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Kwani Trust ‘s 10th Year Anniversary Reflections

Press Releases

Kwani Trust ‘s 10th Year Anniversary Reflections

27th – 30th November 2013

Kwani Trust celebrates its 10th year Anniversary between 27th – 30th November 2013 by hosting a series of literary, creative and artistic events that reflect on its work and its place in the literary history of Kenya, East Africa and the continent.

In this spirit, we invite Nigerian Writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, as part of this reflection to give the Kwani? 10th Anniversary Lecture. This will reflect on 50 years of African Literature and the place of contemporary writing during this period.

Highlights: 
Thursday 28th November

  • 7.30pm: 10th Year Anniversary Benefit Gala, Westhouse (Ticketed at Ksh 5,000)

Friday 29th November

  • 11.00am-1.00pm: Public Lecture at Taifa Hall, University of Nairobi
  • 7.30pm: Launch of AMERICANAH  at Louis Leakey Auditorium, National Museum 

We also host Kenyan Writer, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor whose story WEIGHT OF WHISPERS was published in the first edition of the Kwani? Anthology in 2003, placing Kenyan contemporary literature and Kwani? on the regional and international map. Yvonne will be launching her debut novel, DUST, published by Kwani Trust in East Africa on November 27th 2013, and Knopf in the USA in January 2014.

Highlights  : 
Wednesday 27th November

  • 6.30.pm: Launch of DUST  

Thursday 28th November

  • 7.30pm: 10th Year Anniversary Benefit Gala, Westhouse (Ticketed at Ksh 5,000)

Offering a visual art retrospective that reflects on a shared sensibility between photographers, writers and other artists, the US-based Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu will be curating a video art installation to be featured at the closing of the anniversary’s reflections programming on 30th November 2013.

Wangechi Highlights :
Saturday 30th November

  • 7.30pm:  Video Art Installation & Closing Party 

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is the Winner of the Kwani? Manuscipt Project, launched in April 2012 and calling for the submission of unpublished novel manuscripts from African writers across the continent and in the diaspora. She will be awarded the first by Ellah Allfrey, Series Editor of the Kwani? Manuscript Project alongside Liberia's Saah Millimono who won 2nd place, and Kenya's Timothy Kiprop Kimutai who was awarded 3rd prize. 

Highlights
Thursday 28th November

  • 7.30pm: 10th Year Anniversary Benefit Gala, Westhouse (Ticketed at Ksh 5,000)

Saturday 30th November

  • 7.30pm:  Video Art Installation & Closing Party
  • Awarding of Kwani? Manuscript Prize Winners  

Chimamanda Adichie & Yvonne Owuor will further hold conversations with Kwani? Founding Editor, Binyavanga Wainaina, and the Kwani? Manuscipt Prize Editor Ellah Allfrey. Other programming includes the awarding of our recently concluded Kwani? Manuscript Project Prize winners.

About Kwani Trust : 2003 to Present

Founded by some of Kenya’s most notable contemporary writers including Binyavanga Wainaina and Parselelo Kantai, Kwani Trust is a Kenyan based literary network dedicated to developing quality creative writing and the growth of the creative industry through the publishing and distribution of contemporary African writing, offering training opportunities, producing literary events and establishing and maintaining global literary networks. Our vision is to create a society that uses its stories to see itself more coherently. Our organisation’s work serves writers and other artists including photographers and curators by leveraging Kwani Trust’s expertise to ensure that writers have the necessary skills, tools and opportunities to achieve and maintain long-term success.

Kwani Trust registered in 2003 ( see a full history here ) after a few writers, artists, filmmakers and journalists had started meeting informally to share their work, discuss the role of contemporary writing and expression in Kenya. Some key questions at the time included:

  • Are Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Meja Mwangi the only writers Kenyan publishers are interested in?
  • Why aren’t new writers being published in Kenya?
  • Why do mainstream publishers remain so uncommitted to new writers and new work? And is this a consequence of a lucrative textbook market?

This conversation grew and continued for months. Within two years, the conversations and its responses through the work of some of the writers was vindicated when the annual Caine Prize for African Writing was launched and awarded to Binyavanga Wainaina in 2002, and thereafter to Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor in 2003.

