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Dancing a few language steps with Ngugi and exciting young writers

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By AUSTIN BUKENYA
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“Cutting a caper”, that is what the English call dancing a few delighted or delightful steps. That, indeed, seemed to be what we were doing last week at the USIU-A Main Campus in Kasarani, as we launched the book Ngugi: Reflections on His Life of Writing.

The book, edited by US-based Professors Simon Gikandi and Ndirangu Wachanga, is both by him and on him. Compiled to celebrate our legendary author’s hitting the 80-year old mark, last year, it is a collection, in different genres, of scholarly and personal impressions of and responses to Ngugi and his work.

The maestro himself graciously contributes a few of his own pieces to the volume. My own paper, “Language à la Ngugi (language according to Ngugi)”, was supposed to be in there but it somehow missed the train. But what delighted me most about the launch of the book was that Mzee Ngugi was back in Kenya within the space of just a few months.

I did not get to meet Prof Ngugi when he was here in February, but one event that stuck in my mind from that visit was his launching, in Kisii, of Ekegusii Nekiya (Ekegusii Is Good) by Jane Bosibori Obuchi.

I noted, from media reports, that the Prof enthusiastically congratulated Ms Obuchi on her contribution to the growth and promotion of local languages and urged her to carry on with the good work.

Well, it appears that this lady needed little urging. Already, I understand, she is working on several texts in Ekegusii, including a dictionary, collections of short stories and a linguistic study of naming systems among her people.

She has even translated one of Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s own stories into Ekegusii.

But what struck me was that, even as Ngugi was, appropriately, praising Jane Obuchi’s work in Ekegusii, many of us were reading and enjoying her scrumptious English “narrative”, Latest Diary of a Kenyan. I mentioned to you that the Diary was one of the three women’s books I was reading around International Women’s Day, the other two being Yvonne Owuor’s The Dragonfly Sea and Assumpta Matei’s Kiswahili novel, Chozi la Heri.

It would be a bit of overkill to comment further on The Dragonfly Sea, which is already well on its meteoric flight to international fame.

Anyway, different dancers, different steps. Owuor delicately weaves handfuls of strands into one beautiful, mkeka-like story.

Obuchi, on the other hand, in Latest Diary, strategically adopts the diary form and free-fleeting main characters that move from situation to situation revealing not only themselves but also the heart and soul of their society.

Obuchi’s leading character and first-person narrator, Lucy Nyambuche Nyabusero, and her grandmother and sidekick, Sigara, relentlessly sweep us through hilarious encounters with artful dodgers who never repay those little loans they cadge from you.

We bump into rogue politicians who break their promises even as they make them, and even outrageous entrepreneurs planning to set up day care centres for those ‘boy child’ husbands who need constant supervision and care to prevent them from straying.

My literary friends, like Profs Busolo Wegesa, Iribe Mwangi and Ken Walibora, who obviously enjoyed reading Jane Obuchi’s book, seem to agree that she is emerging as a dominant satirical voice, at least in the prose genre.

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Yet as in all good satire, there is, beneath all the banter and the wit, an underlying criticism and denunciation of the real evils eating at the heart of our society, like ethnic chauvinism, petty egotism and political opportunism.

Concern with similar evils is also evident in Assumpta Matei’s Chozi la Heri (a tear of blessing), though in a considerably heavier tone than Obuchi’s. Chozi, which is currently a prescribed book on Kenya’s secondary school Kiswahili syllabus, is the story of a wide range of characters, mainly young people, from different backgrounds, joined together in one strong bond of suffering brought about by social, political and economic delinquency.

The blessing amid the tears is, apparently, the existence of a few truly good-hearted people who are willing and prepared to rescue and assist the victims.

The forte of Matei’s novel is its elegantly powerful language. The book is a real stylistic feat, and feast, in idiomatic, modern standard Kiswahili. Matei writes with such a melodious fluency that even when, as with many of us, you come across an unfamiliar turn of phrase, you will feel motivated to check it out in order to enhance your reading pleasure.

Speaking of Kiswahili writing, however, reminds me that Jane Obuchi, with whom we started, also writes and publishes in Kiswahili as well. One of her short stories, for example, called “Kamba Ghali” (a costly rope), is included in the collection Vazi la Mhudumu (the garb of the minister), edited by my colleagues and friends, Iribemwangi and Hamisi Babusa, and also recommended by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) for study on some Kiswahili syllabi.

This brings me to the most important point I wanted to make about Mzee Ngugi and his unbounded enthusiasm for writing in our home languages. I fully support the enterprise and, indeed, like Jane Obuchi, I write in all three of my major languages, Luganda, English and Kiswahili.

But I differ with him regarding the assumption that we should privilege, in creative endeavours, any of the languages in which we live.

I cannot fail to celebrate Yvonne Owuor and her colleagues just because they write in English. Nor can I be indifferent to Assumpta Matei’s novel because it is in Kiswahili, our veritable goldmine, and a home language to boot, towards which Mzee Ngugi appears to be guardedly cool.

Similarly, it would be a pity if our appreciation of Jane Obuchi’s writings in Ekegusii should blind us to the irrepressible humour and biting satire of her writings in Kiswahili and English.

I would prefer to have it all and devour it all, as best I can, whether in English, Dholuo, Kikamba, Kiswahili, Ekegusii or Sheng.

Prof Bukenya is a leading East African scholar of English and literature; [email protected]

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Mmeona hii? Pastor Kanyari ditches old look for this new fashion (Photos)

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Pastor Kanyari

Controversial man of God pastor Victor Kanyari has been going on with business as usual.

