Khalid Salleh, Jakki Kerubo and Oluoch Madiang.

Khalid Salleh, Jakki Kerubo and Oluoch Madiang.

Khalid Salleh, Oluoch Madiang and F Simiyu Barasa are the winners at the Nyanza Literary Festival 2017.

Over a dozen writers from all over Nyanza region gathered at the Kiboko Bay Resort for the Nyanza Literary Festival (NALIF) 2017 on September 23. They included advocate and short story writer P. Ochieng Ochieng, writer Khalid Salleh, poet and director Oluoch Madiang and editor and writer Beverly Akoyo Ochieng.The event discussed developments and challenges that writers undergo and saw the announcement of the winning poet, prose writer and playwright/screenwriter. The winners in the different categories left the event with a cheque of $500 each and a certificate.

NALIF is so named because it draws its participants from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda – all countries that have some claim to the nyanza that is Lake Victoria. Founder Jakki Kerubo recalled that she had started the festival so that she could grow a community of writers in the Nyanza area. “I am part of community of writers in New York and they have really helped me in my writing. I thought how I would have benefited from the same when I was still here and set up this festival to support local writers,” she said.

Oluoch Madiang won the poetry prize. Poets were encouraged to submit more than one poem and one of Madinag’s winning poems is entitled These Things She Carry. The poem evokes a woman burdened by many rules and restrictions. The first stanza reads:

These Things She Carry

These things she carry!
The old cents of loose change
Deposited in her piggy heart, & graffiti smudged on her bent back
& Poholes on the highway up her weary thighs,
& stale smoke that have her mind
These things carry, she will
Lay them on you before you’ll be through with joking with her fire.

Speaking about his win Madiang said, “Winning is always great, but greater still is the opportunity to engage with the bouquet of creative works that other colleague writers bring to the table for the competition. I feel enriched to have engaged in profound conversations as the finalists shared their experiences in creative writing.”

The short story winner this year was Khalid Salleh. Salleh isn’t a novice in the short story genre having already featured in highly regarded South African literary journal, The Short Story Is Dead, Long Live The Short Story! His story Heaven For A Sinner follows Onyi, a young man from Luanda in the West of Kenya, who flees his hometown after committing a crime with a childhood friend. While hiding out from the long arm of the law in the seedier parts of Nairobi, he decides to try and clean his act.

NALIF participants in session Photo/ Oluoch Madiang

NALIF participants in session Photo/ Oluoch Madiang

Speaking about winning the award Salleh said, “On a personal level, I’m honoured to receive the award. The fact that I even made the shortlist after being reviewed by such an accomplished panel will give me the motivation to keep writing. In the grand scheme of it, it’s an indication that the genre is alive and well. It’s very encouraging as writers to find audience on widely read platforms.”

The winner of the screenplay category was F Simiyu Barasa for his entry Family Meeting. Barasa is well known to people in the film industry having won in the Kalasha Awards for directing films like The History of Film and Lies that Bind. The judge in the 2011 Africa Movie Awards has also gotten a nomination for best drama in Africa at the Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards for How to find a Husband.

Barasa who received his award in absentia was impressed that a new award ceremony could give cash awards to its winner.

“I was very excited to win Nalif. In the seventeen years that I have been in this business, this is the first time that I have gotten a cash with an award,” he said.

Last year, Troy Onyango was the winner of the debut prize in prose, while the poetry prize was awarded to someone who turned out to have plagiarised resulting in the award being rescinded by the festival organisers. There was no winner in the playwright/screenwriter category. In its sophomore year, then, NALIF has already fast become bigger and better.