How wonderful to be with young writers?
BY JOSEPH ADERO NGALA
NAIROBI-KENYA, JULY 16, 2008
Rev Fr Joseph Healey, a Maryknoll missionary has a joke that Mzungu (white man) has the watch, while an African has the time. It means for an African as renowned Ugandan born novel writer, Okot p-Bitek describes there is no special time scheduled for eating, drinking and dancing. Orak is the most informal dance of the Acoli people who has no special occasion for it, and to hold a meeting for that no chief’s authority or permission is required.
This is exactly what happened on July 15, 2008 when People for Peace in Africa and Kwani Trust young writers held dinner together at Smart Village , Adams Arcade, Nairobi . About 25 writers from Kenya , Uganda and Gambia attended the function.
People who turned in solidarity with PPA and Kwani included Emeritus Bishop Paride Taban of Torit, Sudan diocese, and a renowned American writer and journalist, Father Joseph Healey, MM, Ronald Pagnucco, Associate Professor and the chairman of the Department of Peace studies at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint Johns University, Minnesota, US and Mark Barwick, Executive Secretary, Pax Christi International, Greater Horn of Africa Regional Network. Also in attendance was Juma Abiola, formerly of Royal Media. He is also a writer.
Father Joachiam Omolo Ouko, Apostles of Jesus missionary (AJ) in his soft spoken word said the old writers should encourage young writers to come up as a team to write, especially on African and religious values through stories, proverbs and fictions.
He said the history of Africa can only be written by young Africans and he was inspired with what took place in one hundred days in Kenya when young concerned citizen writers took the charge and compiled many stories in Sarafina in Nigeria and also Wajibu magazine with its special edition, “Kenya Redefining Ourselves.”
The stories were written by young writers like Alison Owour, Andia Kisia, Caine prize winner Yvonne Owour, Betty Miragori and Muthoni Garland. The stories are very impressive and touchy. The stories tell of the neglected poor people, failure to address historical injustices and the call for dialogue, peacemaking caring and sharing.
Bishop Paride was not only so excited to see young writers who have gathered together to write educative and informal stories, but also for writing on African issues. He said who would be very grateful if Kwani and PPA could visit him at Kuron Holy Trinity Peace Village in Sudan to help him come up with write ups concerning the people in that region.
Father Joseph Healey MM in his part was so excited to meet Caine Prize winner, Yvonne Owour, Kenya , Monica Arac de Nyeko from Uganda and the past mentioned second best of the Caine Prize.
Wearing his lovable African Kitenge T-shirt, father Healey said he is going to exchange many views with Father Alvaro, a Jesuit priest who resides at Georgetown University . He also promised he will continue assisting young African writers to make sure their works spread.
Father Healey who just turned 70 years old recently has for decades encouraged African writers. It was his wish that many priests like father Omolo, religious men and women be trained journalists. He is particularly very happy with father Omolo for his courage in writing without fear or intimidation.
The writers later also discussed the post election crisis in Kenya . Father Omolo shared his experience with the 300, 000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) majority of whom he said have never been resettled, but even few who have been resettled the life will never be the same.
Some of the writers who attended the function included Muthoni Garland, the author of the novella, Tracking the Scent of My Mother and a member of Concerned Kenyan Writers, a coalition whose purpose is to use writing skills to help save Kenya in this polarized time. Muthoni Garland was nominated for the Caine Prize in 2006. She is also one of the directors of Story Moja Productions.
Martin Kimani has previously been a Teaching Fellow at the Joint Services Command and Staff College in Shrivenham , UK and an Associate of the Conflict Security and Development Group of King’s College of the University of London . Kimani is also a member of Concerned Kenyan Writers, a coalition whose purpose is to use writing skills to help save Kenya in this polarised time.
Dayo Forster was born in The Gambia in West Africa . She is the author of Reading the Ceiling. She studied statistics and computing at the London School of Economics and took up writing aged 35, while living in America . She also participated in the 2006 Caine Prize Writer’s Workshop, during which she produced a new story, which was published in an anthology, The Obituary Tango.
Monica Arac de Nyeko is an Acoli from Kitgum , Uganda . She is the author of a short fiction story’ Back Home is forthcoming in the New African Writer’s anthology’. She graduated from Makerere University and Groningen University with a BA in Education and a MA in Humanitarian Assistance. A member of the Uganda Women Writers Association (FEMRITE), she was short-listed for the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2004 for her short story Strange Fruit and won first prize in the Women’s World Voices in War Zones for her personal essay In the Stars. She was a teacher of Literature and English at St Mary’s College Kisubi before moving to study for a Masters in Humanitarian Assistance at the University of Groningen . She sees herself as part of the new generation of African writers seeking an imperative voice in Africa today:
Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor holds a BA degree in Linguistics, English and History from Jomo Kenyatta University and an MA (TV/Video Development) degree from the University of Reading in Britain . In 2003 Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor beat a field of 120 African writers to clinch the prestigious Caine Book Prize for African short story writing with Weight of Whispers, narrated by an aristocratic Rwandan refugee in the aftermath of the 1994 massacres.
This year’s Caine Prize went to South Africa ’s Henrietta Rose-Innes for Poison from ‘Africa Pens’ published by Spearhead, an imprint of New Africa Books, Cape Town , 2007. She was also shortlisted for the Caine Prize in 2007 for her short story Bad Places. Henrietta was born in Cape Town and obtained her MA in Creative Writing at the University of Cape Town , after also studying archaeology and biological anthropology.
People for Peace in Africa (PPA), P O Box 14877, Nairobi, 00800, Westlands, Kenya
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