10 years later, Kwani Trust takes this opportunity to reflect on its internal development as an institution and its place as a literary and artistic organisation within the region and continent. A decade in literature and literary production is a single page in a considerable if not endless history of literary expression and narrative, as old as man himself; or at least as old as man telling stories. But it is that single page that builds up the long history and narrative. And it is that 10-year page that Kwani Trust wants to reflect on during the last 3 days of November 2013.

Beyond reflection, this anniversary programme offers a moment of thanksgiving. Kwani Trust owes a large debt of gratitude to tens of individuals who have it made its existence possible for the last 10 years. From the writers, artists and literary aficionados at the beginning, to those who carried the dreams of the latter through its early years to the present. To the support industries that make books beyond the individual writers possible, the printers, the reviewers, the bookshops, the academy and others. To regional, continental and international friends and colleagues. To donors, well-wishers, stakeholders.

Kwani Trust takes these three days to return thanks to all these individuals and institutions. During these 10 years Kwani Trust also reflects on some milestones:

  • Over one hundred new writers have been published in the seven issues of the Kwani? Journal out so far. Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, who was published by Kwani? In 2003, won the Caine Prize for African Writing that year. Parselelo Kantai was shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2004; Andia Kisia was awarded a fellowship at the prestigious Royal Court Theatre in London; Uwem Akpan a Nigerian writer, and Billy Kahora, the Assistant Editor of Kwani? at the time (now the Managing Editor), secured places in a post-graduate creative writing programme in the United States and UK respectively, based on the work they published in Kwani? In addition, Billy Kahora’s TREADMILL LOVE from “The Obituary Tango” Jacana/New Internationalist 2006 was highly commended by the judges of the Caine Prize in 2007. In 2008 and 2009, Kwani? published a body of work providing a narrative – both written and visual, of the Post-Election Violence in late 2007 and early 2008.
  • Untutored writers - like Richard Onyango, the world renowned painter - have been published by Kwani?. In Kwani? 02 and 03, we introduced an extended section in Sheng, narrated orally, transcribed and edited by Mashifta, a leading Kenyan hip hop group.
  • In December 2006, we published Kizuizini (In Detention), a Swahili memoir of a Kenyan freedom fighter and former Mau Mau detainee, Joseph Muthee. This is part of the Kwani? Series.
  • Kwani? has been positively reviewed in all major newspapers and other media in East Africa and internationally. We have been featured in the Washington Post, the Miami Herald and The Independent in the UK. Kwani? Stories have been read on BBC, and we have been featured on international television many times. Kenyans have grown to embrace Kwani?
  • Kwani? Titles are stocked in a total of 65 bookstores and points of sale throughout the country, and from late 2009, our titles have been available in Europe and America through a distribution partnership with African books Collective ( ww.africanbookscollective.com)
  • Kwani? hosts the quarterly Sunday Salon Nairobi and Kwani? Poetry Open Mic. These act as places where we can talk shop, share ideas, and encourage budding writers. These sessions are very popular with promising writers and audiences who are interested in literature
  • In January 2008, in response to the December 2007 post-election violence, Kwani? put together an ensemble of Kenyan writers ( The Concerned Kenyan Writers) who wrote over 150 articles and newspaper features, published globally (The Guardian, The New York times, The East African, among others). In May 2008, Kwani Trust also published ‘After the Vote: Dispatches from the Coalition of Concerned Kenyan Writers’, an anthology of work addressing the conflict. Kwani? 05,  released in two parts in mid-2009, is also entirely dedicated to writing about the post-election conflict, while ‘Kenya Burning’, described by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as ‘an important and powerful story for the world to hear’, is a collection of photography from this period that provides a visual narrative
  • In 2010, the Trust was awarded a Prince Claus Award by the Prince Claus Fund, given annually in recognition of exceptional achievements in the field of Culture and Development. See full details on www.
  • In 2013 Kwani Trust announced the Kwani Manuscript Project in which 280 manuscripts were submitted. In July 2013 three winners were announced. Kwani Trust now plans to publish at least 8 of the manuscripts by the end of 2014.

Kwani Trust is indebted to Lambent Foundation and Stichting DOEN for financial support towards the realisation of this programme, as well as the Ford Foundation for core funding.

For further information, images or interviews, please contact:

Angela Wachuka, Executive Director, Kwani Trust
a.wachuka@kwani.org

Kate Haines, Associate Editor, Kwani Trust
k.haines@kwani.org
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