NBO Litfest Participants
Bettina Ng’weno works on issues of space, property, social justice, citizenship, cities, states, race and ethnicity within Latin America, Africa and the Indian Ocean region. She has received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Johns Hopkins University and a Master’s degree also in Anthropology from Stanford University and a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Science and Management from the University of California, Davis. Bettina is an Associate Professor in African American and African Studies at the University of California, Davis, and the chair of the Designated Emphasis. She is a recipient of the Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award for Undergraduate Teaching (2020) as well as the Graduate Studies Distinguished Graduate and Postdoctoral Mentoring Award (2020). She was a co-director of the Mellon Research Initiative Reimagining Indian Ocean Worlds at the University of California Davis.
At the moment, she is finishing Growing Old in a New City, a book on the changing temporality and spatiality of the city of Nairobi from the perspective of long-term residents. Working from personal, familial, ethnographic and archival history and experience of Nairobi, in both her academic writing and creative film project, Last Dance in Kaloleni, she brings to life a Nairobi rarely talked about; centered on the railways, the dreams, politics, and aspirations of long-term residents, music and dance, and the experience of the complicated changing dynamics of the city.
Her recent publications include: Reimagining Indian Ocean Worlds and Developing Global Leaders: Insights from African Case Studies
Billy Kahora has written a non-fiction novella titled The True Story Of David Munyakei (2010) and a short story collection, The Cape Cod Bicycle War (2019). Two stories in the collection had been previously shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing, Urban Zoning in 2012, The Gorilla’s Apprentice in 2014. He wrote the screenplay for Soul Boy and co-wrote Nairobi Half Life which won the Kalasha awards. His short fiction and creative non-fiction has appeared in Chimurenga, McSweeney’s, Granta Online, Internazionale and Vanity Fair and Kwani. He is working on a novel titled The Applications.
He is also currently a Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Bristol. He was till recently Editor at Kwani Trust.
Christine Mungai is a writer, journalist, and 2018 Harvard University Nieman Fellow based in Nairobi, Kenya. She has written on a wide range of subjects and her work has been published in The Africa Report, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Al Jazeera English, The New Internationalist, and The Elephant (Kenya). Currently, Christine is the curator for Baraza Media Lab in Nairobi, a co-creation space for public interest storytelling.
Ciku is a longtime contributor to Quartz Africa, and has authored almost 40 articles for the site, on topics as wide-ranging as the perils of traveling with an African passport to the optimism inspired by Africa’s first NFT art collections. She is the author of two novels, and has written for a variety of outlets, including African Arguments, OkayAfrica, and The Africa Report. Ciku has a wealth of communication and project management experience, having worked for and served as a communication advisor to Dalberg Advisors, Open Society Initiative of West Africa, and The Africa Agriculture and Trade Investment Fund. Ciku has a bachelor of science degree in management from MIT and speaks English, Swahili, and French.
Clifton Gachagua is a creative writer and scriptwriter. He is the winner of the Sillerman Prize for African Poetry. He is the author of Madman at Kilifi (University of Nebraska Press) and appears in a chapbook box set, Seven New Generation African Poets (University of Nebraska Press). He was selected for Africa39 (a selection and celebration – through a festival and an anthology of stories/extracts – of the most promising 39 authors under the age of 40 from Sub-Saharan Africa and the diaspora). Clifton has worked at Kwani? as an assistant editor. His work appears in Manchester Review, Africa Writers Trust, Saraba, Jalada, Kwani?, Harvard Divinity Journal, Poetry Foundation, The Gonjon Pin and Other Stories (Caine Prize Anthology), AfroSF: Science Fiction by African Writers, Sunspot Jungle, PEN America, Enkare. Clifton works at Down River Road as an editor.
Edith Kimani is a journalist and media personality currently working with Germany’s international Broadcaster, Deutsche Welle (DW). She is currently the East African correspondent and host of the station’s Africa flagship programme, the 77%. With over a decade’s experience, Edith has covered a wide range of topics, particularly on the continent of Africa. The Kenyan-born journalist is passionate about the environment and was part of a delegation selected to cover the effects of the warming seas and melting ice sheets in The Arctic. She is also a seasoned moderator and speaker who has led high-level discussions at the World Economic Forum, the G20 summit as well as the World Trade Organisation. Recently, Edith was named as one of Africa’s most influential people.
