Dr Alembi honoured for children’s writing

David Mulwa was just emerging from the Literature Department bulding, at Kenyatta University (KU) where he teaches, when he came to an abrupt halt. It was as if he had seen a ghost. For a few brief seconds he stood there, his mouth wide open, as if trying to establish whether his eyes were lying to him. Clearly, they were not.
“Chris Lukorito Wanjala!” he exclaimed finally and rushed forward to hug the other man, and they remained in a tight embrace for a few more seconds. Dressed in a sharp grey pin-stripped suit, Prof Wanjala had just stepped out of his maroon Volvo, and for sure he was a sight for Mulwa’s sore eyes. While Mulwa teaches at Kenyatta University, Prof Wanjala teaches at the University of Nairobi, some 23 kilometers away.
On that day, Friday, November 3, 2007, Prof Wanjala admitted that many years had passed since he last set foot at KU. And for him to appear there now, it really must be a big day. True, it was a big day. The Igbo of Nigeria say that a toad does not jump in broad daylight for nothing. The two lecturers had barely finished exchanging niceties when Dr Ezekiel Alembi appeared on the scene.
Now, Dr Alembi is the chairman of KU’s Literature Department, and he was the reason Prof Wanjala was there. It was a big day for Dr Alembi. Sasa Sema Publications, an imprint of Longhorn Publishers, were honouring him for his contribution to children’s literature.
To be fair to him, Dr Alembi has penned over 39 children’s books! no mean feat by Kenyan standards. This lead to one student in the audience to ask when Dr Alembi finds time to sleep! When he took to the podium Prof Francis Imbuga, who was the chief guest remarked quite rightly that writing for children is not child’s play!
To elaborate on that point, Dr Alembi recounted an encounter with a person who so much took writing children’s stories for granted, that he said that he could write 15 children’s books in a week. That was five years back. To date, he has not written even one.
Er, before I forget, let me add that the event was not a purely literary affair. There were some entertainment too. Serious entertainment at that. Students from the university’s band kept all the guests thoroughly entertained with their masterly of musical instruments. The Salsa group also staged some eye-catching dancing. Cream Group was at hand for some well-choreographed dancing. A comedy group, I cant recall their name, tore our ribs with their improvised narrative on what was taking place at the event.
Talking of performances, perhaps the best perfomance, at least according to me, was when David Mulwa accompanied by Prof Kitula King’ei, with a box guitar, did some two zilizopendwa (Golden Oldies) numbers, Taxi Driver and Dereva Kombo. That was really something coming from the aging university dons.
Now back to the event. Dr Alembi told those gathered at the event that he was really humbled with the recognition, adding that it is not everyday that publishers in Kenya honour their writers. “It is even more heartening that they have decided to honour me while I am still alive. In most circumstances, such honours come after its recipients have died,” he explained.
Dr Catherine Ndungo, who heads the department of Gender and Development studies at the university, hailed Dr Alembi for bring literature to the level of children. She said that among other things, Dr Alembi argues that the interests, needs and responses of child readers must be taken into account. “That a concern with the intended audience is crucial to the critical appraisal of children’s literature,” she explained.
Prof Imbuga thanked Dr Alembi for being ” a conscious writer, dictating to his pen the thoughts that go to the vulnerably receptive minds of his young audience.”
Dr Alembi has written seven books for Longhorn publishers. They are; Jaramogi Oginga Odinga: Peoples’ Revolutionary, Elijah Masinde: Rebel with a Cause, Andisi and the Cat, Brave Girls, The Tortoise Song, Kwa Nini Ndovu Hali Nyama, Teaching Reading in Lower Primary. He has also co-authored the Keynote Primary English Course which is approved by the Kenya Institute of Education (KIE) and widely used in Kenya and Tanzania. The occasion was also use to launch his latest book, A Dream on Wings.
“ It is Alembi’s zeal and energy that made us feel guilty that he is rarely
recognized. We are now working on two secondary school supplementary books
with him, and it’s just great to work with a man who wants to give his readers the
very best,” says Musyoki Muli, the Sasa Sema Publications Manager.
In September Dr Alembi was in Argentina, where he presented a paper tiltled Children’s Oral Poetry as a Channel for Transmitting Social Values at the International Society for Folg Narrative Research (ISFNR). Dr Alembi is ISFNR Vice-President for Africa. Dr Alembi is also the chairman of the National Kenya Schools and Colleges Drama Festival.

12 replies on “Dr Alembi honoured for children’s writing”

Writing for Children
Writing creative works for children is harder than writing for adults. A writer, no matter how educated he is, must drop down to the level of children. He/she must think like a child and speak the child’s language. He must walk with, at the same time lead the young reader whose mind is still amazed at the simplest things in life. A writer must strive to capture and retain the interest of his audience whose mind is easily distracted by the surroundings.
However, with passion, reading various books for children and interacting with the children and fellow authors, the work becomes easier and very enjoyable.
Through his child-centered works, Dr Alembi has managed to capture and retain the young readers’ interest. He comes down his scholarly tower and becomes a child, an achievement rare in many intellectuals. I have been challenged by Dr Alembi’s achievement and I hope to reach greater heights.
Currently I have 20 books for children, mainly in Kiswahili, published by different firms. The figure should rise before the year ends.
Sometimes I reread the books and laugh at myself for being ‘crazy.”

