Okwiri Oduor

Kenya’s Okwiri Oduor has won the 2014 Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story entitled ‘My Father’s Head’. She was announced the winner at a dinner held last night at at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

Okwiri Oduor is a published author and her novella, The Dream Chasers, was highly commended in the Commonwealth Book Prize, 2012. She is a 2014 MacDowell Colony fellow and is currently working on her debut novel. Okwiri becomes the third Kenyan to win the Caine Prize after Binyavanga Wainaina in 2002 and Yvonne Adhiambo in 2003.

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Ain’t that the way it always starts? –
A simple round of conversation
Becomes a subtle flirtation
A suggestion, an invitation;
Torturous tantalization…

Hey –

What ill wind blew you round my way?
What is this game you want to play?
All those delicious words you say;
Lies –
So sweet… Continue reading

One day,
A storm of courage will whirl around me,
Its hailstones will hit and wash my fear off,
Self doubt and pity will drip from my chest –
Like termite walls off a drenched log.

On that day,
I will hand you these words of wanton want –
Torn and worn around the edges,
From repetitive shuffling between tongue and throat –
And then, with confidence singing through my pores,
You will hear nothing in them but radiant beauty.

Sonja_Boyce_English_Rose_600x0_fill_false_nocrop_true
© Sonia Boyce, ‘She Aint Holding Them Up, She’s Holding On (Some English Rose)’, 1986, conte pastel and crayon on paper

Fables aren’t hurled at us like missiles, or dumped on us like a rock plummeting into the deep sea, violently, forcefully and without a choice. At least not to me. They float into our lives like a distinctively haunting Aria. Or like an Orchestra that either takes us to a distant place or breathes life into dead histories creating the fundamental We. Vibrating like Falsetto sounds, they bounce off our souls, reverberating and sending different sensations to our hearts and minds. These words fall on our tongues and from our lips the stories begin.

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In two days, the 2014 Smithsonian Folklife Festival opens in Washington DC. The annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival provides an opportunity for US citizens and the world to experience Kenya’s rich and diverse cultural and natural resources such as Kenyan art, crafts, music and other products. Kenya is the fifth African country and the first in East Africa to be featured at the festival.

Elkana Ong’esa, a renowned sculptor, will be leading the charge in Kenya’s efforts to conserve the African Elephant with a 12-tonne sculpture dubbed “Hands Off Our Elephants.”

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My Kenya

Last year, Google launched the first nationwide Doodle 4 Google competition in Kenya. Doodle 4 Google (D4G) is a competition in which students are invited to reinvent Google’s homepage logo. To date contests have been run in more than 30 countries all over the world.

Kenya’s competition was themed ‘My Kenya’, doodlers and celebrated a monumental year in Kenya with the recent national elections, as well as the Jubilee Year. 17 year old Esther Wambui Githinji became Kenya’s national winner. Her doodle, “Feet of Continue reading

© Alya Kassam
© Alya Kassam

Her vows will be recited before all
As she steps into her new role
Will it now begin, or is this the end
Will he be her master or her friend
Rule the house as a queen
Or never be heard only seen
This merriment is it an illusion
Or will they blend with perfect fusion
Laughing today, will they abandon her later
Or keep their promise to support her forever Continue reading

Invisible

I did not know what to expect when I picked up Kevin Mwachiro’s Invisible: Stories from Kenya’s queer community’, so I went ahead to satisfy my curiosity after the tasteful launch of the book at the Goethe Institute.

The book is a compilation by journalist and activist Kevin Mwachiro of narratives from Kenyan activists on their discontent against discrimination and uphold the respect and dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals.

The story in chapter 14 of a Turkana boy is particularly compelling, so pure and honest that I wanted it to become a novel. The author of this piece tells his piece in one of the most refreshingly sincere way. No agenda. No 3-pronged objectives. Just a boy, telling his story, leaving out nothing.

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Husbands for breakfast

If ever there was a play that missed the mark in my years of watching plays, then it must be Heartstrings latest play Husband for Breakfast.

The plot was, at best, harried, devoid of the key ingredients that make up the Heartstrings plays that I have come to know and love: Improvisation, Kenyanness and spot-on humour.

It seemed like a jumbled up version of a cross between a Festival of Creative arts play and a Phoenix Theatre play.

Themed around infidelity, the plot revolved around two philanderers and a thief/conman trying to outwit one another- in the non-wittiest ways.

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(A lost chapter from One Day I Will Write About This Place)

11 July, 2000.

This is not the right version of events.

Hey mum. I was putting my head on her shoulder, that last afternoon before she died. She was lying on her hospital bed. Kenyatta. Intensive Care. Critical Care. There. Because this time I will not be away in South Africa, fucking things up in that chaotic way of mine. I will arrive on time, and be there when she dies. My heart arrives on time. I am holding my dying mother’s hand. I am lifting her hand. Her hand will be swollen with diabetes. Her organs are failing. Hey mum. Ooooh. My mind sighs. My heart! I am whispering in her ear. She is awake, listening, soft calm loving, with my head right inside in her breathspace. She is so big – my mother, in this world, near the next world, each breath slow, but steady, as it should be. Inhale. She can carry everything. I will whisper, louder, in my minds-breath. To hers. She will listen, even if she doesn’t hear. Can she?

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