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Publishers record brisk business as parents flock Eldoret Book Fair

The 2023 edition of the regional book fair, organised by the Kenya Publishers Association (KPA) ended on Saturday in Eldoret.

The event, that was held at the Eldo Center Car Park, kicked off on Wednesday. It brought together a number of publishers and booksellers, who sold books at discounted prices to members of the public.

Despite the depressed economy, the exhibitors did brisk business as parents, teachers and students flocked the venue seeking to replenish their school supplies.

Kiarie Kamau, the chairman of KPA urged county governments and the national government to support publishers by establishing school and community libraries; and ensuring that the libraries are well stocked. “On our part, we shall donate books to such libraries, and offer others at highly discounted prices,” said Kamau, who is also the CEO of East African Educational Publishers. He added that publishers are not content with merely publishing textbooks. “We also publish general reading materials such as storybooks, novels and biographies. Our desire is to promote lifelong learning so that learners can broaden their knowledge and perspectives.

Mary Maina, who chairs the Nairobi International Book Fair committee, explained that their choice of Eldoret as venue for this year’s regional book fair, was partly informed by the fact that the town is soon to be elevated to city status. “The fact that plans are at an advanced stage to turn Eldoret into a city, speaks of the resilient and hardworking nature of the world famous Home of Champions,” added Ms Maina, who is also the MD of Moran Publishers.

Last year’s event was held in Nakuru, which had just been elevated to a city status.

The chief guest during the fair was prof Janet Kosgei, the Uasin Gishu county minister in charge of Education, who also took the opportunity to mentor school children, particularly girls, on the need to take up Sciences as a course. Prof Ng’eno has a PhD in Mathematics.

Also present during the event was Khalif Isaack the Uasin Gishu County Director of Education.

The highlight of the event was a visit to the Eldoret School for Hearing Impaired, where the publishers donated reading materials and foodstuffs worthy sh850,000.

The donation forms part of KPA’s CSR activities during every book fair.

The regional book fair, held in different county headquarters, is a precursor to the annual Nairobi International Book Fair, held at the Sarit Center towards the end of September.

Books Culture Featured Fiction Issues Reviews

The tear-jerking experiences of a child bride

Title: The Girl with the Louding Voice

Author: Abi Dare

Publisher: Sceptre (UK)

Reviewer: Cynthia Abdallah

It is not enough that the main character Adunni will tug at your heartstrings and make you sympathize with the plight of the girl child in the novel, The Girl with the Louding Voice. Her father’s decision to marry her off to an old man in the village emphasizes the need to fight for the girl child who is vulnerable in a patriarchal society.

Adunni’s dreams of becoming a lawyer are hindered by her father’s poverty and mother’s demise and she is married off to an old man with 2 wives.

That Adunni is 14 years old does not deter the man who already cannot take care of his two wives from pushing for the young wife to give him a baby.

The broken English serves to enhance the innocence of this girl who only wants to have a louding voice.

Her singing and close relationship with her brother Kayus will tug at your heart and make you shed a tear for Adunni and especially for her brother.

The family unit is slowly disintegrating and the children again are at the centre of it.

Adunni is running away leaving her heartbroken brother behind and an enraged village pining for her blood.

Khadija is dead, Iya is dying, a slow painful death and Labake is going mad.

Despite the challenges that Adunni faces, she continues to fight and has a good sense of humor that makes you root for her all the way in the novel.

Get your copy!

About the author

Abi Daré grew up in Lagos, Nigeria and has lived in the UK for eighteen years. She studied law at the University of Wolverhampton and has an M.Sc. in International Project Management from Glasgow Caledonian University as well as an MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck University of London. The Girl with the Louding Voice won The Bath Novel Award for unpublished manuscripts in 2018 and was also selected as a finalist in 2018 The Literary Consultancy Pen Factor competition. Abi lives in Essex with her husband and two daughters, who inspired her to write her debut novel.

