I penda reading sana sana, yani I will read anything, when I watch TV I find myself reading something with my ears sikilizaing the tv na hata kama it’s the label of something hiyo nitasoma pia. Hata inside a bus I’ll be somaing those signs like ‘ati manufactured by Stagecoach ltd., 47 standing, 50 sitting.’ Na pia when I finish reading a newspaper I’ll turn back, reluctant ati the newspaper has malizikad and soma those ads and notices (ati “notice to tender”).
Aside from the jungu novels that we used to soma (manze I kumbuka all sorts of literature in our hao and in chuo libraries – who ever somad those filthy Westerns about womanisers who said ‘yeee-haah’ au that dirty French kitabu called ‘Emanuelle’ – wehh!! It’s filthy kabisa).
Who ever used to frequent the Kenya National Library? Namwambia kila siku if you pitad past it there would be a mlolongo of people, and pia inside it was so sweaty it made a Kenya bus (saa sa rush hour) seem like a BA lounge. Ai ai, lakini yenyewe can anyone deny having one or two Kenya National Library books at home, hata to this day, nahamjawai return them? Those books were somwad and re-somwad hata the pages were like “woi please acha me I rest kidogo.”
My favourite Kenyan author is Grace Ogot. The way she anddikas you just visualise every single scene of her novels or short stories. I was reading ‘Land Without Thunder’ again recently and I was like “yawa” the lady wrote so beautifully. Now I know what the ‘ayaye’ phrase means. Ha ha. You’ll be semaing ‘ayaye’ ovyo ovyo by the end of the novel.
Siku za high school we somad ‘Elizabeth’, the Grace Ogot short storo about a secretary who was harassed by her boss. Yenyewe are there any secretaries somaing this, pliz eleza us the situation siku hizi, if y’all get groped by your boss like those secretaries of zamani. Wapelekeni FIDA mbiyo. Pia there was that short storo about a guy who kulad a nyama (liver) that an eagle had droped, and he endad hapa na pale looking for the source of that meat, hadi he became a carni ‘cause he was so obsessed with the taste of that meat. Funzo mbaya!
Ah- and who used to hepa to library during high school prep (the compulsory preps after supper, sijui till bed time)? Manze I used to soma novels during prep, ati pretending it was for an English lit. assignment. I somad Ngugi wa Thiongo’s ‘A Grain of Wheat’ lakini how ironic that I first somad his kitabu (the banned one) ‘I Will Marry When I Want’ in an ulaya library!! [It’s not about a jamaa refusing to get married ha ha] But my favourite Ngugi book is ‘Devil on the Cross.’ Hilarious is not a strong enough word. Yani that is satire kabisa, kabisa. The bits about Harambee speeches had me chekaing so much my stomach hurt with nguvu.
We had an English teachay who used to be involved in the Kenyan National Theatre, and she was so inspiring, lakini she hepad the occupation and joined the theatre fulltime. I wonder if she’s a playwright siku hizi.
Mnakumbuka those kitamaduni ‘comic’ books (i.e. illustrated traditional stories)? Who somad ‘Lwanda Magere,’ ‘the beautiful Nyakio’… hata I don’t kumbuka the rest but they were mingi. There were also books of traditional stories for kiddos – yani if you don’t jua what happened when the hyena tried to attend two parties at the same time (he split at the cross roads), when the hare and the tortoise raced (hiyo storo imekuwa worldwide), when the donkey lengad housework permanently (it painted itself with stripes, hence becoming zebras of leo). Hah hah please someone kumbusha us more.
Oh and there were storos about orgres (chungeni sana ladies if you marry someone who lives inside a lake or river – huyo ni orgre kabisa for sure), about people eating groundnut stew, about leopards talking … ahh yani if we were born in the 1800s those were the storos we would have been told by wazee round the fire. Manze I want to eat groundnut stew now come to think of it.
One Swaha book that we read for Kiswahili lit. in primo was about a man and his mchumba. Weh-seh! You think some Taraab songs have naughtinesses hidden in metaphors and conk vocab? That kitabu had very vivid descriptions of them – err, procreating. Our teachay was a Giriama or from the coast and he understood the conk Swaha (we were bila kamusi in the lesson) and he was just chuckling to himself yet all we could decipher was “(something) (something) mchumba wake alishuka kitanda … (something) (something) moyo wake ukafilisika” and we were like huh? Hebu tuelezee.
Na surely everyone somad John Kiriamiti’s ‘Life of Crime.’ It had a reddish cover, and I will tafuta that book to re-soma it. Yani it was like heavy in detail (it was based on the guy’s own past) and it made you hold your bag tight next time you went sides of Tea Room. Na je Meja Mwangi’s novels. Ahh I’ve sahaud the title of the one I somad, it was about two ‘vagabonds’ (the 70s name for street urchins) and I kumbuka it had mingi swear words. I wish someone can write a Sheng version of a book like that.
There were also books like ‘A Soldier’s Wife’ by Pat Ngurukie (I think it put me off army men or those in uniforms), ‘Song of Lawino’ (hilarious domestic satire! Who somad the sequel?) by Okot p’Bitek. Oh and what about ‘Truphena The Student Nurse,’ which someone on this site kumbushad me of (by the same author who wrote ‘Pamela the Probation Officer’ – hebu someone remind me the author’s name).
All those narratives about characters eating millet, yams, cassava, sorghum porridge … Nani anapenda sorghum porride pia, it’s tamu sana. Fermented sorghum porridge with milk, lemon and sugar, woo I loved the stuff. Where in central Nai can someone buy millet, yams, cassava, sorghum? Hapo hapo you can buy Korean black bean balls and Thai glutinous rice lakini hamna millet na hamna cassava. Sio ungwana.
I hear kuna revival in Kenyan literature, it’s vizuri sana and I hope it continues.