{SALON NAIROBI}

In the spring 2007, Salon opened in Nairobi via a transatlantic connection established between Salon founder, Nita Noveno, and Kwani? Readings founder, June Wanjiru Wainaina. Since then, Salon Nairobi has grown into a unique, well-rounded gathering that not only engages the audience, but leaves one with a sense of pride at the achievements of Kenyan writers in reflecting the rights, and the wrongs of the Kenya they live in and love.

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{SALON NAIROBI BLOG}

Kenya’s Post Election Crisis: Finding Meaning

Recently received this important request from an editor at Kwani, a literary magazine from Kenya:

If meaning has been manipulated leading to us killing each other, let us manipulate it so that we do not kill each other. – Prof. Wambui Mwangi

In the last couple of weeks, a group of Kenyan writers has been meeting to analyze and whack out ways to respond to the post-election crisis in Kenya.
One way has been through the production of a series of opinion pieces under the byline “Concerned Kenyan Writers”. These pieces have and continue to be placed in various media outlets locally (Nairobi Star, Daily Nation and The East African) and internationally (New York Times, South Africa’s Mail & Guardian and Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung).

The aim of these opinion pieces has been:

* to present a human face to the Kenyan post-election crisis
* to counter the static images and impressions of escalating
violence and anarchy in the foreign press &
* to document this turning point in our nation’s history for posterity.

Many articles have been written and many more continue to be written. With the express permission of all the writers involved and with the intention of keeping the conversation and the emerging dialogue alive we will, among other things, publish some of those pieces on the Kwani? blog over the next few weeks.

We know that what we have now are just a fraction of the voices and we are willing to throw this space open for all those others, be they writers, ideologues, social scientists or else, that wish to join us.

Send us an email through [email protected] or drop us a comment in the comments box of the blog (http://www.kwani.org/blog).

There are also many other people that are doing what we are doing: examining and re-examining the Kenyan situation. We look forward to working with them towards building broader and more efficient synergies.

Please do not respond directly to this email. For all general inquiries email [email protected]

Charles Matathia
Online Editor
Email: [email protected]
Blog: http://www.kwani.org/blog


Kenya News on Kwani Blog

What is Kwani? Kwani Trust was established in 2003. It is dedicated to nurturing and developing Kenya’s and Africa’s intellectual, creative and imagination resources through strategic literary interventions. Kwani Trust houses and distributes literary products and services globally. Kwani Trust, under the guidance of trustees, is overseen by its founding editor, Binyavanga Wainaina supported by key staff; a corps of literary associates, and friends from Kenya, the African continent and the rest of the creative world.

What does Kwani do?

* Edit and publish the foremost literary journal in the region representing new regional literary voices
* Locate, nurture and develop literary talents from as wide a segment of East African society as possible
* Work towards expanding the reading and contemporary story creation culture in Kenya
* Actively build links into the different spheres of African and other writing and stimulate shared creative initiatives
* Represent and promote the works of new authors associated with the Kwani experience both in Kenya and abroad
* Forge collaborations with institutions and individuals to present, develop and support literary and other creative ventures
* Seek, establish and forge regional and global literary linkages with writers, publishers, editors, agents and policy makers to stimulate imaginative and creative exchanges that contribute proactively to global dialogue in a variety of issues
* Proactively move literature into other creative spaces and expand literary audiences and clients of literature

For more news and stories from Kenya, we urge you to read the blog from Kwani?, Kenya’s premier literary magazine: http://kwani.org/blog/.


Kenya update

Over the past few weeks, we’ve received messages from our fellow writers and friends in Kenya about the conflicts rising from the recent presidential elections and want to share with you their perspectives. Please consider signing the on-line petition at the end calling for an urgent resolution to the electoral crisis:

Jan. 5th

Hi Nita and Caroline,

Nice of you guys to keep in touch. I’m sure you’ve seen alot of it on CNN. Its been pretty bad, elections gone bad, politicians gone crazy, Kenya in a mess. No one ever thought Kenya could end up this way. Its all about the elections, there was a bit of rigging going on and the tallying of presidential votes had irregularities. Kibaki, the past and present president had himself quickly sworn in. All this has made the opposition furious and their supporters are up in arms. Their first demand before any talks begin is that the president should resign. But the president will most likely not. Now the problem comes because each leader banked on their tribes to vote them in. So these supporters are now taking it personal with the supporters of their opponents (or perceived supporters ie. those of a different community) and thats why its going this way.It’s Raila’s vs Kibaki’s people.

