Transition, Penpoint, Busara, Viva, The Makerere Beat, The Native, Nexus, Mzalendo, Dhana, Joliso, Joe’s. Literary aficionados of the 1960s and 1970s will remember these as sites where fiction, poetry and non-fiction were arrayed and served to the reading public. Stories were told, books reviewed, the state of Kenya’s and East Africa’s soul dissected, lines drawn and the position on varied political ‘ways forward’ taken. Most writers of the time got their start there, some editing these journals and magazines, others contributing pieces. And this was, perhaps, their most important legacy.
The 90s saw a drought in literary activity, with the 2000s bringing with it life bustling action. While most of it has been in the form of poetry events and literary salons, Kwani?, Jahazi, Mwangaza, Sanaa, Wajibu, Awaaz and AMKA have kept the fire burning, never mind that some have since closed shop. Online, there are hubs such as Wamathai, Magunga and Potentash still paying pen to the literary art form.
If these journals and magazines were set up by people in their 30s, 40s and above, the younger generation has also been anxious to get its voice out, by creating its own platforms and spaces to display their work. The entry of Jalada, a writers collective, in 2015 was one such movement, and it has already gotten quite some buzz globally with its project translating Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s short story Upright Revolution: Or Why Humans Walk Upright into 54 languages. It is a network of writers determined to leave their mark (pencils and biros?) on the world, creating their own opportunities as they go, if that’s what it takes.
NEWEST KID IN TOWN
Enter Enkare Review, the newest kid in town. The brainchild of writers Troy Onyango, Carey Baraka and Alexis Teyie, all recent college graduates, the trio, has already scored a coup by receiving contributions from Dominican-American Pulitzer winning writer, Junot Diaz. At present, the team has submissions from Nigeria, South Africa, India, Latin America and the US, but very few from Kenya. This is a historic opportunity to elevate Kenyan writing.
Running as a quarterly online publication, the editors seek prose, poetry, letters and essays for their latest edition. Submitted works must be unpublished with fiction stories ranging between 1,500 and 7,500 words, non-fiction submissions no more than 5,000 words, and book reviews and personal letters capped at 1,500 words. For poetry, the word limit is four poems not exceeding seven pages. The submissions deadline is October 15. Submissions can be made to [email protected] More information can be found on their website: www.enkare.org.