Legendary Kenyan publisher Henry Chakava will celebrate his 70th birthday with the launch of his memoir Coming of Age: Strides in African Publishing.
Henry Chakava who has often been called ‘the father of Kenyan publishing’ has been a colossus in African publishing for four decades. He started as an editor subsequently rose to managing director of then international publishing house Heinemann Educational Books; that move took only four years. Whilst here, he was involved in the publication and promotion of high-profile African writers including Ali Mazrui, Chinua Achebe, Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye, Meja Mwangi, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o and Okot p’Bitek.
When Heinemann left Kenya, he took over the company which became East African Educational Publishers in 1992 and eventually extended the company’s footprint to Tanzania and Uganda and even further afield.
Since then, Chakava has been at the forefront of publishing in the country with the core business of his company being on books for schools. Even with that he kept publishing fiction with his biggest client being Kenya’s father of letters Ngugi Wa Thiong’o. He also continues to publishing younger stars like Nigerian writer Diekoye Oyeyinka whose book Stillborn (our review) was introduced to so both Nigerian and Kenyan markets to much acclaim.
Chakava opted for getting the feeling of the writer as he is set to launch his book Coming of Age: Strides in African Publishing in this Thursday in a Nairobi hotel. The book promises to delve into publishing some of the people who we all grew up reading in the African Writers Series. He will be doing the book launch in conjunction with his seventieth birthday which incidentally is today.
Hopefully the editor turned writer won’t just give us only the official stuff that we know about these writers but some of the more juicy stuff. Why did Ngugi stop using James for instance? Did he do it because he had decided to go full African or did he do it just so that he could avoid the bar bill at his local bar? Was Chinua Achebe bow legged like that legendary character in Things Fall Apart? While it might be wishful thinking we can only hope that will dish on these legends.
Happy birthday Henry Chakava. And have a great book launch sire.
Update: The book launch came and went and it wasn’t for a memoir but for a book of essay. Read more about it here.