Makena Maganjo

A star is born as Makena Maganjo’s “South B’s Finest” launches in Nairobi.

Kenya’s newest writing star Makena Maganjo launched her debut novel South B’s Finest at the Goethe-Institut, Nairobi on Thursday, March 5, 2020.

The Goethe-Institut has hosted some of the biggest names in writing from Kenya and across the continent. It was here that the newest name in Kenyan writing Makena Maganjo and her new novel South B’s Finest were unveiled to the world this past Thursday. The new book follows the lives of three families in South B’s Malaba Estate from when they meet in the early 1990s until the early 2010s.

The launch event, organised by Santuri Media, featured a panel of Dr Mshai Mwangola as moderator, Aleya Kassam as a reader for the book and the newly minted novelist herself Makena Maganjo. The evening started with our moderator asking the audience to socialise as they partook of South B’s finest cuisine… Mandazi, Samosa, Mabuyu, Cashata, and the sweets called ‘coo’. As we enjoyed the finest cuisine, we listened to music from the early 1990s now referred to as “zilizopendwa” by anyone under the age of 30.

Aleya Kassam, Mshai Mwangola, and Makena Maganjo
Aleya Kassam, Mshai Mwangola, and Makena Maganjo

The panel began with our moderator going over the book which centres on estate life in the period that the book was cataloguing. We learnt that the novelist had a degree in economics and had started a business that failed because of factors out of her and her partner’s control. Then she dabbled in writing some fiction before meeting a personal hero, Dr Joyce Nyairo, who inspired her to write this book. She read some sections from the new publication to the delight of those present. The other panellist was roped in to give opinions (glowing) and read a couple of her favourite sections from the book.

With the readings and official moderation done, Dr Mwangola asked for any questions from the audience for the novelist and here we espied two schools of questions with the gender divide noticeable. In one (mainly guys) she was asked “hard hitting questions” about whether this was really fiction, why the moderator would call it the heart of the nation, and whether she had done her homework. The other questions (mainly ladies) were mostly supportive; when they weren’t congratulating the author, they were asking her questions on forms, themes and the like.

The evening’s highlight was when Prof Catherine Muhoma announced that the book was officially launched to the applause of the packed audience. Nairobi has a new person to add to its bosom of many amazing writers.

I’ve read the book. It’s good. I couldn’t recommend it more. Get your copy either at Nuria, at Amazon or a physical version at Prestige Books in Nairobi.

Here are some videos from the events at the Goethe taken with my trusty cellphone.

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