Also read;

The self-proclaimed prophet, who now goes by the name Bishop Mwangi of Salvation Healing Ministry, has changed his wardrobe.

The father of two has ditched his oversized, shinny red suits (prophet’s uniform) for a more sophisticated look.

Also read;

 

Kanyari has now switched to Nigerian attires and has been sharing photos just to let those who don’t attend his church know that he has upgraded.

Check out his latest photos

 

Pastor KanyariPastor KanyariPastor KanyariPastor Kanyari

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Pastor KanyariPastor Kanyari

Pastor KanyariPastor KanyariPastor Kanyari

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Kenyan Youth Will Bury Us in Large Numbers

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The Kenyan youth is one of the most downtrodden in any democratic nation in the world.

Almost six decades since the country gained independence from the colonialist, ukoloni mamboleo remains and the youth bear the brunt of it. Interestingly in politics, most of those who fall in the category above the youth bracket which is 35 years find government jobs easily in Kenya than those who could help move the country forward.

In fact, the president has been on record saying that the Kenya youth cannot be trusted with government jobs because they are corrupt.

See: Kenya, a Country of Very Selective Amnesia

In December 2018, Uhuru Kenyatta defended the decision to appoint former Vice President Moody Awori to the Sports, Culture and Social Development Fund Board, saying he had lost trust in the young generation.

“I saw that I was being criticized yesterday for appointing a 91-year-old to look after the youth’s sports fund…lakini jameni you put yourself in my shoes. Ukiona vile pesa inaibiwa and this is money that we went and passed the other day to support health programmes… halafu useme tupatie kijana, mimi afadhali bana nikae na huyo mzee achunge hiyo pesa na itumike vile inatakikana! Watu wawachane na mimi bana sitaki mambo mingi…” he said.

But we are living in interesting times.

Ali Gire, the gentleman who is more patritic than many holding government jobs today has been demonised and even branded a criminal because he chose to fight ineptness by those mandated to run this country.

Gire became a target after recording and sharing a video of a Chinese plane landing at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) when China was still in the heat of the covid-19 coronavirus.

The Kenya Airways employee was suspended for the recording where 239 China nationals aboard a China Southern Airline were allowed into the country and asked to ‘self-quarantine’.

And now, “It is the responsibility of the youth to secure the nation. God in his wisdom has decided to place the youth at this particular time, so that they can take responsibility of this disease,” said the Health CS Mutahi Kagwe in his April 4, 2020 update.

Read: 10 Things Uhuru Must Accomplish Under 24 Months

It is indeed interesting times that God has just realised there are youth in this country who can be used during the outbreak of the deadly covid-19 coronavirus. What an abuse and twisted view intended to misuse the very population that has been abused for decades.

“There is a generation that fought for independence and did its part, there are those who fought for the economy and the constitution. I appeal to you, it is now your turn as others have done, to protect this country,” added Kagwe.

It is almost laughable that such an inane statement can be coming from a government that has made it its sole mandate to frustrate the youth left right and centre. There are no jobs with most of these young men and women confined to the corners of the economy where they are expedient for the political elite.

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“If you don’t, you will suffer the most. There will be no jobs and a collapsed economy. It is you who will bury us in large numbers. However, the path ahead is clear, you have to be part of the solution,” the CS added.

Ironically, most of the youths he is imploring do not have passports and if they do, they have not been allowed to use them due to the tough economic times. The passports are just a means to escaping the country that has betrayed them and killed their hopes by stealing their future.

The CS proposes that the youth can organize themselves into groups and assist the security agencies to ensure that people maintain social distance.

As it has been and continues to be, the youth are only good for the menial tasks and not holding public offices. Kagwe is very well in order following the script that has been entrenched in a country that is bursting on the seams with youth who only need an enabling environment to make great things happen.

Also read: Too Late or Just in Time: Government’s Handling of Coronavirus in Kenya

And now to the big issue.

The youth in Kenya did not let in the coronavirus but those who are responsible for it are still enjoying all the trappings of power.

In addition, the youth may not have a grip of the complexities in running a country and so they do not deserve what they have been clamouring for. But when it comes to disasters, these same people who are unacceptable in public office qualify to be in the frontline because they are the expendables.

In Kagwe’s words, the youth will bury these politicians in large numbers.

Covid-19 coronavirus is the equaliser now that all the politicians have scampered and can only follow what is happening from the safety of their homes- albeit at the expense of the taxpayer. Interestingly, they are not falling sick requiring medical attention abroad and if they are, they are doing well keeping this under wraps.

Read >> Hold 4G for Now, Mr President, and Sort Most Urgent Things

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Coronavirus victims to be buried within 24 hrs, CAS says

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The Government has directed that persons who succumb to corona Virus must be buried within 24 hours.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Health Chief Administrative Secretary Dr. Mercy Mwangangi said the burials will only be attended by close family members.

The CAS said this as she announced that 16 more people have tested positive for the coronavirus in the last 24 hours bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 142.

Dr. Mwangangi says of the number 15 are Kenyan while one is a Nigerian national.

Get breaking news on your Mobile as-it-happens. SMS ‘NEWS’ to 20153

Nine of the new cases were people put on quarantine on arrival from abroad before the Kenyan airspace was closed for international commercial flights.

The CAS said production of masks is ongoing and they will be distributed at county level to curb the spread of the virus.

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The government however maintains that those on mandatory quarantine must strictly adhere to self-isolation if they want to b discharged early.

Four people have succumbed to coronavirus, among them Captain Daudi Kibati, a Kenya Airways pilot who contracted the virus on the airline’s last flight from New York that evacuated stranded Kenyans two weeks ago.

 

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