‘Fresh Paint’ delivers freshly minted stories by Kenyan women

By: GLORIA MWANIGA

On 23rd July 2015, four years after the launch of Fresh Paint volume one at the Goethe Institut auditorium, literature lovers gathered once more for the launch of its sequel, Fresh Paint volume two.

However, unlike the first launch, the room was fuller and looked brighter, for it had since received among other things, a bright coat of fresh paint.

Amka Space, the women writers’ group that co-published the anthology with Goethe Institut, was also better known thanks to some of its foremost writers, like Caine Prize winner Claudette Okwiri , gaining international acclaim.

PASSIONATE SPEECH

The event started off with the guest of honour Hon. Priscilla Nyokabi giving a passionate speech about the position of the modern woman in the changing world.

She spoke of how even in parliament; women have started being heard and leading committees.

Yet it was the reading and presentation of excerpts from the book that carried the day. Led by performing poets Wanjiku Mwaura , Raya Wambui ,Tony Mochama and this writer, the audience was for the very first time, introduced to the works in the new anthology which I must confess, are better compiled and edited than, I dare say the first volume.

‘BOYS AND GIRLS’

One of the contributors in the anthology, Muthoni wa Gichuru, who was shortlisted for the 2015 commonwealth short story competition read her story “Boys and Girls”, a hilarious account of how a young man tries hard to win over a city girl during a matatu ride from the city centre to Ruaka in the outskirts of Nairobi.

The book contains vignettes which tackles social, political and gender themes. However, what seems to cut through all the pieces is the coming of age subject.

I reckon this not only stands true for the collection but also of the writers and Amka Space for Women’s Creativity-a group which provided forums for women writers to meet, read and critique each other’s work.

Amka would later on receive a shot in the arm when the Goethe Institut Nairobi partnered with them and started publishing the pieces discussed during the session.

Though thinner in volume than the first collection, it is easy to tell from the readings that the quality of writing in Amka has greatly improved.

PANEL DISCUSSION

The literary discussion, moderated by poet Phyllis Muthoni had on its panel Dr. Mary Kinyanjui and writers Zukiwa Warner and Khainga Okwemba.

They all got to share their favourite pieces and also talked of the place of literature in the changing society. Dr. Kinyanjui however, got the audience reflecting hard on the gender issue with touching tales of how hard it was being a woman and a pioneer lecturer in post- independent Kenya.

As I later settled to read the anthology, edited by Dr Tom Odhiambo, Riva Jalipa and Goethe’s Chief Librarian Eliphas Nyamongo, I couldn’t help but feel like the persona in Laila Jewayni’s poem ‘She Arrives’to whom , in the words of the writer…