AfricAvenir is proud to introduce the Kenyan author and literary scholar Wanjohi Wa Makokha, who will be giving a poetry reading on Friday, 6 May 2011 at 7 pm at the Listros Gallery in Berlin. He will be presenting his poetry book Nest of Stones: Kenyan Narratives in Verse, which will be followed by an open discussion about the situation in Kenya in the aftermath of the presidential elections in 2007/8.
„No poet is an island. We exist in our work because poetry itself and other poets, past, present and future, exist.“ Through this statement, Makokha draws our attention to a key feature of his work: its interrelatedness with the work of other authors as well as references to everyday Kenyan reality. As many other young Kenyan authors, he seeks to give historical weight to his work by using it as a tool for understanding and commenting current events, thus contributing to writing Kenyan history.
Contemporary Kenyan history in verse
Makokha’s Nest of Stones: Kenyan Narratives in Verse, published by the African Books Collective, deals among other things with the unrest that resulted from the presidential elections in 2007/8 and that continues to destabilize Kenya to this day. Following the reinstatement of the incumbent president Mwai Kibaki, the opposition had expressed serious doubts concerning the outcome of the elections, which it claimed had been rigged. Violent confrontations followed and led to the death of many. nIn his verses, Wa Makokha picks up on the absurdity of bloodshed and provides an impressive portrait of these restless times. His pointed observation of reality shuns any idealization and turns a specifically Kenyan theme into a universal one, since topics such as the human community, the “nation” construct and the experience of “ethnic” and political division are not unique to East Africa. Recent events in Northern Africa have brought the continent to the centre of international attention. Yet news reports from Libya, Egypt and Tunisia should not just trigger general attention, they should also stimulate thoughts about the Western World’s political responsibility and the question of a human community beyond state borders.
Through his political poetry, Wa Makokha seeks to encourage a move towards a more humane and united world. Poetry for Makokha, then, is not „just“ art: it is a way of coming closer to the dream of a better world.
„Poetry as a literary genre is probably the most suitable for expressing pain and hope in times of crisis .“ Kenya 360
„Wa Makokha writes poetry as architecture, as sculpture, as visual and structural engagement (…) Reading this book is like entering a gallery of words.“ Shailja Patel, Kenyan author and social activist
„Wa Makokha’s verses whisper, speak, scream, cry and laugh at once. They take you on a journey into their history, their pain, their silence, their loudness. They tease you with their urbanized Kiswahili, which the poet is so familiar with; they catapult you to the outmost edge of reflection and propel you back to their clarity. They are beautiful in their fundamental essence.“ Dr Susan N. Kiguli, Ugandan poet, in ‚The African Saga‘ (1998)
„The verses in ‚Nest of Stones‘ form a line, a parodising, mocking, teasing chain suggesting an alternative ethical dimension in a virtually subtle fashion. They are energetic, poetic and penetrating. The poet’s tone is mystical yet revealing; he formulates the questions without being explicit or condescending. In this book, Wa Makokha politicizes the poetry of memory in order to reach beyond a pathetic and painful present, which seems to be incapable of bringing anything but more pain.“ Professor Ali Jimale Ahmed, Somali poet, in ‚Fear is a Cow‘ (2002)
„A stirringly poetic and emotional collection – from the heart of a passionate young Kenyan with an authentically African voice. He reflects upon the roughness of the PEV-era and compels us to look at ourselves in the mirror.“ Sandra Mushi, Tanzanian poet, in „Rhythm of my Rhymes“ (2007)
While the author, born in 1979, has his poetic work published under the pseudonym Wanjohi Wa Makokha, as a literary scholar he is mainly known as Justus Kizito Siboe Makokha, currently at the Institute for English Philology of the Free University in Berlin. His main research and teaching focus there is English-language literature from Asia and Africa. In 2010, he, together with other literary scholars, published a volume of essays titled Tales, Tellers and Tale-Making: Critical Studies on literary stylistics and narrative styles in contemporary African Literature, which deals with different literary genres and trends in Africa today. The volume exemplarily analyses different representative works of well-known African authors, for which it forms a solid basis.
Nest of Stones – Poetry Reading with Wanjohi Wa Makokha
Friday, 6 May 2011, 7pm
Kurfürstenstr. 33, 10785 Berlin
U1, M85 Kurfürstenstraße
Entry 5 € / concessions 3€