2011, a few poets met at Central Park to discuss the putting together of their poems in a book. The idea was spearheaded by an ambitious young man, Chris Mukasa, who fronts Kenya Poets Lounge. The community of poets involved in the project grew with most conversations happening via email. Almost three years later, the project has finally seen the light of day. The book has been published and is titled, ‘The Power of Words.’
The Power of Words was launched at Memorial Park on Saturday June 8th in a simple but wonderful event. There were poets reading their work from the book as well as speakers giving motivational talks. Music from upcoming and talented artists and a generally relaxed ambiance made for an enjoyable event.
My people are being sidelined
My people are overlooked
We are like that distant relative –
That obscure, forgotten cousin
Seated somewhere, far in the back
Gatecrashing your birthday party
Hoping for some crumbs
Of the national cake –
My people are being finished.
Reverend Amos Njenga sat at his desk beside the window, deep in thought.
Outside, darkness had fallen, but he could still see as the moon was full in the sky, and the stars were shining like the headlights of so many cars stuck in a celestial traffic jam. The moon’s strong light filled his heart with gladness, and the myriad twinkling stars that still shone through the darkness inspired him with hope. For darkness had fallen thick on the land, and he wondered if the few shining lights in its midst were enough to drive it away.
Corruption, like a virus, had infested the body politic and the Government was rotten through and through. The Treasury had become the Ministers’ personal bank account, financing their flashy Ferraris and paying for illicit ‘diplomatic delegations’ to Paris and Milan. Rich men committed murder in broad daylight without a care, as they knew they had the Judiciary in their back pockets. Right next to their wallets.
Organized crime was rampant – gangs battled for control of the streets, exchanging fire in broad daylight. The police force was understaffed, poorly equipped, and underpaid. Crime lords didn’t even bother bribing them any more – they just ignored them. They organized themselves into triads and mafias and syndicates, dividing up the country among themselves and waging turf wars of almost civil-war proportions.
A man carries cash. This is an obscure statement on its own but to understand this, you must first know the events that led up to this epiphany.
Hope is a fickle thing. The kind of thing that, when you see a really beautiful woman, a twelve, sitting across from you at the bar, makes you think you have a shot. So you order two drinks, one for you and what she’s having and walk right up to her. But by the time you sit down, it’s gone, that elusive hope that drove you there in the first place.
And now she’s giving you the look that only girls that hot can give. The one that makes you wither and turn to mush. Because you don’t know what to say. Because your mind is blank.
So you push her drink towards her and go, “for you…” and think hopeful. She smiles. And you hear that hopefully familiar sound of ice breaking.
Don’t bother deciphering the title of a poem. The best poems are inspired by the concrete, by the tangible, by the touchable.
Good titles to good poems arise from feelings and moods. Ask a poet about the poems they keep hidden in their desk drawers, those that they judge unworthy of the reader’s eye. Those are the poems that tell the best stories.
They are locked inside dusty drawers so they don’t bother with form. They don’t struggle with abstract ideas. They only state what they see. And alas! how we’ll be astounded to have descriptions of things right in front of our eyes. These poems, they describe and look for the exit. They don’t force their ideas on you. They leave the pulpit for the preachers.
A good poem, like a good storyteller, teases you before dishing out the details. A good poem, like a good amant, touches you where it feels best.
I became a woman on the morning of the last day of the year. It was exactly five o’clock in the morning and I was asleep on a mat on the floor. Had it been the previous day or the day after, I would have been on my bed. But on this day, the bed I usually slept on had sunk in the middle because the ropes at its lower part had come undone and this made sleeping unnecessarily difficult. I couldn’t sleep with my sister on the bed near the window because she left one eye open while sleeping. Once, when we had visitors, I’d been forced to sleep with her only to wake up in the night to find one eye staring back at me. I’ve never slept with her since. The other bed was full of washing from the previous day and I was not willing to waste precious minutes of sleep time to push them out of the way. So I took the mat we usually used to sit on outside the house and spread it on the floor. It did not matter to me that I would wake up with the mat’s patterns on my body. I just had to sleep, and if Mama was in a good mood tomorrow perhaps I would tell her about my bad bed.
Two things woke me up at exactly five o’clock in the morning. My sister’s Nokia something something was ringing. Tatu was in the habit of setting alarms that she never woke up to. Yet, as if a ritual, every night before she slept she made sure her alarm was set right. The other thing that woke me up was a slow, lingering pain in my lower stomach. This left me confused as had it been my upper stomach, I would have known it was a hunger related stomachache. But this was something different.
‘Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!’’
But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified and their shouts prevailed.
Luke 23:18, 23
‘You Mr. wheelbarrow-guy, Mr. Gravedigger, Mr. carpenter, Mr. father-of-eight-children, you Mr. school-cook, Mr. Cobbler, Mr. Sheikh, yes! You too Mr. many-wives, my dear friend Mr. posho-mill-guy, Mr. new-comer-to-our-village, and all your Mrs-es and sisters too- all of you, for the purpose of this evening and for the many to come have no names- aye? No! you are as good as only your pathetic profession dictates and as for me Mr. jobless I will be Mr. University-degree- mr. first-university-degree—emphases the ‘first’.
‘Aside from Mr. sheikh-guy and Mr. new-comer-to-the-village-guy all of us went to the same school no? We were in the same class, no? We all passed through the hands of Mr. Dead-and-buried-teacher, no? We were in the same class with Mr. political-leader-sir! Mr. CDF-manager, Mr. governor-Wetu too. Yes! We all were.’