Sunday, June 25, 2006

muthoni garland

In the running with Nigeria's Sefi Atta for this year's Caine Prize are 3 African women writers. One is Kenyan Muthoni Garland who is short-listed for her short story, Tracking the Scent of my Mother.

Garland on being shortlisted...
"I felt so empowered and inspired by this and it has given me the confidence to continue with my writing. I am now working on my first novel."
--Read the interview
On why she wrote the story...
"Tracking the Scent of my Mother was inspired by the climate of private fear in which many children and women in our part of the world exist. Not because of disease or war or famine, but because of men who abuse them. Statistics point to a shocking increase in rape and defilement in East and Southern Africa. In Kenya, where it is widely accepted that these crimes are under-reported, it is said that a rape occurs every 30 minutes. But numbers alone are not enough to reflect the pain and suffering caused to affected individuals, nor do they serve to increase understanding about why it happens or how to address it.

"Our parliament is currently debating a Sexual Crimes Bill. The debate, unfortunately, seems to pitch men against women, and the diplomatic and NGO community against locals. I pray our leaders rise above this and soberly reflect on the personal, social and economic ramifications of sexual violence. It diminishes and debilitates all of us. I pray that they go beyond issues of punishment to issues of education and socialisation. I pray the day will come when women in my world will be free."

Excerpt from Tracking the Scent of My Mother...
Because seventeen-year-old cousin Wangui's stellar KCSE results punctuated her mother's every other sentence, nobody complained when Wangui slipped a cassette into father's player. She tied a khanga around her hips, and wriggled to the spiky notes of Congolese lingala as though attacked by red ants. Of course, I joined her, and discovered that even at six, my limbs were looser than hers.

My mother hovered on the fringes of the group, and her darting eyes kept lighting on me. She laughed that afternoon for all of Karatina, but the hollow in her tone confused me. I didn't realise then that my mother was only four years older than Wangui. I didn't understand that a woman who gives birth is like a tall and leafy banana tree that breaks under the weight of its own fruit... What nobody could have foreseen was the extent to which the visit affected my mother.
--Read on


Another short-listed writer, Moroccan Laila Lalami of the popular lit-blog Moorish Girl - has been talking about the first time she discovered a Chinua Achebe novel...
A Man of the People was a revelation for me; it spoke to me like few books had until then (or since, for that matter.) I went back to the store and bought the other works of Achebe's that I could find, including, of course, Things Fall Apart.


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