About James Wamathai

James Wamathai is a writer, performance poet, owner of a content and digital marketing startup (Wamathai Media), online publisher (Wamathai.com,Hapakenya.com), events manager, volunteer teacher and full time dreamer.

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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Prints_Mutua Matheka Photography Market-3

Photographer Mutua Matheka, well known for his awesome pictures of Nairobi, has today launched an online print market. Fans of his work can now buy print photographs at affordable prices.

The prints are available in the following sizes:

  • 6×8 inches – Kshs. 500
  • 8×12 inches – Kshs. 2,000
  • 12×18 inches – Kshs. 6,000

Mutua says that he’s been trying to figure out a way of getting his work in the hands of a lot of people and at an affordable price. He had this revelation after an exhibition last year that featured very large prints of his work whose price was out of reach of many Kenyans. The print market, he says, is also a way of getting photography appreciated in its physical form and not just online.

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Wamathai Spoken Word took an unintended break after the September event last year. Since then, I have been working to bring it back but I encountered a few challenges that delayed its return. I am glad to announce that Wamathai Spoken Word is back and with a more structured format and a larger venue. The next event will be on October 12th and the venue has shifted to the more spacious Louis Leakey Auditorium at the National Museum.

The event will be hosted by Sadia Ahmed. It will feature performances by Elani, Adelle Onyango, El Poet, Eudiah Kamonjo, Mwende Ngao and Raya Wambui. There will also be an art exhibition by Nduta Kariuki and Ian Weswa.

There will also be a DJ Set by David Mugo of Niaje.
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Authors Buffet

The writing space in Kenya has seen a bit of growth in recent years with the introduction of new writers . There has also been renewed interest by Kenyan readers in Kenyan literature. This has led to conversation on literature powered by book clubs, commentary in newspapers and blogs, and writing competitions geared towards discovery of new writers.

In the spirit of this new interest in literature, a group of writers have put together a joint book signing event dubbed the ‘Authors’ Buffet’. The event is scheduled to be held on Saturday 18th May at the Junction from 11am to 4pm.

The aim of the event is to give readers a chance to meet some of their the favourite authors. It also aims to create an opportunity for authors to share experiences and best practices especially with up and coming writers.
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There has been a concerted push for local content by the Kenyan government, through the I.C.T. Board, for a couple of years. They have even offered grants to companies to further the local content cause. You would imagine that by now we’d already have 40% of the content on our TVs locally made. This reality has been difficult to realize despite the goodwill of the government and presence of talented Kenyan creatives.

Scroll through the local TV stations at any time during the day and you will find them flooded with foreign content especially in the form of Nigerian movies and Mexican soaps. From a business perspective,makes some sense. It’s cheaper to buy this foreign content than to commission a local production. However, this is myopic as it will not lead to a sustainable TV and film industry. There have been cases where local producers have been offered similar amounts of money to produce their productions by broadcasters, that these broadcasters use to buy foreign content. This makes no sense, as in the former the content is already made and I highly doubt they had Kenya in mind when they were in production, and the latter is yet to be produced and hence requires adequate funds. There have also been claims made by filmmakers that broadcasters are not interested in high quality productions or certain story lines as they feel it will be ‘too much’ for Kenyans. Are we referring to the same Kenyans who watch ‘more advanced’ foreign content and understand it just fine?
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The pen is mightier than the sword. That is all well and good in philosophy and we can rant about the social revolutions brought on by the mighty pen. However, this cannot be said to be true when it comes to making a decent living. Art is considered a calling and to be an artist is to somewhat set yourself apart from the society. This generally means to be considered ‘strange’ by friends and family and to be constantly hounded with questions of when you will get yourself a ‘real’ job. As though there is such a thing as a fake job.

A writer is a loaded title. Everyone expects you to be a certain way. Ideally, this should include a whimsical nature and a general lack of an ability to adhere to social norms. On top of this ‘strangeness’ that is required of you, is the whiling of time spent on questionable substances and tumultuous relationships. The writing of course is considered a phase and everyone hopes you will one day snap out of it. If you however, continue to persist with said symptoms they may get worried but eventually will accept your chosen career path with a sigh and a comment like, “That’s how they are.”
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Hi Wamathai,

Just finished reading Given the right books at the right price, Kenyans actually read.

I feel that the most important question should be; are ENOUGH Kenyans reading for pleasure?

Yes, accessibility & affordability is KEY to nurturing a reading culture. I however feel something more important has been left out.  Attitude.

What is the Attitude of Kenyans in regard to reading for pleasure?  And most importantly, how is it impacting our children?

I’d love to find out (starting with Nairobi as accessibility is not such a major challenge here compared to other places):

-From the street book sellers & book stores: How many clients buy books for leisure?  What kind of books do they usually buy? How many are repeat/regular clients?

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The title of this memoir, written in 1980 and published posthumously in 2012, is quite appropriate as it chronicles the life of a man out to make a living and a home in a foreign land amid a myriad of challenges. David Hurd was a British National that settled in Kenya in the 1950s, first in Kisumu and eventually at the Coast in 1962.

The story begins with his arrival in Malindi with the hope of going into the fishing trade. He buys a boat Ghanima, meaning lucky or good fortune in Swahili, and alongside his business partner Kibanja Kenga, begins a somewhat successful fishing enterprise. He eventually leaves the fishing business to pursue running a restaurant, after happening on a semi-inhabited island off the coast of Malindi. The island came to be known as Robinson Island and he made his home on it.
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Street bookstore

“If you want to hide something from a Kenyan, put it in a book,” has been a favourite when it comes to lines used to mock Kenyans’ reading culture. There have been articles and television interviews done on the subject in a bid to unravel this mystery. Popular causes suggested for this affliction include our education system that makes literature a cramming competition for examinations and our general apathy when it comes to literature. I suppose we all know someone whose last read was their K.C.S.E. set book? Or perhaps, that someone is even you.

Publishers, elitists and the government have been some of the culprits who have been singled out for allowing Kenyan literature to go to the dogs. ‘The Kenyans Don’t Read Battalion’ is what I like to call these soldiers of literature that have specialized in pointing out every single thing that is wrong with the Kenyan literature scene. I agree that we could do more and it’s obvious that we are lagging behind as compared to other African countries. Our publishers are mostly publishing textbooks, most of our writers are published overseas and the spotlight is hardly shone on our writers that do well. Still, the battalion is telling only half the story.
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