Books Featured Fiction Reviews

Kombani impresses in his latest offering

Title: Hawkers-Pokers

Author: Kinyanjui Kombani

Publisher: Longhorn

Reviewer: Mbugua Ngunjiri

Kinyanjui Kombani is back, this time with a thriller, whose twists and turns will keep the reader glued to the book’s pages till the very end.

The story is told through the eyes of Rocky Ada (Rada), hawker, who is the eyes (riitho) of fellow hawkers going about their business in the streets of Nairobi. To understand why a riitho is an important person in the hawkers’ universe, one only needs to reflect on the cat and mouse, often street battles between hawkers and City Inspectorate Enforcement Officers (Kanjo askaris), which can and routinely turns fatal.

Now, it is the duty of Rada and two other sentries to be on the lookout and warn fellow hawkers of any impending raid by the deadly Kanjo.

One day, while playing his usual cat and mouse games with Kanjo, Rada rescues a man he finds unconscious in a storm drain. Turns out that this man, Mike Thumbi, son of one the richest men in Nairobi, had a near-fatal encounter with the infamous mchele (drugging) babes.

Out of the goodness of his heart, Rada borrows a mkokoteni and takes the indisposed Mike to his shack in nearby Ngara, a decision he regrets later, but also has the potential of changing his fortunes.

Meanwhile, Mike is reported missing and suspected to have been kidnapped. One thing leads to another and a contingent of crack unit personnel drawn from the country’s elite forces ‘rescues’ Mike, while Rada is taken into police custody.

When it becomes clear the charge of kidnap cannot hold in a court of law, Rada is released on bond. Mike feels remorseful seeing the kind of tribulations, including torture, his rescuer has undergone in the hands of cruel police interrogators. He pays Rada’s bond.

They soon part ways after Rada refuses Mike’s offer for further assistance. However, their fate appears intertwined as they soon find themselves together again, when Rada comes to and finds himself under the care of Mike, in their home.

After proving himself useful to the Thumbi family, a plan is hatched for Rada’s slum-dwelling parents to get introduced to the Thumbi’s. Drama awaits as it is through this meeting that long-forgotten history comes back to haunt the two families, when it emerges that Rada and not Mike is the billionaire’s real son and that the two were swapped at birth.

These revelations come in the form of action-packed flashbacks; explosive revelations that threaten to tear apart, the image Thumbi had carefully cultivated for himself all those years. His multi-billion business empire risks going down the drain, as sordid details of his dark past come back to haunt him.

You only need to read the book to get details for yourself. Here, Kombani, one of Kenya’s most prolific writers has surely outdone himself. This, in our view, is vintage Kombani, who announced himself to the literary landscape with his magnum opus, The Last Villains of Molo. Clearly, he has matured and gotten better with time.

One small issue though; the author failes to tie up a few loose ends in his plot, particularly the bit where Rada is arrested and taken to court. How is it that police interrogators neglected to tell him what he was arrested for? Again, since most of the book is narrated from Rada’s point of view, he conveniently omits the part where he was arrested from his house, where he had rescued/harboured Mike.

It thus gets confusing for the reader, when Rada, in court, claims no knowledge of Mike, in view of his association with him at the storm drain and subsequent housing him at his Ngara shack, from where they were smoked out by police.

This can only be down to authorial oversight, which would have been cured through keen editorial intervention.  

That oversight though doesn’t dampen the fire in Hawkers-Pokers, for it addresses issues that affect our daily lives, like child theft and child swapping in our maternity hospitals. Something about the book’s ending cries for a sequel.     

Books Featured Fiction Reviews

For the love of the game

Title: Benji’s Big Win
Author: Nducu wa Ngugi
Publisher: East African Educational Publishers
Availability: Leading Bookstores
Reviewer: Mbugua Ngunjiri

