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Mother tongue debate features as Goethe hosts authors

The second edition of Goethe Institut’s Conversation with African Authors, has been held.

It featured Ciku Kimeria and Ndiritu Wahome, who were presenting their debut books; a novel, Of Goats and Poisoned Oranges and short stories collection The Sad Artist and Other Fairytales respectively. Khainga O’Okwemba, the president of Pen Kenya Centre, moderated the discussion.

“We like to support less established writers to market their work and interact with the readers,” said Eliphas Nyamogo, the head of information and library department of Goethe Institut. There are a few book discussions or launches in the local literary scene, he said.

The two authors talked about inspiration, importance of language, style and the subject matter.

“I am driven by an idea,” said Wahome. Kimeria wrote four pages and shared with friends who told her that it was a short story, it was a novel in the making.

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A good written piece is the language, the mastery of the English language and the freedom to use mother-tongue where necessary, the latter the subject of an old debate between two of Africa’s biggest literary giants, the late Chinua Achebe who advocated for English while Ngugi Wa Thiong’o for mother-tongue.

Citing her favourite writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on the dangers of the single African story, the focus on particular themes like Aids, poverty, war and so on, Kimeria said there is a need to diversify in story and language.

“We should not say this is the language to use, I think that limits creativity.”

Wahome explained magic realism, but the audience still wanted to know the difference between it and science-fiction and fantasy.

“The story has to be believable and yet unpredictable,” he said.

Reading is the only way to get better at writing, taking in well-written material that will go to the subconscious and come back in a new form.

“You need to be free spirits to be creative” said Kimeria.

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