Ellah P. Wakatama, OBE is Editor at Large, Canongate Books Ltd., Senior Research Fellow at Manchester University (Centre for New Writing) and Chair of the Caine Prize for African Writing.
She is a trustee of The Royal Literary Fund and the Caine Prize for African Writing and sits on the Advisory board for Art for Amnesty and the Editorial Advisory Panel of the Johannesburg Review of Books. She is the editor of Africa39 (Bloomsbury, 2014) and the anthology, Safe House: Explorations in Creative Nonfiction (Dundurn/Cassava Republic) and is a contributor to New Daughters of Africa (Myriad Editions, 2019). Her introduction to Woman of the Aeroplanes by Kojo Laing was published by Pearson in 2012. In 2011 she was awarded an OBE for services to the publishing industry and in 2016 was named one of New African Magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential Africans’.
Eric Klinenberg is Helen Gould Shepard Professor of Social Science and Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University. He is the author of Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life (Crown, 2018), Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone (The Penguin Press, 2012), Fighting for Air: The Battle to Control America’s Media (Metropolitan Books, 2007), and Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago (University of Chicago Press, 2002), as well as the editor of Cultural Production in a Digital Age, co-editor of Antidemocracy in America (Columbia University Press, 2019), and co-author, with Aziz Ansari, of the New York Times #1 bestseller Modern Romance (The Penguin Press, 2015). His scholarly work has been published in journals including the American Sociological Review, Theory and Society, and Ethnography, and he has contributed to The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, and This American Life.
Karun is an alt. RnB musician from Nairobi, Kenya who has captivated audiences since she was a teenager. Her current sound is a coalescence of RnB/soul with Afro-pop influences. She is best known for her song “Glow Up”, an uplifting, body-positive bop that foreshadows the sonic direction that Karun is taking in the “Catch A Vibe” EP. Karun’s music is raw and honest, weaving her life’s experiences into her music as she goes through them. Karun aims to inspire young artists to walk their own path and create timeless music. In 2019, she was named Forbes Africa 30 Under 30. She was also awarded as the Best R&B Artist at Cafe Ngoma award. Karun is an alumni of Berklee College of Music.
Lauren Beukes is the award-winning and internationally best-selling South African author of The Shining Girls, Zoo City and Afterland, among other works. Her novels have been published in 24 countries and are being adapted for film and TV. She’s also a comics writer, screenwriter, journalist and documentary maker. Lauren is a former feature journalist, who covered electricity cable thieves, HIV+ beauty pageants, metro cops and homeless sex workers. She’s worked in film and TV, as the director of Glitterboys & Ganglands, a documentary which won Best LGBTI Film at the Atlanta Black Film Festival, and as showrunner and head writer on South Africa’s first half hour animated TV show, Pax Afrika, which ran for 104 episodes on SABC. Her comics work includes the original horror series, Survivors’ Club with Dale Halvorsen and Ryan Kelly and the New York Times best-selling, Fairest: The Hidden Kingdom a Japanese horror remix of Rapunzel with artist Inaki, as well as The “Trouble With Cats”, a Wonder Woman short set in Soweto with Mike Maihack. She’s the author of five critically acclaimed high concept novels, Moxyland, Zoo City, The Shining Girls, Broken Monsters and Afterland, a short story collection, Slipping, and a pop-history, Maverick: Extraordinary Women From South Africa’s Past. Her work has been hailed by the likes of Stephen King, Gillian Flynn, George R.R. Martin. She has won several awards over the last ten years, including The Arthur C Clarke Award, The University of Johannesburg Prize, the Strand Critics Choice Award, The Kitschies Red Tentacle, The August Derleth Prize, RT Thriller of the Year, Exclusive Books Booksellers Choice Award and the prestigious Mbokodo Award for women in the creative arts from South Africa’s Department of Arts and Culture. She’s given talks on storytelling at tech conferences and literary festivals around the world, including Design Indaba, TEDx Johannesburg, Webstock, and D-Construct. Lauren has also spearheaded charity art show fundraisers for all her books, raising R100 000 for RapeCrisis and R350 000 for kids lit org, Book Dash. When she’s not traveling for research from Detroit to Zagreb, Port-au-Prince to Antarctica, she lives in Cape Town, South Africa with her daughter and two trouble cats.
