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Creative Writing – Creative writing by Esther Katheu Mbithi
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Open letter to parliament and the people of Kenya

(From a “Wanjiku” who is very anxious to cast her vote.) Greetings and Happy Jamhuri Day! That was indeed a life-changing experience, as will be our next general election. Dear Members of Parliament, let us stop procrastinating and get on with the task at hand: prepare and prepare well, knowing that the next and future general elections will be held in August. This decision was made by Kenyans more than a year ago. Please stop wasting our time and money discussing it. It doesn’t have to be perfect. In...

(From a “Wanjiku” who is v...

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Unsettling dust, fifty years on

Unsettling dust, fifty years on… Book review of Dust, a 2013 novel by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor   Postcolonial theories have been elaborated, for the most part, by critics born in colonial situations. They have also been used (for the most part) to criticise the work of writers born in colonial situations but writing after independence. The novel Dust is a fictional work written by a writer born after independence. Here is a book that breathes new life into East African literature. Owuor’s Dust takes East African (and indeed postcolonial) literature,...

Unsettling dust, fifty years o...

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Names do not translate into African values

So the debate over European names versus African names has reared up its head again. And, it would seem, some have missed lessons from the last time, and the time before that. I have noted that the proponents of African names are making their arguments in English, instead of “drumming” them from ridge to ridge in mother-tongue. By what logical process do we arrive at the conclusion that the person who bears strictly African names will espouse African values and faithfully transmit African culture? More importantly, what...

So the debate over European na...

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MY MAGIC MOMENT

I am convinced that what Chinua Achebe once said of Nigerian drivers is equally true of Kenyan drivers – they rank among the most creative in the world. What they lack in road courtesy they more than make up for in creativity: they accelerate on approaching a zebra crossing; they signal “right” when turning “left”; they overtake on either side of the road; they drive at a speed of one hundred and forty kilometres an hour in a heavy downpour with zero visibility; matatus pick up...

I am convinced that what Chinu...

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TO LOVE or not

(This article was first published in the Carleton University Magazine of Spring 2008. It was then updated and submitted in view of the 2013 elections.) At the mention of the word “love”, the collective human psyche of the 21st century conjures up images of young men and women in the bloom of health, romantic picnics on top of the world, sinfully delicious melt-in-your-mouth chocolates, red roses, candle-lit dinners and sunsets in paradise – all of this, of course, culminating in a fairy tale wedding. In contrast, the reality...

(This article was first publis...

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MY STREET

My street … has no name. It’s a dirt track in a remote, rural corner of Machakos district in eastern Kenya. Were it to have a name, it would be “kamulu”, the Kamba word describing the ash-like colour of the fine dust that clings to your feet as you walk. And walk we must. It is the only form of transportation here. The first and most important investment those of us who live here make is to buy a pair of good walking shoes. The second is...

My street … has no name. It...

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Father of African Literature

TRIBUTE TO CHINUA ACHEBE, FATHER OF AFRICAN LITERATURE In 1958, when a 28-year old Chinua Achebe penned the words “Okonkwo was known throughout the nine villages of Umuofia and even beyond,” little did he know that the book Things Fall Apart, would make him, Achebe, well known throughout the seven continents and even beyond. Soon afterwards, he became infamous during the acrimonious language debates of the 1960s and 1970s for going against the lofty ideals and intricate academic theories of those agitating for a change in the...

TRIBUTE TO CHINUA ACHEBE, FATH...

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Welcome to the KU Post Modern Library

WOW! SPACE! AND MORE SPACE! WELCOME to the KU Post Modern Library, the latest addition to KU’s infrastructural developments. If you’re an early riser, look to the East for sky blue glass through which the morning sun looks like a star from another galaxy. For the late night birds, it’s the only building this side of KICC that glitters with one-thousand-and-one lights – it may well be visible from space to the naked eye. But please, come closer. Don’t be intimidated by the shining tiles, or the fact...

WOW! SPACE! AND MORE SPACE! ...

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DID YOU SAY ENERGY CRISIS?

One of these days I’m going to get myself a solar powered cooker. This is a promise I have made to myself every year for more than ten years now, usually during the month of August. The month of August holds a special place in the hearts of the Akamba people. The Akamba are long-distance traders who live in south eastern Kenya between Nairobi and Mombasa, more or less along the railway line that was built at the end of the nineteenth century and which is still...

One of these days I’m going ...

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A TRIBUTE TO WANGARI MAATHAI

For as long as the majority of Kenyans alive today have been on planet earth, the name Wangari Maathai has been synonymous with the environment, trees to be precise. And yet it was not until 2004, when Prof. Wangari Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, that we finally began to appreciate this humble woman. As fate would have it, electricity was being rationed, and the little that did come through was billed at what we considered exorbitant rates. We were lacking, and paying handsomely for...

For as long as the majority of...

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