Monday, January 6, 2014
THE PROLIFIC MEJA MWANGI
Meja Mwangi, from Kenya is one of Africa's most prolific authors especially of fiction. Like Nigeria"s Buchi Emecheta (to name only two) he has published many more novels than the illustrious Chinua Achebe, and deserves even more acclaim.
Mwangi was educated at Nanyuki Secondary School, Kenyatta College, and, much later, at Leeds University, leaving without graduating. He worked for French television in Nairobi and for the British Council. He was Fellow in Writing at Iowa University (1975-6).
His work in the film industry includes writing, assistant directing, casting and location management. He worked on such films as Out of Africa (1985), Gorillas in the Mist (1985), White Mischief (1988), Kitchen Toto (1987), and Shadow On The Sun (1988). His first novel, Kill Me Quick, was published in 1973 and won the Jomo Kenyatta Prize (Kenya) in 1974, and his novel, Carcase for Hounds (1974), was made into a film - Cry Freedom. Meja's books for children include Little White Man (1990) and The Hunter's Dream (1993). Translated into several languages, Little White Man has won major awards in Germany and France, and in Canada and the US.
Meja Mwangi's novel, The Last Plague (2000), explores the AIDS pandemic and its effects on a small village. It won the 2001 Jomo Kenyatta Prize (Kenya) and was shortlisted for the 2002 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
His most recent books are Power (2009), an adaptation for the stage of his novel, The Big Chiefs (2007) and Blood Brothers (2009), a dramatic adaptation of Mama Dudu, the Insect Woman (2007).
Mwangi himself has stated: "Why do I write? I rake my brain for the answer, something to justify my spending days and months in isolation with only words and ideas for company. As anyone who has tried it knows, writing is a hard and lonely occupation; often without reward or gratification, critical or otherwise.
"Why do I do it? Only career thieves get asked that question as often. Granted, a fool might ask a labourer why he labours, a baker why he bakes, a doctor why he doctors, a farmer why he farms or a teacher why he teaches, but most of us know why we do what we do. Thieves and writers, however, must justify or be damned, tell a good story to explain why they spend their lives in dark, lonely places when they could be out in sunshine and freedom. They can make it short and truthful, admit they don’t really know why and trust their fate to the court’s mercy, or they can spin an impressive yarn full of good intention, humanitarian objectives or spiritual significance.
" The truth, however, is mundane and it is this - just as a baker bakes because he is a baker, and a farmer farms because he is a farmer, a thief steals because he is a thief, and a writer writes..."