Muthoni has published over fifty books for children, two novellas for adults and several stories published in literary journals. She is also a storyteller and has appeared on stage in many schools in Kenya and beyond. Muthoni regularly runs workshops, incorporating storytelling, to help writers develop stories for children and teenagers. She is the chief judge of the Morland Writing Scholarships, and has also judged the Caine Prize for African writers
Writing as Muthoni Muchemi, her books for children include, ‘Kamau’s Finish /The Amazing Race’, which is taught as world literature in schools in the USA and UK. She also wrote ‘The Matatu from Watamu Drove into the Sea’ that was developed into a musical stage show promoting environmental conservation; and the science-fiction book, ‘Attack of the Shidas” which was commissioned by the Kenya Human Rights Commission to stimulate discussion about tribalism in schools across the country.
Muthoni is also a social entrepreneur and, in 2007, co-founded Storymoja, which publishes storybooks, textbooks, work books, teacher and career resources for ages 4-16 years that can be purchased online at www.storymojaafrica.com In response to the Covid disruptions that have led to increased school drop-out rates and lowered academic performance, Storymoja is currently developing and seeking partnerships for an e library, interactive literacy and life skills teaching app scheduled for testing before end 2021.
Storymoja aggressively preaches the gospel of reading for pleasure. Storymoja runs several projects promoting reading among children, including the bi-annual National Read Aloud, which in 2015, broke the world record of people reading from the same text on the same day at the same time; and the Start a Library’ initiative. Since its inception in March 2012, Start a Library has installed 219 libraries in public and low cost primary schools. Over 20,000 Kenyan primary schools do not have libraries.
For more information or to donate, please visit: http://www.startalibrary.org. Storymoja also organises the Storymoja Festival in Nairobi.
Namina Forna is a young adult novelist based in Los Angeles, and the author of the New York Times bestselling epic fantasy YA novel The Gilded Ones. Hailing from Sierra Leone, West Africa, she moved to the US when she was nine and has been traveling back and forth ever since. Namina loves telling stories with fierce female leads and works as a screenwriter in LA.
Nanjala Nyabola is a writer and researcher based in Nairobi, Kenya. Her work focuses on the intersection between technology, media, and society. She has published in several academic journals including the African Security Review and The Women’s Studies Quarterly, and contributed to numerous edited collections. Nyabola also writes commentary for publications like The Nation, Al Jazeera, The Boston Review and others. She is the author of Digital Democracy, Analogue Politics: How the Internet Era is Transforming Politics in Kenya (Zed Books, 2018) and Travelling While Black: Essays Inspired by a Life on the Move (Hurst Books, 2020).
Ngala Chome has just completed his PhD at Durham University in the United Kingdom. He is an award-winning author, historian and social scientist. His academic work has been published in peer-reviewed journals, and his op-ed and non-fiction has appeared on Kwani? The Elephant, the Standard, Foreign Policy, the New African magazine, and the Chimurenga Chronic. Ngala is one of the founders of Sahifa, a new platform for research, literature and journalism, with a strong bias for Eastern African stories.
For over twenty-five years, Mugambi has been actively involved in the Kenyan music industry as composer, teacher, academic and performer. His musical interests and experiences are adventurous and eclectic. They include classical, jazz, pop, folk and world music genres. His main passion, however, is a recurrent theme for creating music that reflects and celebrates Kenya’s rich and diverse culture.
