Speech by Andrew Maina

The chief Guest, Dr. Serah Kimaru, the Advisory Board Members  and the short listed authors of Kendeka Prize for African Literature 2021, all invited guests, all protocols observed, good afternoon.

I thank God for granting the opportunity of witnessing the first Award ceremony of Kendeka Prize for African Literature. I can see the fruits of what started as an idea slightly more than a year ago. This could not have been possible without the support of my family led by Purity Kananu, my wife.

I would like to appreciate all the writers from the 23 countries who entrusted us with their manuscripts. Without their entries we could have had nothing to judge. Your participation has given this day a meaning. Thank you very much.

The other pillars that have supported this project are the Advisory Board members of Kendeka Prize led by our chairman James Murua. 

I would like to thank Sammy Macaria and his family for kindly donating the Prize purse we shall be handing over this afternoon. When I approached him seeking support, he did not ask for time to consider my request, neither did he make me sweat by asking a thousand questions. Another thing he spared me was the hustle of getting a certificate of good conduct or a recommendation letter from my area chief. When I made the request, he simply asked me, “How much do you need”. Mr. Macaria, thank you for believing in me.

We have also received a generous donation from Mr. Gordon Schofield and his family which has enabled us meet some of our expenses. Another donation has come from Mr Mungai of Kilimambogo Institute of Professional Earthmovers. Mr Mungai and Mr Schofield, thank you very much.

I would like to share a bit on the place storytelling in Africa. Though our cultures might be diverse, storytelling runs through us like a thread. It is through stories that teaching was done, instructions given and information shared. A good example is that of young girls listening to their grandmother telling a story of an ogre that fed on young girls. To succeed in its mission the ogre turned itself into a handsome young man who easily befriended young girls who admired him. Through such a story, instructions on chastity were easily passed on.

This central role of storytelling in many communities and families no longer exist and their place has been taken by the Television, mobile phones and many other gadgets providing ready to consume entertainment. Therefore our children are getting all the instructions they need from these gadgets. We have entrusted the shaping of our children to mediums which at times give access to materials which are harmful to their minds.

With all the disruption that these gadgets have brought to our homes, when I look at the potential of reading and writing in African, I see a land with all sorts of stories begging to be written and read. I see a land where great stories have been buried together with those who could have told them. This is the scenario that Kendeka Prize for African Literature in corroboration with Solano Publications aims at changing.

This year, through the Kendeka Prize we have brought to the world new stories which have never been heard before. We have also brought to the world new writers who I believe will continue writing stories which will have a positive impact not only on our continent but to the whole world.

All the long listed stories in this contest shall be published by Solano Publications as an anthology titled I Am Listening. This will be the third edition of the I Am Listening series.

To carry on the work of Kendeka Prize, we need support. Support in raising cash prizes and in running the secretariat. I therefore appeal to anyone who would like to partner with us in any manner to get in touch.

 

Andrew Maina,

Founder of Kendeka Prize for African Literature

25th, September 2021