Jeff Mandila has proven to be one of the fastest rising stars in production of Kiswahili literature in Kenya in the past few years.
Born in Namunyiri village Likuyani Western Kenya, he has a Bachelor of Education degree from Bugema SDA University (BED) and an MBA from Kisii University (MBA).
Jeff has authored several Swahili books among them; Sikitiko la Sambaya, Upepo wa Mvua, Narejea Nyumbani, Mkosi Mkuu,Tunda la Msimu, Safari ya Ahadi na Hadithi Nyingine (editor) Zaidi ya Mipaka, Paa Lavuja, and Kigoda cha Simanzi na Hadithi Nyingine (editor).
He won Wahome Mutahi Literary Prize award in 2012 and 2014.
Mandila has taught Kiswahili in several high schools; ACK Ziwa in Uasin Gishu, Talai in Baringo and Loreto Convent in Matunda.
He currently works as the Personal Assistant to Deputy Governor of Kakamega County Government.
Which book do you hold so dear that it can’t possibly be lent out?
Narejea Nyumbani which was published by Jomo Kenyatta Foundation.
Your childhood favorite book?
Mimba Ingali Mimba by Owen MCOnyango (editor)
Who is your literary crush? (Not a book character but a real person you admire in the lit world)
Ng’ang’a Mbugua (Writer)
What’s your greatest fear?
The way Kiswahili is considered as minor language in Kenya and those who use it in public forums, are considered not educated.
Most embarrassing writing mistake ever?
In my play; Tunda la Msimu I wrote about core values that the county government should adopt. I wanted the system of governance that will enhance integrity, transparency and accountability, respect for national diversity, commitment and public participation.
I felt I had done a mistake by trying to correct the culture that was in place.
If you were to dine with three writers dead/alive, who would they be and why?
Pauline Kea Kyovi: I would ask Pauline Kea Kyovi why she chose to write Kigogo. What was she thinking about and why? Why Kigogo?
Emmanuel Mbogo: I would ask Emmanuel Mbogo to explain to me more about those children he talked about in his book Watoto wa Mama N’tilie. This is the only book I have read while shedding tears. The most touching story from an African writer.
Burhani: I would just ask Z. Burhani to come up with a play. She only wrote novels, I would like to see her hand in plays and dramas
Most unforgettable character from a book?
Mzee Mwinyi from Kiu by S.M Mohamed.
Which book do you wish you had written and why?
Bustani ya Edeni. Setting of this book fits any African child. Emmanuel Mbogo clearly showed how Africans are supposed to live and interact. I personally like the themes of the book. I was impressed with the way he chose his characters.
Greatest craft sin you have committed?
To admire to have been born or lived in Rwanda so as to have more knowledge about the 1993-1994 genocide.
If you were sent off to Robben Island for a year, which three books would you take with you?
Nisamehe Mamaby Ben Mkota (One Planet Publisher), Mashetani wa Aleppo by Tom Olali (JKF Publisher) and Kusadikika by Shaaban Robert (Evans Publisher)
If you weren’t an artist/writer, what would you be?
Any other fun/interesting thing you’ve always wanted to tell readers?
I want to inform readers that I’m living in these days of people like Jeff Mandila where we write books to get money, but wish I would have lived in the those days of Shaaban bin Robert, Elvis Musiba, Ben Mtobwa, Mike Sikawa, Adam Lusekelo, Prof. Seith Chachage Chachage, Mohamed Said Abdallah (MSA), Prof. Katama Mkangi, Jay Masinga Kitsao, Hassan Mwalimu Mbega and Yuda Komora.
Those are the days that writers could write by passion, not for money.
BY THE BOOK is a literary series that covers authors, bloggers, actors, academics and poets of note in the African continent. For comments or inquiries, e-mail: [email protected]