Mugambi is Kenya’s leading composer of contemporary classical music. His compositions have been played in East Africa and Europe. His orchestral work revolves around his relationship with the Nairobi Orchestra that goes back 25 years. The orchestra has premiered several of his works including- Ujenzi (2013), a symphonic poem that relates the story of the building of the nation, juxtaposing it through sound, against the historical adventure of the construction of the Kenya-Uganda railway (the ‘Lunatic Express’) through the Tsavo wilderness in the late 1890s. Ujenzi was premiered to commemorate 50 years of Kenya’s independence; Hifadhi (2009), an orchestral composition calling for environmental consciousness and climate change awareness; Pumbumbum Peh! (2008), a spirited fanfare for brass and percussion; Kani (2008), a short rhythmic orchestral tone poem. Pumbumbum Peh! and Hifadhi were performed during the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games.
Ongoing works include a cantata for children’s choir and a collaboration on a film project with Dr. Bettina Ng’weno which has led to the release of a short film, ‘The Time is Now’, an overture to a planned full length feature film set in Nairobi in the late 1950s, at the threshold of Kenya’s independence, where music and dance play a central role in a tale of love and urban life in Nairobi’s railway quarters. The short film is centred around a dance and with a song composed and recorded by Mugambi.
Recent major works include- the Tuba Concerto (2017) premiered by soloist Jennifer Moore Wafula with the Nairobi Orchestra and conducted by Duncan Wambugu; A Mass for peace ‘Missa Amani’ (2018) where the indigenous influences inherent to Mugambi’s style come to the fore as can be best heard in a section of the Gloria, where the rhythmic multi-layered singing style of the Maasai (one of Kenya’s ethnic communities) is celebrated. The mass, scored for choir, organ, brass and percussion, was premiered by the Nairobi Music Society conducted by Levi Wataka.
Mugambi’s arrangement for orchestra and choir, of Kenyan pop icon Eric Wainaina’s patriotic song Daima Kenya, has also been performed at various concerts. Mugambi has also worked with some leading Kenya’s leading pop artists. Most notably, he arranged and recorded the songs ‘Masela’, ‘Petite Soeur’ and ‘Malaika’ for renowned singer and UNEP goodwill ambassador, Suzanna Owiyo.
Currently, Mugambi is Director of Music at Peponi House Preparatory School, Nairobi. He continues with his passion to compose, work as an educator using music as an all-round educational tool and celebrate the beauty of the diverse Kenyan landscapes and cultures through music.
Orpah Agunda is Book Bunk’s Library Liaison. An Early Childhood Education Teacher by profession, Orpah loves to tell stories, especially with her children. A mother of five, she has a keen interest in community engagement, especially within Eastlands. When she is not working on library restoration work at Book Bunk, Orpah spends her time with her family and friends.
Rémy is a Rwandan-born Namibian writer and photographer. He is the founder, chairperson, and artministrator of Doek, an independent arts organisation in Namibia supporting the literary arts. He is also the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Doek! Literary Magazine, Namibia’s first and only literary magazine. His debut novel The Eternal Audience Of One is available from Scout Press (S&S). His work has appeared in The Johannesburg Review of Books, American Chordata, Lolwe, Granta and many other places. He won the Africa Regional Prize of the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. He was shortlisted for the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing in 2020 and 2021. He was also longlisted and shortlisted for the 2020 and 2021 Afritondo Short Story Prizes respectively. In 2019 he was shortlisted for Best Original Fiction by Stack Magazines. More of his writing can be read on his website: remythequill.com
Sanaipei Tande is a Kenyan singer, songwriter, actress, karaoke host, radio personality and entertainer known for her sultry voice and Swahili lyricism. She rose to fame after winning the Coca-Cola Popstars (East Africa) talent search in 2004. Since then, Sanaipei has gone on to release popular tracks with some of the biggest names in the industry like Jua Cali, Madtraxx, Big Pin, King Kaka, Nadia Mukami among others. Sanaipei’s musical style is versatile, incorporating elements of R&B, Afropop, Zouk, Reggae, and Neo-Taarab. She has received sole writing credits for most of her songs and praise for her lyrical style of writing and mastery of Swahili. She is currently working on completing an upcoming album.
