Emma Hornsby

2014-15 Research Report

In the last decade, Nairobi has been the site of a new wave of literature and publishing instigated in many ways by the literary journal Kwani?. Under the editorship of Caine Prize winner Binyavanga Wainaina, the first publication of Kwani? in 2003 set out to carve a literary space in Nairobi that embraced popular culture and new writers. Kwani? began publishing new forms of writing such as blog posts, hip-hop poetry, slam poetry, writing in Sheng, and other experimental forms. More than ten years later, Kwani? continues to publish its journal and other works in print, while new literary journals such as Jalada have sprung up online. Nairobi has also become the site of the annual international StoryMoja Festival, spoken word poetry events, and writing workshops. As new literary production continues to grow, Nairobi sits at its heart as both the location of events and the publishing industry and as the space in which so much work is set. My research considers this relationship between the city and literature, focusing on the notable trend in Kenyan short fiction that Nairobi appears not only as a backdrop, but also as a subject. By examining the way that Nairobi, as an imagined subject, is treated by short fiction, themes on gender, technology, urbanization, and globalization come to the foreground. My on-going research seeks to explore these issues further by examining short stories by Mehul Gohil, Diriye Osman, Billy Kahora, Anne Moraa, and others.