Billy Kahora’s short fiction and creative non-fiction has appeared in Chimurenga, McSweeney’s, Granta Online, Internazionale and Vanity Fair and Kwani. He has written a non-fiction novella titled The True Story Of David Munyakei. His story Urban Zoning was shortlisted for the prize in 2012, The Gorilla’s Apprentice in 2014. He wrote the screenplay for Soul Boy and co-wrote Nairobi Half Life which both won the Kalasha awards. He is working on a novel titled The Applications. A short story collection The Cape Cod Bicycle War and Other Youthful Follies will be released soon. As Managing Editor of Kwani Trust he has edited 7 issues of the Kwani journal and other Kwani publications including Nairobi 24 and Kenya Burning. He is also a Contributing Editor with the Chimurenga Chronic. He has been Kwani Litfest Curator since 2008 and recently curated Kwani Litfest 2015 Writers In Conversation: Beyond The Map Of English. Carey Baraka talked to him about his short story on Enkare Review, World Pawa, and his fiction-writing.
Ayesha Harruna Attah is the author of Harmattan Rain, Saturday’s Shadows, and The Hundred Wells of Salaga. She grew up in Accra, Ghana and was educated at Mount Holyoke College, Columbia University, and New York University. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Asymptote Magazine, and the 2010 Caine Prize Writers’ Anthology. Attah is an Instituto Sacatar Fellow and was awarded the 2016 Miles Morland Foundation Scholarship for nonfiction. She lives in Senegal. Carey Baraka had a conversation with her about The Hundred Wells of Salaga, her writing, and other things in-between.
January 11th, 2018. Members of the Too Early for Birds crew are seated inside Kenya National Theatre, just off the stage. They are unable to rehearse because of delays with the décor. There is a familiar reggae track playing in the background, a work song for the carpenters and painters onstage. The crew is talking, with Abu Sense (real name Abubakar Majid) using his phone as a microphone. Abu is a handsome man, with a small build and a light brown complexion. His face, about which a lot has been tweeted and posted on Facebook, and which is not-too-subtly used by the show as a marketing gimmick, meshes with his beard in a way that suggests a cute chubbiness when younger, and at the same time somehow confuses one as to whether he is Swahili, Arab or Barawa. Whenever he gets on stage, one is surprised at how loud he becomes, but at this point, neither his face nor his voice are important. What is important is the conversation that has developed this evening as an alternative to the full run of the play they were supposed to do. This conversation, which Ngartia J. Bryan, a cast member who alongside Abu is normally accepted as the public face of Too Early for Birds, keeps on interrupting with his puns, is supposed to be turned into a podcast later. The conversation, conducted in Sheng’, centres on domestic violence. Elsaphan Njora, another cast member, swears to stay out of other people’s fights. Brian Ogola, a cast member who plays Patrick Shaw, the extra-judicial-killing supporting, underage-student-recruiting white supremacist settler Patrick David Shaw, as loud and abrasive offstage as he is onstage, is regaling his listeners with tales of the fights he has witnessed. At one point, he talks about his parents. “That shit, it confuses you. And you end up hating your mother. On the one hand, she is telling you be strong, to be a man. On the other, she is staying in this violent relationship. Hii mambo ya we belong together is absolute nonsense.” Elsaphan asks, in a Ndii-esque manner, “Would you rather stay in that relationship and die? Because sometimes that’s the choice.”
Our sense of self is normally tied to a picture of what home is for us. To many of us, home is defined by a particular location and with reference to a particular group of people. Should any of these factors change, then our entire conception of home, and therefore, our ideas of self, risk being destroyed. Think Jende and Neni, the main characters in Imbolo Mbue’s Behold The Dreamers, losing themselves in the United States because the US is not Limbe. Think Isaiah Bolton in Yvonne Adhiambo’s Dust travelling to Wuoth Ogik to pursue the memory of his father. But what does it mean when the physicality and demographic of home remain constant, but neither of the two can remember the person? Is the person’s home still their home?