But there’s a class issue involved. The middle class are up in arms against the violence, they feel nothing about who wins or looses, they are not killing their neighbours. Its the poorer classes that are fueling and involved in the violence- those that have nothing to lose, everything to gain. The anomie is a good opportunity for them to loot shops and steal from neighbours and everyone around.

Thats how its been so far, but i think the tension is going down. nothing has been solved so far but at least Nairobi has been almost normal today and yesterday. I think most of the writers you guys met last time are okay, havent heard any bad news yet.

Thats how it is for now. I’m not sure if there’s much you or even any of us can do; its these bonehead politicians that need to sit down and reolve the problem. But a zillion thanks for your offer. Thats the story for now i guess.

Cheers.

Kingwa

***

Jan. 6th

Hello, everyone. Greetings from Nairobi, Kenya. Thank you for your prayers and concern. Since all of you have asked how we are doing, I am sending this “global email message” as the best way to update you all.

We are struggling along here in Kenya. Prayers please for peace and harmony. The TV reports on BBC and CCN are accurate, but at times over-dramatized. Presently there are 250,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Kenya mainly Kikuyu. John Allen’s article in NCR — “Catholics must walk carefully in Kenya ‘s political crisis” — is insightful. We are hopeful that a Coalition or Cross-Party Government (Government of National Unity) will emerge.

The mood in Nairobi seems to change from day to day. Fortunately the section where the Maryknoll Society House is located is calm. But post-election violence continues especially in the slum areas.

I am reminded of a recent New York Times article that said that multiparty democracy in Africa is messy and unpredictable. Nkrumah, the first President of Ghana, said: “We prefer self government in danger to servitude in tranquility.”

Two personal notes. Here in Kenya I am working with the various members of the team of our new website:

Small Christian Communities Global Collaborative Website

www.smallchristiancommunities.org

The Kenyan members come from different ethnic groups (including Kikuyu and Luo) and different churches and religious denominations. We are trying to model unity, collaboration and solidarity.

On 16 January, 2008 I will begin teaching a course on “Small Christian Communities — A New Model of Church in Africa” at Hekima College, the Jesuit Theologate here in Nairobi. From Ecclesia in Africa — Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation on the First African Synod (14 September, 1995) I will use a quotation from Number 89 under Living (or Vital) Christian Communities: “Above all, these small communities are to be committed to living Christ’s love for everybody, a love which transcends the limits of natural solidarity of clans, tribes or other interest groups.” This is the challenge for us here in Kenya right now. The SCCs can be an agent for bringing the different ethnic groups together.

Peace, Joe Healey
Rev. Joseph G. Healey, M.M.
Maryknoll Society
P.O. Box 43058
00100 Nairobi, Kenya

***

Jan. 18th

Dear Friends,

I have just read and signed the online petition:

“Call for Urgent Resolution of Kenya Electoral Crisis”

hosted on the web by PetitionOnline.com, the free online petition
service, at:

http://www.PetitionOnline.com/kenya08/

I personally agree with what this petition says, and I think you might
agree, too. If you can spare a moment, please take a look, and consider
signing yourself.


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{SALON NAIROBI RECENT WRITERS}

Charles A. Matathia

Charles A. Matathia is an M.A Candidate in Sociology (Criminology) at the University of Nairobi. His focus is on the criminalization of the politicized subaltern. He describes himself as a social scientist who writes.


Muthoni Garland

Muthoni Garland is the author of the novella, Tracking the Scent of My Mother, published by Storymoja. She is also a member of Concerned Kenyan Writers, a coalition whose purpose is to use our writing skills to help save Kenya in this polarized time.


David Kaiza

Born in 1975 in the north Ugandan town of Aboke, David Kaiza lived in Kampala for 21 years because of the war and attended Makerere University which he graduated from in 1999. He worked as a journalist for the regional newspaper, The EastAfrican for many years where he was also a literary-cultural critic. A fine artist as well, he also did some television work where he was a story teller as well as animator. He has some experience in craftsmanship, particularly brass which has a history – although forgotten – where he was born. His publication in the forthcoming Kwani? 05 is his first lengthy creative output.


