Fatma Shafii. Photo/Fahdi Ahmed

On Monday, we announced a new initiative, Kenya Writes with Goethe-Institut Kenya, to showcase writers from Kenya. Today we kick off with our first writer Fatma Shafii who lives in Mombasa, Kenya.

Fatma Shafii is a Swahili writer who likes to write about human behaviour and emerging issues affecting the continent based in Mombasa. Her poems, fiction, and nonfiction have been published in various platforms including creativewritersleague.co.ke and the online literary magazine Lolwe. She is the founder of SHIWAKI (Shirika La Waandishi wa Kiswahili), an association of writers of the Swahili language. She is also one of the authors of Water Birds on the Lakeshore, the anthology of Afro Young Adult fiction, published in French, English, and Kiswahili. Go straight to the podcast by clicking here.

Here are the highlights of the interview:

On why she opted to write in Kiswahili.

It’s the love I have for my culture, the love I have for my language. Kiswahili was also my best subject in high school and primary. I just decided that if all of us won’t write in a second language, then who will. If we don’t preserve and grow our culture, I knew it will just end up dying just like many things that have gone just like that. It is my dream that I will one day be a lecturer of the Swahili language.

On being published at the Afro Young Adult anthology Waterbirds on the Lake Shore.

I submitted a story I initially gave to the Hekaya Initiative project with their permission and it was selected for the Dar es Salaam workshop. While there I learnt a lot about editing stories and from all the hard work we put in, my story was among the two stories made it into the anthology.

On whether she will continue writing for young adults.

Previously writing for young adults was my plan but this year I started thinking of writing for children between 3-7 years.

On attending Ake Festival

For me, it was a great great experience, it was very amazing. It was the first time meeting a lot of great writers. It was also my first time leaving the country so I was overexcited. I made networks and connections that to date are benefiting me in one way or another. I was able to get translation projects, from the writers that I met in Ake like with the Kalahari Short Story competition and others.

On SHIWAKI (Shirika La Waandishi wa Kiswahili) (English: Association of Writers in Kiswahili)

I discovered that the work of writers, especially in Mombasa and Lamu, ends up in their (journals) books and not in the different platforms where people can get to read their work. I realised that I can come up with a platform where anyone can read their work it would benefit both me and the writers. After Ake Festival I started receiving work for translation. I figured it best if I set up a platform for people to submit their work for translation.

On why Mombasa writers tend to write more poetry

Most people in Mombasa tend to write poetry as opposed to short stories as a result of the culture forexample people recite poems in weddings. Growing up in Mombasa, there was no reading culture which might attribute to why people write poems more and not short stories. We have older writers as opposed to the young and most of them write in English and not in Kiswahili.

List to the podcast by clicking here.