Kenya’s literature is ailing but our local languages can save it

Yahya Mutuku’s Tunanie Kikamba: Ivuku ya Amanyiwa, Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Kenda Muiyuru: Rugano rwa Gikuyu na Mumbi, and collectively authored Nafufurahie Kigiryam. PHOTO| WILLIAM OERI

What you need to know:

  • Except for Ngugi’s, the other books were primarily designated for the current “Competency-Based Curriculum” for schools.
  • As we got talking about the dynamics of publishing in mother tongue in Kenya, we revisited the then public debate on the schools’ curriculum review process, and the historical language debate in African literature, about which I shall comment shortly.

Few poems have the punch of Antonio Jacinto’s “Letter to a Contract Worker”, in which the persona laments his inability to express his love and mourn the pain of separation because, “ … oh my love, I cannot understand / why it is, why, why, why it is, my dear / that you cannot read / and I — Oh the hopelessness! — cannot write!”

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