The African Writers Trust’s Moonscapes: Short Stories and Poetry anthology made its Nairobi debut at the Goethe Nairobi on February 9th, 2017. The event included speeches by the trust’s Diana Santiago and a keynote address by Isaac Otidi Amuke. Excerpts from three of the stories in the anthology were read at the event by the writers.
The Goethe Institut in Nairobi was the scene of the launch of one of the most anticipated books in a while; the Moonscapes: Short Stories and Poetry anthology. The event was kicked off by the Goethe’s Eliphas Nyamogo followed by a speech by the African Writers Trust’s Diana Santiago representing her boss Goretti Kyomuhendo.
This new anthology was part of a project run by the African Writers Trust to get more professionals in the publishing industry. The idea was to get more professionals who would be able to run the process of publishing from the story writing all the way to layout, and even to launch phase. It started with a series of workshops which were run by professionals like Ellah Allfrey and James Woodhouse. The participants of these workshops were trained on proofreading, editing and other vital skills and came from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Somalia.
The next stage was for the participants to submit stories for an anthology that would be available for our reading pleasure. This was where Moonscapes: Short Stories and Poetry edited by James Woodhouse came in. It had stories written by writers from Ugandan, Kenyan, Tanzania, Zambia, Sierra Leone and many others with fiction exploring urban life, work life, sex, love and romance. The book made its debut in two other cities in the past few years with Dar es Salaam and Kampala getting a chance to see it before Nairobi.
With the speech about the process by Diana done we could get to the writers. Those who were represented today were Millicent Muthoni, Stella Riunga and Muthoni wa Gichuru. The former was out of town covering the Sauti Za Busara Festival and was represented by Maimouna Jallow while the latter two represented themselves. The session was moderated by Lucas Wafula.
We started with Stella Riunga and her story Tunu The Invisible the story of a young woman who gets into a relationship with a much older man. Then we went to Millicent Muthoni’s Date Night about a tumultuous relationship between a woman in her mid fourties and a man in his late twenties. The stories were wrapped up with Muthoni wa Gichuru’s tragic tale Fourty-Two Steps Up a tragic tale of a young woman who lives on the streets of Nairobi. This was followed by discussions about the stories led by a humourous and knowledgable Lucas Wafula.
In between the discussions, there was a poem in Kiswahili by Tito Wawire which spoke about tribe and how we as a nation need to stop letting it ruling our minds. It was an apt message as we head towards an election in August that looks like it will be very interesting. At the very least.
The evening ended with a keynote address by Isaac Otidi Amuke who was sweating something crazy in the light at the Goethe. Isaac is well known for his nonfiction work and is currently working on a two-part memoir on student activism and life as an asylum seeker. He had also attended the workshops that birthed the anthology but unfortunately his specialty meant that he wouldn’t feature in the anthology which was to be for either fiction or poetry. His keynote referenced “the simple words” of Wole Soyinka that he had been in the now famous Africa 39 anthology. It was on the role of literature and the writer.
With the speeches and discussion done, all could leave at their convenience. Below are some images from the proceedings at the Goethe.