Syokau is an anthropologist who is passionate about people in all places across time. She is particularly interested in exploring how intersectional approaches can be utilised to study culture on the African continent so as to reveal the hidden networks, systems and infrastructures that support or undermine collective life and sustainable social change. Currently, she leads the Research and Inventory Department at Book Bunk Trust. When she is not at Book Bunk, she indulges her other passion of teaching foundational music to beginners in Piano and music theory.
Tetu Shani is an award winning singer-songwriter (Global Music Awards), live performer (Two time winner of Best Live Band at Sondeka Awards), and one of the most prolific Kenyan recording artists in recent years with over 30 singles and two EPs. He was accepted to Berklee College of Music in 2014 with a scholarship to study performance but turned it down to help build an ecosystem for alternative musicians in Nairobi. He has since been featured on CNN African Voices, has gotten music placements on Netflix and international TV and film and is a radio host on his own show called Alt Kenya that helps audiences discover the best in Kenyan alternative music.
Troy Onyango is a writer and editor from Kisumu. His work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Doek!, Wasafiri, Isele Magazine, Johannesburg Review of Books, AFREADA, Nairobi Noir, Caine Prize Anthology (Redemption Song & Other Stories), and Transition among others. The winner of the inaugural Nyanza Literary Festival Prize and first runner-up in the Black Letter Media Competition, he has also been shortlisted for the AKO Caine Prize, the Short Story Day Africa Prize, the Brittle Paper Awards, and nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He has an MA in Creative Writing with distinction from the University of East Anglia, where he was a recipient of the Miles Morland Foundation Scholarship. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of Lolwe.
WaLAM is Wanja Wohoro, Laura Ekumbo, Aleya Kassam, and Anne Moraa. Four Kenyan women who came together to honour Field Marshal Muthoni wa Kirima. This in-development work is part of The Nairobi Musical Theatre Initiative.
THE LAM SISTERHOOD:
The LAM Sisterhood is a story company that fills the world with stories for African women to feel seen, heard, and beloved.
(Photo Credit: Paul Munene)
Aleya Kassam is a Kenyan feminist, storyteller, writer and performer, whose work explores narratives from the margins. She is the ‘A’ in the LAM Sisterhood. She is widely experimental with form, from page to stage, screen to speaker, micro fiction to memory poems, docu theatre to participatory filmmaking, blogs to twitter threads – she loves to play with the ways people experience story.
(Photo Credit: Paul Munene)
Anne Moraa is a Kenyan feminist writer, editor, and performer. She is the ‘M’ in the LAM Sisterhood. Her writing can be found in Catapult, The Meridians Journal, The Elephant, The Wide Margin, and other platforms, while her performances have taken her from Kenya through to South Korea and Scotland. A lead editor at Jalada Africa, she is at work on her debut novel, all while eating copious amounts of chilli-lemon crisps!
(Photo Credit: Paul Munene)
Laura Ekumbo is a Kenyan-born, Nairobi-based performing artist and writer. She is the L in the LAM Sisterhood. She has performed poetry, acted, sang, danced, spoken, and hosted events on over 30 stages in 4 countries around the world. Laura loves fries, introspection, tweeting way too much @laura_ekumbo, and sharing her love for music on Instagram.
(Photo Credit: Paul Munene)
Wanja Wohoro is an Indie-Soul singer-songwriter, painter, writer and multi-instrumentalist from Nairobi, Kenya and Sydney, Australia.In February 2015 she released a tropical summer single ‘Counting’ and an accompanying music video. In September 2018, Wanja released her debut album ‘Matriarch’: a creative endeavour telling the story of contemporary womanhood through a personal lens. Since it’s release, it has garnered a great deal of positive attention including making Wanja Apple Music Africa’s ‘Favourite New Artist’ for the month of October. She was also selected as one of the top 100 artists in Africa, as part of Mr Eazi’s (Nigeria) #Empawa100Africa initiative, and conceptualised and art directed her first major music video. In August of 2019 Wanja participated in the Art Omi Music Residency in Upstate New York. She was one of twelve international musicians selected to participate in the collaborative music incubation in Hudson NY. Wanja has featured at various festivals and performances in Australia, Kenya, the US and South Africa, and continues to songwrite and perform regularly; sharing her authentic, intimate storytelling with women and the world.
