In the past few years there have been few voices in Kenya as important as Kwani?, a literature trust committed to great writing and new voices. The Kwani LitFest, a fortnight-long series of talks, readings and performances has become a major cultural event, while the volumes of Kwani? publications are on pretty much every bookshelf in Nairobi. The collection of essays on the post-election violence, ‘After the Vote’, was one of the most haunting and compelling books I’ve read in a long, long time.
But despite its undoubted success things don’t seem to be going to plan. I hear the LitFest is unlikely to happen this summer, while publication of the second volume of Kwani? 5 appears to have been delayed. I turned to the Kwani? website for answers and this is what I found:
Hopefully someone’s forgotten to pay the bills and everything will be back up again soon, but it’s not a good sign. Binyavanga Wainaina, the writer who is one of the brains behind Kwani?, described it like this in 2003:
“We are a magazine of ideas. We seek to entertain, provoke, and create. We are open to all Kenyans, wherever they may be, who want to say something new.”
Now, more than ever, Kenya needs a magazine of ideas. Does anyone know what’s happening?