Wrote an essay for Jalada, a writers’ collective I’m part of, in the bonus edition of The Language Issue. This piece has been rolling around my head for a few years now.
That phrase made me fall in love with pidgin right there in the backseat of a taxi in sweltering Lagos as I listened to an exchange between the cabbie and a mallam, a security guard.
I’d heard it before but it wasn’t until then that I realized the power in reassigning meaning. It called to mind radical feminist and writer, Audre Lorde’s belief that the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. Here was a challenge. Here was, in fact, a clever subversion of the Queen’s English.
Nigeria, like many other West African nations, managed to mutate what would become a bitter and crucial component of colonial rule to create a veritable new language. Remoulding the language until it rolled off their tongues to their taste.
Keep reading here
Ever since Just A Band released Hey! 7 years ago, I’ve felt a strong kinship with these guys. I loved them (and Hey!) so much I once designed for Boflo (the puppet in Hey!) a cousin called Shokolokobangoshe, a foul-mouthed diva.
I’ve written about them a few times in my journalism career with the latest and most exciting being for Just A Book, their newly launched art book that focuses on the visual art the band does i.e. the graphic designs, artworks and videos. The book also includes a lot of behind-the-scenes material from video shoots and that 5,000-word profile on JAB that I was commissioned to write.
I’ve always enjoyed solving problems and festivals flare up with so many little editorial and production fires that for some reason I really like putting out. I’ve been worked in and around literary festivals for the last eight years. With Storymoja alone I’ve happily bobbed around as a volunteer handing out programmes, worked as a media partner while at UP Magazine as well as taught a session at the festival.
Festival work is often maddening and exhilarating but quickly over in a few days. The memories though, those can last a lifetime.
I’ve admired the political blog, Brainstorm ever since it was launched in 2013 by Kenyan writers and feminists Brenda Wambui and Michael Onsando. With the tagline, “Intelligent. Kenyan.” the site was launched to address the need for critical thought on the Kenyan experience. The goal was to “look at Kenya from the inside” and they promised to do so through a new post every Tuesday.
Well, today they put up my essay on the history and nature of public discourse on sex.
I haven’t put up the essay’s title in full because some of this blog’s subscribers are my family members and many of them are sensitive about what they consider “coarse language”. I want to assure them—and any others who may feel the same—that this is something you want to read, or rather keep reading beyond the title and first paragraph…
Dear Dr. Nyairo,
Thank you for expressing your honest thoughts here about the state of Kenyan fiction but I take issue with several points in your article. The biggest one being that you would publish a piece titled, “An elegy on the death of Kenyan fiction” when Yvonne Adhiambo Owour’s searing debut novel, Dust was published in 2013 and her Caine Prize winning story “Weight of Whispers” in 2003.
Dust is the great Kenyan novel. The accolades that span the globe and the sheer, undeniable brilliance of Yvonne’s writing rightly crowns it so. But that is my opinion, so I know you (and others) may feel differently. However if you asked me if “that great Kenyan novel will eventually come” I’d say that it is here. It has been here for the last two years.