A passionate performer, Wangari The Storyteller infuses her stories with song, dance, chants and other performance delicacies to create an intimate interaction with her audiences. She has graced different in Kenya and across the world, telling stories and conducting workshops. Find her on www.wangarithestoryteller.co.ke
Wangui Kimari is an anthropologist whose work draws on oral histories to think through urban spatial management in Nairobi from the vantage point of its most marginalised residents. She is also the participatory action research coordinator for the Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC), a community-based organisation in Mathare, a poor urban settlement in Nairobi, Kenya, and an editorial board member of the online publication Africa Is a Country (AIAC).
Wanjiru Koinange is a writer, restorer of libraries and entrepreneur from Nairobi, Kenya. She was raised on a farm on the outskirts of the city with her four siblings. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Literature from Nairobi’s United States International University, after which she worked as a talent manager for some of East Africa’s most renowned artists and musicians – then as a festival and events manager. She then later pursued a Masters in Creative Writing from the University in Cape Town. During this time she also worked to explore how art may be used as a catalyst for social change. This was channelled through the global non-profit organisation, Africa Centre. While in Cape Town, she also served on the editorial team of Chimurenga. Her writing has been published in several journals and magazines across the continent including Chimurenga, SlipNet and Commonwealth Writers where she served as a cultural correspondent for East and Southern Africa in 2015. During this stint, she published this piece about the McMillan Memorial Library – Kenya’s second oldest library. This article was a major inspiration for the formation of Book Bunk which Wanjiru co-founded with Angela Wachuka in 2017. This independent non-profit organisation renovates and manages some of Nairobi’s most iconic public libraries. The McMillan Memorial Library and two of its smaller branches in Kaloleni and Makadara are the organisation’s flagship projects. The formation of Book Bunk Trust was inspired by a core belief that our public spaces are essential to a collective Kenyan imagination, and can be steered to become more than just rooms full of books to act as centres of knowledge, art, sharing and community. Wanjiru is also a publisher at Bunk Books, an imprint of Book Bunk Limited which is the commercial arm of Book Bunk Trust.
Wanjeri Gakuru is a freelance journalist, essayist and filmmaker invested in gender equality and social justice. A cross-section of her writing has appeared in Transition Magazine, The Africa Report, The Elephant, LA Times Magazine, CNN and The Sunday Times among others. Between 2018 and 2020, she served as Managing Editor of Pan-African writers’ collective, Jalada Africa.
Wanjeri has co-written award-winning feature films including the internationally acclaimed, Supa Modo (2018) which accrued 44 awards and nominations and was Kenya’s submission in the Best Foreign Language Category at the 91st Academy Awards. She has also written, directed and produced short films that have screened at local and international festivals such as Accra Animation Film Festival (Ghana), Encounters Short Film Festival (UK) and URUSARO IWFF (Rwanda).
She is in the writers’ room for high-quality Kenyan TV drama series, Country Queen,
co-produced by Arte and currently in production. Wanjeri is also the Partnerships Director of Rogue Film Society (RFS), a collective of multi-talented African filmmakers and thespians working in film, TV, theater and advertising.
Wendy Kirk started work at Glasgow Women’s Library in 2005, as their first ever paid Librarian. As well as managing a unique lending and reference collection, all built from donated materials, Wendy runs a hugely popular read aloud group, Story Café, which was previously shortlisted for a UK Libraries Change Lives Award. She is passionate about the life-changing power of books for all, and the creativity we all bring to our own reading. She is an advocate for fostering kindness in community spaces, and has been part of Carnegie Trust UK Creating Space for Kindness project, which focuses on the role of kindness in public libraries. Supported by the British Council, she has been thrilled to work with trail-blazing international partners including Book Bunk and most recently, PeaceNiche in Karachi.