Stories of Drug Trafficking & Obama Cousin linkage told at Sunday Salon Nairobi

For the first time since Kwani started Sunday Salon evenings over a year ago, I graced the much acclaimed evening for Kenyan writers and book enthusiasts.

Due to its location and timing (every 3rd Sunday of the month from 7.00 – 9.30pm at Kengeles Lavington green) I have never been able to make it (am still on pre-paid transport service)I however know that it’s a great venue not only for book lovers but also for those into literature as it offers a great forum for seeing new talent as well as networking opportunities.

We arrived there promptly (the event also started punctually). It was already houseful and we had to wait briefly for some seats to be availed. I was quick to note June (the event MC) and Annette (Kwani -publicity) who was quite ecstatic over my surprise visit.

The evening started with some cool backup jazz music and vocals by Anto, the opening act for the event.

Shortly after Anto’s performance, the first readings were by a writer, Ken Kamoche. Ken Kamoche’s debut collection of short stories, A Fragile Hope, made the Frank O’Connor long list in 2007 and the Commonwealth Writers First Book short list in 2008. He also won second prize in the 2007 Olaudah Equiano Prize for African Fiction for A Glimpse of Hope. Ken’s stories have appeared in magazines like Ambit, Wasafiri, Kunapipi, New York Stories and in various anthologies, including Dreams, Miracles and Jazz recently released by Picador. For a day job, Ken works as a professor of management, currently at Nottingham Business School. He’s also a columnist for the Sunday Nation.

He read an excerpt from one of his books, which is a work of fiction. His was a story of a Zambian married man entangled in an interracial relationship with an Asian lady whilst pursuing studies in China. His dilemma as the lady discovers she is pregnant with his baby yet he has a family back home.

Unfortunately the book was not available at the display desk or in local bookstores. He advised those interested to check out his website.

Next was Susan Njeru, a fairly new entrant into the writers club. She has not yet published her work.. She did her undergraduate degree in Business Administration in Nairobi, and her Master’s degree in Urban Policy at the New School University in New York. She currently works in tax administration for the Government of Kenya.

She read essays from two short works of fiction she has written on her relationships with men (It was an interesting story and very well told) and her relationship with in-laws.

Samuel Munene whom I first met at the GoDown Art Center during finals of the ‘To be a man’ competition in which he was one of the 3 winners, had a piece on his relations with Senator Obama.

His elaboration of this linkage and a letter which he was drafting to his ‘uncle’ left the whole crowd in fits of laughter. His ability to use humor and satire in his work and more so his subject matter would make one think that he’s had shot at it before. It was brilliant. It turned out, he had written that piece the previous evening. When asked during the Q &A session how he managed to transcend two forms of writing with such ease(poetry and short stories) his answer was “It just happened”. Now is that brilliance or what?

He was however a bit shaken by the crowd (my guess is that he hasn’t graced that many public speaking forums as a speaker) as he kept skipping his words and his voice sounded a bit wobbly.

Judy Akinyi, aka Saga McOdongo, First graced local dailies for her unfortunate brush with the law when she was nabbed with Heroin at JKIA in the year 2001. She was a teacher at the Kenya Polytechnic until 2001 when she was introduced to drug trafficking by one of the most feared operators in the murky business at the time. She was jailed for 11 years for trafficking in drugs but the sentence was commuted on appeal. She was recently released from prison and has published a book about her experiences, Deadly Money Maker.

She was reading an extract from her book which was inspired by the experience she went through Kenyan prisons and the self realization of what the drugs she had intended to traffic were affecting peoples live.

As she answered questions from the audience, one could tell that she was clearly a naïve victim of circumstances who never knew what she had gotten herself into. She did not disclose why she had been enticed into transporting the drugs from Pakistan, urging us to buy a copy of the book. I however noted that the writer was clearly a first timer in writing. (The story has lots of repetition on occurrences and is told in plain prose)It however gives a firsthand account of what happens in Kenyan women’s prisons.

The Question and Answer session was a lengthy one which allowed the audience to prod the 4 writers on their inspiration, hopes and choice of themes and style as well as commend them.

It was way past 9.30 when I eventually decided to call it a night having spotted the likes of Muthoni Garland of Storymoja, Al Kags, Murua (he informed me he eventually wore the wedding dress- for those who have been following his escapades), Binyavanga, Prof. Wambui Mwangi and finally Dr. Chakava, the Chairman East African Educational Publishers, a veteran in the African Book publishing Industry had also graced the occasion (talk of love for writing).

Annette informed me that the crowd was the biggest they’ve ever seen, Kudos to Kwani. I hope I will be able to make it for the next one.

About Kenyan Poet

Showcasing the best in Kenyan Arts;Music,writing,Poetry,fine art and art reviews as well as info on emerging art trends. “Art is not about thinking something up. It is the opposite…getting something down.”