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Atieno Yo author Marjorie Oludhe MacGoye takes the final bow

By George Orido | Dec 2nd 2015 | 4 min read
Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye

Curtains have come down on Kenya's prolific novelist and poet Majorie Oludhe MacGoye who died at her home in Nairobi Tuesday afternoon at the age of 87.

Majorie best known as Nyaloka for her close friends, family and colleagues is best remembered for literary works especially her book Coming To Birth that at some stage was a national set book for candidates of literature in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education.

The novel Coming To Birth won the Sinclair Prize in 1986.

Yet her poem Atieno Yo is a masterpiece of a depiction of the plight of the African Girl-child and women whose toil and sweat of the brow is hardly acknowledged.

She wrote this poems ages before the development agenda to crusade for the rights of the girl child took shape and she is credited thus as the pioneer for the fight of the right of the girl child in Kenya.

Kenya's Afrofusion Diva Suzanna Owiyo couldn't resist the allure to get those words from Atieno Yoo into music and became an instant hit making it her favorite song in the many international appearances including the star studded Nelson Mandela Birthday concert in London.

She was born in Southampton City before she came to East Africa where she met her love Oludhe MacGoye along the lakeside western part of Kenya.

Tributes came in flowing from Kenyans and fans of this Martriach who along with Grace Ogot and Asenath Bole Odaga were pioneers and Woman Power literati from Nyanza at the onset of independence.

Her works are rated in the ranks of Nungi wa Thiong'o. Okello Oculli, taban Lo Lyong', Micere Mugo among other East African great authors.

"I first met Majorie in 1973 when she was the library Manager at University of Dar es Salaam and I cannot forget her measure of humility,” recalls Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Nairobi Chris Lukorito Wanjala.

At that time Majorie had already published two poems in the East Africa Journal working along Okot P'Bitek, Tabam, Oculi and Joseph Buruga.

"With this association she became a true Nyar Loka mastering the Lwo tradition and idioms. She was a chronicler of Kenya's artistic history," says Prof Wanjala who adds that Majorie led a very vibrant life and that she was a true mother of letters.

Renowned filmmaker and teacher Dr. Edwin Nyutho described Majorie as a person whose deep understanding of the human spirit and her concern for the downtrodden in her writings will live forever.

"Oludhe to me was a symbol of all that is good, that is caring, that is humble, and that is eloquent. She is the best fusion between the West and Africa," he says.

Archeologist and Peace Building expert Maurice Amollo Amollo remembers Majorie as someone who deeply believed in the transformation of society and that she defended and articulated women's' rights in a passionate and persuasive approach.

"Majorie knew how to bridge gaps and would interact with both academia and the people in the lower echelons of society with equal ease. She ever challenged roadblocks to our shared ideals," says Amollo who is the Deputy Country Director for the Mercy Corps, a nonprofit involved in peace building efforts across the country and its neighbours as well.

Journalist John Lawrence and a former teacher of Literature says, "Teaching Coming to Birth was such an experience to behold. Rest well NyaSouthamptom."

NOPE Executive Director Philip Waweru showered Majorie with accolades for her direction and unequivocal defense of the rights and space for the women.

"We have been greatly inspired by her works to have the African Woman in a place that does not discriminate nor close opportunities for her,” he said as he boarded a Kenya Airways flight to Entebbe with colleagues Peter Onyancha and Charles Njenga on a mission to promote gender empowerment programmes in Uganda yesterday.

Her other works include Freedom Song, Song of Nyar Loka, the Present Moment, Street Life, Murder in Majengo, Chira, Homing In, and winner of Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature, A Farm Called Kishinev.

Marjorie's first born son George MacGoye has described her mother as  a strong woman who raised them well. He told The Standard that there are daily meetings at their home in Ngara and on Monday and Tuesday 5pm the meetings will be at All Saints Cathedral .

A memorial service will be at St John's ACK next Wednesday whilst another service will be at the All Saints Cathedral on Thursday. The funeral will take place at Gem Kambare, Siaya County on December 12. Marjorie is survived by three sons George, Francis and Lawrence as well as a daughter Phyllis who is the first born.

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