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Dr Margaret Ogola’s voice from the grave

She introduced herself to Kenya and the world with her evergreen novel The River and the Source, at a time when Kenyans were starting to wonder who would step into Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s gigantic shoes. Readers instantly fell in love with the book.

The cover of Dr Margaret Ogola’s new book

And to prove that it was no fluke, the book won the 1995 edition of the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature, Kenya’s most prestigious literary award. That was not enough, the same year, the book also clinched the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Africa. In between becoming a school set book in Kenya, it became the most translated Kenyan novel aside of Ngugi’s books.

In this book, Dr Ogola tackles the issues of women’s rights with such clarity and authority that people who have studied it say it has contributed a lot to the increased number of liberated women in Kenya today – women who do not necessarily have to rely on men for their survival.

Sadly for her readers, Dr Ogola passed on in September Last year. She had been battling cancer for some time. Although her subsequent books did not enjoy the success that met The River and the Source, she nevertheless continued writing in spite of her busy schedule as a medical doctor.

Her last novel was Place of Destiny which told the story of Amor, a woman, a mother and wife, who had cancer, which later killed her. At the time this book was published, around 2007 I doubt many people knew that Dr Ogola was herself also suffering from cancer. Could it be that she was writing about herself, and actually foreseeing her death?

It takes a person of extra ordinary courage to actually talk about their imminent death. Dr Ogola went further, she wrote about it! Here is a woman who was suffering from a terminal ailment, but did not let it bog her down. She even came to terms with the inevitable death.

Now she has gone one better; she is now ‘talking’ with her readers from the grave! Focus Publishers, who published The River and the Source are soon to release Mandate of the People. The new novel talks about an imaginary country that goes into elections. In this book the reader will encounter the typical Kenyan politician, who will cut corners, even kill, to achieve what they want; that coveted seat in Parliament.

And by coincidence Kenya is in the throes of a watershed election slated for sometime next year, the first after 2007 elections whose bloody aftermath left over a thousand Kenyans dead, and hundreds of thousands displaced.

Could Dr Ogola’s voice from the grave contain prophetic wisdom? You only have to get a copy and discover for yourself.

According to Ms Serah Mwangi, the managing director of Focus Publishers says the manuscript of Mandate of the People was handed to them by Dr. Ogola just before she died.

Her other books include I Swear by Apollo (Focus), which is a sequel to The River and the Source and Place of Destiny, published by Pauline’s Publications. She also teamed up with Margaret Roche to write Cardinal Otunga: A Gift of Grace, a biography of the late cardinal Otunga. She also co-authored Educating in Human Love, a handbook on sex education with her husband Dr. George Ogola.

7 replies on “Dr Margaret Ogola’s voice from the grave”

Can anyone tell me where the poet, literary critic and journalist, Amin Kassam went ? He also worked for The Standard.He wrote a lot for Busara and East Africa Journal when we were undergraduates at the university of Nairobi. His poems appeared in the Rubadiri and Cook anthology. I am looking for him..

I met Kassam in Berlin in 2005 and he told me he lives in Canada. I believe the International Institute of Journalism in Berlin has his address.

Thank you.He and Jared Angira match as poets.When is Jared Othieno-Angira coming home.Taban lo Liyong gossiped that Angira;s second wife who caused Angira to go to the U S is back in Kenya.Has Angira decided to remain in the U S without his family.Taban also gossiped that Lennard Okola is in the U S, courtesy of his wife.

I recently read the River and the Source and loved it. Can’t wait to get my hands on the late Dr. Ogola’s other books. She was very smart achiever and I am glad her legacy lives on through her books.

It was with shock and deep sorrow that I learnt of the death of my friend and colleague of many decades,Professor Francis Davis Imbuga.Imbuga and I met as students under the late Professor Joe de Graft.De Graft was a UNESCO expert seconded to the University of Nairobi to teach Educational Drama.Francis Imbuga was two years behind me.But we came colleagues and practised theatre movement as students of literature and education.

I was employed as a Book Production Officer at the East African Literature Bureau in June 1971.Francis Imbuga had published a [lay called THE MARRIED BACHELOR with the East African Publishing House.He brought me a manuscript which he and his friend Frank Kamau had worked on.I edited it, wrote an introduction to it, and helped them to publish is as The Fourth Trial.Later I had to write many essays on Francis Imbuga’s plays,referring to him as a campus playwright.

Imbuga his vast audiences at Education Theatre II at the University of Nairobi, the Kenya National Theatre, and the Voice of Kenya(as the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation was known in those days).

Kenya took two plays to FESTAC ;77 which took place in Lagos Nigeria.These were Betrayal in the City by Francis Imbuga and The Trial of Dedan Kimathi by Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Micere Githae Mugo. Imbuga acted in his own play,whilst Micere Mugo acted the woman in her co-authored play.

Imbuga joined the University of Nairobi in 1970 after his Higher School Certificate studies at the Alliance Boys High School. Kikuyu.He readily appealed to all who saw him and read him as prodigious thespian.He excelled in Theatre Arts as a student and never looked back.His ouvre of creative work includes, fiction,plays, poetry,and literary criticism.Imbuga is a gentleman of letters by any description;he has led his last years quietly and risen to the highest point of international scholarship.The last time I saw him and sat together at a table of brotherhood was at Kenyatta University where I had been invited by the Vice-Chancellor,Professor Olive Mugenda,to launch a new institute of African Studies there.

I complained in my address about his disquieting silence.He left the hall in which the launch was taking place for a while, and returned with an autographed copy of a new novel of his which he had recently authored ,based on his years in Kigali Rwanda.

Imbuga’s play, Betrayal in the City was recently readopted by the Kenya Institute of Education for study in schools.May God rest his soul in eternal peace.

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