Billy Kahora

Billy Kahora is Kwani? and Special Projects Editor. He also writes fiction and has recently completed an MS.c in Creative Writing with distinction and as a Chevening Scholar at the University of Edinburgh.
Billy studied and worked in South Africa for 8 years. After leaving South Africa Billy wrote ‘The True Story of David Munyakei’, an extended non-fiction piece with literary elements for Kwani? and joined the organization to spearhead a new kind of journalism: a journalism that can go beyond the dry official voices of the last 40 years and open up the new socio-cultural and socio-political spaces that are emerging in the country by the use of literary elements. He has been published in Vanity Fair, Cape Times, the Mail and Guardian and the East African Standard. He has also extensively covered the youth hip-hop scene in Nairobi for the British Council’s WAPI (Words and Pictures) landmark project. He was recently highly commended for his short story, ‘Treadmill Love’ by the 2007 Caine Prize judges. He is currently working on a novel based on his short story, ‘The Applications’ published in Kwani? 3 and is also collaborating on a non-fiction book on environmental corruption in Kenya.


Sarah Simons

Sarah Simons has a postgraduate background is education, development studies and forensic criminology. She is a trained crime investigator specializing in mapping analysis and research. Now venturing into crime fiction, she likes writing with a strong African flavour. She lives in Nairobi with her Dutch husband and two very sportive teenage children.


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{ABOUT SALON NAIROBI}

Sunday Salon, Nairobi—the name incorrectly provokes images of domed hairdryers and the scent of singed well-oiled hair. And what better day to let ones hair down than a Sunday? A prose reading series, held also in New York, Chicago and now Nairobi, was a welcome re-introduction of a purely prose platform to the city. The kwani? Readings started as far back as 2003 as a promotional platform featuring readings from kwani?, typically by a polished thespian. June Wanjiru, founder and (sometime) host of the kwani? Readings and the kwani? Poetry Open Mic, met Sunday Salon founder and host, Nita Novena, at the kwani? Litfest and wasted no time securing this franchise for the glorious Green City in the Sun.

Sunday Salon, Nairobi (SSN) was indeed a “coming home” for the literati of Nairobi. Writers of prose had long expressed their desire for their own forum, away from the madding crowd, so to speak. The first ever SSN, in March 2007, featured heavyweights Dayo Forster, Muthoni Garland, Stanley Gazemba and Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, best known for her Caine Prize-winning book, Weight of Whispers(Kwani Trust, 2005 and 2007). Later that year, Shuster& Shuster launched Dayo Forster's first novel, Reading the Ceiling, to much critical international acclaim for this Gambian writer resident in Kenya. Muthoni Garland published her Caine Prize short-listed story, Tracking the Scent of my Mother, under her newly formed publishing house, Story Moja (http://storymojakenya.blogspot.com). Both these writers have had their work published in kwani?

Held every third Sunday of the month at Kengeles Lavington Green, the event also showcases budding local musicians. A clear favourite is Anto, the neo-soul singer whose captivating voice is coupled with an uncanny ability to compose songs at a moment's whim. The choice of venue is apt - this particular Kengeles (Kiswahili for bell) franchise, run by Gavin Bell himself - has an idyllic garden and larger-than-life fish tank as backdrop to the candle-lit stage. The intimacy of the setting belies its capacity - while the average attendance is closer to sixty, crowds as large as ninety have been hosted without loosing the communal fireside ambience.

Punctuality is a main featurei—at 7pm, the event begins. The fading warmth of the setting sun is taken over by the notes of live music before the readings begin. Host June Wanjiru typically welcomes the audience, extolling those who may have spilled over from the bar to encourage the writers by listening to their stories. Each reader has a fifteen minute slot, and is introduced by the host off-stage—a clear attempt at smooth transition, and a far cry from host-dominated events. A brief musical interval is taken after two readings, during which a few first-time latecomers make their way to the (cheap) seats at the back of the garden. Indeed it is best to arrive at the venue well before 7pm, and even take advantage of the free entry offered before 6.30pm.

The event is, on the whole, a unique, well-rounded evening of quality entertainment that not only engages the audience but leaves one with a sense of pride at the achievements of our writers in reflecting the rights, and the wrongs, of the Kenya we live in and love.