It has been said that Kenyans have a poor reading culture, but with the writing and open mic sessions explosion Tony Mochama believes change is coming
âWe are the hollow men, the stuffed men, leaning together.
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when we whisper together, are quiet and meaningless...â
The above piece by the great Nobel laureate poet, T.S. Eliot, could have been describing Kenyaâs literary scene in the late 1990s, when the British Council (under George Muruli) was the only venue open to local poets and writers.
KUâs Caroline Nderitu, Moses Man, poet-architect Alf Omenya, Caroline Mbuthia, KJ (John Kiarie) and myself would perform to about a dozen folk â most of them theatre types who had turned up for the tea and samosa.
Fast-forward 12 years later, and the poetry open mics, and writers who have come out of the closet, are as common as oxygen.
From the jungle park poetry of Namatsia Lukoye, to Annabelle Oâs, to Sitawa Smalls to Oliver Mathengeâs âBar Stoolâ at Giggles that has attracted the support of NIC bank, nice.
In fact, on Tuesday, Bonita Belle, who MCees the original Kwani open mic event at Club Soundd sounded off on Facebook: "I wish I could fast-forward to Kwani Open Mic to-nite! Until then, I have to go thru six crew members, 1 boss, 1 client, 1 housemate and her Indian landlady, a cast of three, and a quack cook with a fake*** accent. Kwani rocks!"
On the writing scene, Storymoja, the new kid on the publishing block, is doing a lot. On top of locking horns with our non-reading culture through initiatives like A Reading Nation (where they are trying to break the Guinness record for mass reading from a text, hopefully, a Muthoni Garland story), Doreen Baingana and her people like young Lee la Poeta have a great website that carries contemporary youthful creative tales.
Sure, Ed Baruâs story could do with far less scenery intensity, and Susan Munywokiâs Cold Feet on a Sunny Day use fewer flashbacks â but this Storymoja web-tales are a good start for young writers.
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