Some of my published books are
*Chura Mcheza Ngoma (Phoenix)
*Pole Mzee Bonga (Single&Education Publishers)
*Nampenda Mama wa Kambo (JKF)
*Mnyama Mwenye Huruma (EAEP).
*Maimuna (Focus)
*Kibuyu cha Miujiza (EAEP)
*The Dirty Rude Boy (JKF).


Dr. Alembi is doing a great job with literature for which many may ignore as child’s play. We would also like to learn more on the papers he has written on children’s literature.

I wish some authors could love children first before deciding to write story books for the young learners. A children’s book, written strictly for commercial purposes irritates those who focus on the interest of the learner.

I pray a day will come when genuine authors will be picked from the ‘commercial’ ones.

Dr Alembi, give this issue a thought.

Keep up your good work?

Writers for Peace since the December 27 General Elections

We are now making it a folly for people from different ethnic communities to marry.There are ethnic movements which have eccessionist intentions.Writers must curb these through their creative writings.The agends for the writer in the era after the December 27,revolves around Human Rights and this must not be forgotten.The call for the writer in the 21st Century is dictated by the reality that half the people who died in the post election violence were children and young people below the age of 35 who lined below the bread-line.

Dear colleagues,
I am grateful to you for posting a report on the event we celebrated Dr.Ezekiel Alembi.It was reliving old memories assembling as we did at this event.It reminded me of the 1970s when all of us-Micere G Mugo, Okot p’Bitek, Taban lo Liyong,John Ruganda,Margaret Marshment,Jane Nadwa, Eddah Gachukia,Augustine Bukenya, David Mulwa, Francis Imbuga,Arthur Luvai, and others, led by Ngugi wa Thiong’o-would go out to Kenyatta University College and cheer a production of Wole Soyinka’s Kongi’s Harvest.It was nice to see David K Mulwa in his element,joined by Kitula King’ei, playing at his guitar and singing one of the numbers of old “zilizopendwa.”And then Francis Imbuga at my side.It was great for us old timers to mingle so freely with the new literary hands and publishers.Yes,the Alembi day brought us together again,
Chris Lukorito Wanjala

The first time I saw him was a few years ago…
He wanted to address University College , Nairobi students on academic freedom
Police were waiting for him outside Taifa Hall.
“But he is a political leader,” We talked in whispers
(If you know this story, please continue it right here)
chrisman letters

Whether writers make a difference in terms of accountability, integrity and truthfulness when they are in leadership roles remains to be seen.We want to use the East Africa Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies to create time for each other’s creative work,and to show solidarity with brothers and sisters who are writers and are in Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya by organising seminars and workshops for them in Nairobi and other provincial towns.How many times have we stood up to speak for the cause of literature? The first time is now, and this is the forum.

I must congatulate Dr E.Alembi for writing good works for our children. Moreso, his Maters thesis is on children’s literature, which was very much useful to me when I was writing mine about ‘Taswira Dumifu za Uana katika Fasihi ya Kiswahili ya Watoto’ (Gender Stereotypes in Swahili Children’s Literature) at the Univesity of Nairobi (2007).
However, I have a quarrel with most writers of Children’s literature in Kenya. Most of them are writing mediocre works that can not withstand the test of time. Their writers are ‘short distance runners’ – writing for money at the expence of quality. It does not matter how many books one churns out in a year – rather a writer should write works that shall be very relevant to our children even ten or more decades to come. An example that easily comes in mind is P.M. Kareithi’e work – Kaburi Bila Msalaba. The work was written in the sixtys, but it is so much relevant today and doing well in the market – at least judging from the reprints it has done.

I write for children and I am raising this concern which I think is genuine. I also suggest that there should be some paradigm shift. When writing for children for levels 5-8, let us use children characters in the works. Animal characters are o.k, but the area is getting exhausted. And our publishers too should not strictly stick on KIE guidelines. They are slowly killing our literature. A good book I believe will always sell even if it is not recommended by KIE for inclusion in the Orange Book.
My works are:
*Mkasa wa Shujaa Liyongo (Phoenix,2001)
*Masagisa na Zimwi Mbilikimo (Phoenix,2007)
*Mwepesi wa Kusahau (Phoenix,2005)
*Maadui wa Maria (Vide Muwa,2007)
*Fahali Mtoboa Siri (Focus,2007)
* Sitaki iwe Siri (Longhorn,2008)
*Likizo ya Mkosi (Phoenix,2008)

Hi, I am looking for the song by Fundi Konde – Dereva Kombo – can anyone advise how I may obtain this song – I can’t find it on net or the music shops … please advise and assist – please get back to me on my email id , appreciate your assistance – Thanks and kind regards,

Professor Chris Lukorito Wanjala is a renowned public figure.He is a literary critic,a literary scholar and academic, a novelist,poet,a playwright , politician and man of culture.,He comments on books,art, politics and culture.He belongs to the generation of writers and critics in the seventies,led by Ngugi wa Thiongó,Okot p’Bitek,Taban Lo Liyong,Henry Owuor Anyumba and Micere Githae Mugo who brought a cultural revolution to East Africa by abolishing university departments of English and replacing them with Departments of Literature with African literature at the centre.He is the host of The Chris Wanjala Show at GBS.

That is great Prof Wanjala, you are such an icon whom many will live to admire.

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