Though he enjoys his life in school, there are a number of things bothering Benji.
Top of them is his father’s apparent disinterest in his budding football career. He is not only the top striker in Kamden Boys School, he is also the team captain. Not once has his father, Musa come to watch any of his games; which is rather baffling considering that the father used to be a star footballer in his youthful days.
Karis is the other major source of Benji’s worry. A big bodied boy, Karis has been tormenting Benji through incessant bullying, to a point of him getting recurring nightmares. While his mother is sympathetic about the situation, the father comes down hard on the lad, wondering aloud why the son can’t stand up to the bully.
Then there are loggers, who with the apparent backing of government, have invaded Loki forest, cutting down trees. Keepers, the local environmental lobby group, led by Benji’s mother, appears to have hit a brick wall in terms of stopping the destruction of the forest. Benji and his friends are worried about the adverse environmental consequences that will befall their community as a result of the ongoing forest destruction.
Benji is the lead character in Nducu wa Ngugi’s book Benji’s Big Win, which won the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature, in the youth category, this year. Nducu is one Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s offsprings, trying to follow their famous father’s footsteps in making a name for themselves in the world of writing. This is Nducu’s second book after City Murders, published by East African Educational Publishers, which also happens to be his father’s Kenyan publisher.
In the book, the reader follows Benji’s escapades and close calls, waiting to see how his troubles are going to get resolved.
Soon, we get an inkling of why Musa appears to be dead set against his son’s football career. He has health issues arising from an injury he sustained as a footballer for Umoja Stars, the national team, while playing against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon. This injury almost rendered him immobile, he is constantly on medication and undergoing therapy.
As a result, Benji’s father is stays at home, jobless, and has to rely on his wife to provide on the family. Though it is not spelt out in black and white, in the book, Musa must be anxious and worried that his son might suffer similar fate and be faced with an uncertain future. That is why he insists that Benji instead focuses on his studies, as that is what guarantees his future.
Using Musa’s example, the author brings out the sad state of footballers and other athletes, in Kenya, who lack support structures from the government and  end up leading pathetic lifestyles. Perhaps this explains why our football remains stunted as the players are constantly on the lookout for alternative sources of earning a livelihood; local football cannot guarantee that.
On the family front, we see the tension in Musa’s household, where his wife is the sole bread winner as the husband is incapacitated. Though she doesn’t show it, she must be feeling the strain of providing for her family alone. Already, there are signs of latent friction with Benji’s parents, when Musa gives his son an order and his wife reverses it.
Many families are undergoing almost similar troubles, particularly post-Covid, when many bread winners were rendered jobless and have had to rely on their spouses. Some families completely fell apart. Though the book does not give Musa’s perspective, no doubt he must feel his authority, as the man of the house, undermined; sickly and jobless, now seeing his wife and child disobey his orders. Thank God the family is still intact, but for how long?
Not as lucky though is Abele’s family. Abele is a beautiful girl, Benji has eyes for. She hails from Balaza Estate, in Nairobi, but stays in Loki with her uncle due to the fact that her own father is unable to sufficiently provide for his family. Abele is thus one mouth less to feed.
Meanwhile, the matter of Loki forest’s destruction sticks out like a sore thumb among residents of the community. Well, this is not a new phenomenon in Kenya. We have seen politically connected individuals being allowed to visit destruction on the environment by settling in protected forests like in the case of Mau. Before that, there was the protracted struggle to save Karura Forest; a struggle that won the late Wangari Maathai, the Nobel Prize.
On the bullying front, Karis is unrelenting. There are several episodes where Benji comes off worse for wear.
Karis’ bullying gets worse and is expelled from Kamden to Mawingu, a neighbouring school.
Still, a final showdown looms between the two protagonists when they come face to face in the local ‘derby’; a grudge match between Kamden and Mawingu.
The prize is too tantalizing for Benji. For one, winning the game will win him local bragging rights and the affections of Abele, who is also being courted by his nemesis, Karis.
During the game, Karis goes personal on Benji, a fight almost breaking out between the two. Despite huge odds, Benji scores the winning goal for his school. Icing on the cake is when, at the end of the game, Benji realises that his father was among the spectators, cheering him on.
Upon losing the game, Karis mellows down and seeks Benji’s forgiveness.
Though Benji wins the affections of Abele, he loses her as she is forced to go back to Nairobi, since his uncle is now unable to take care of her.
The book ends without the issue of Loki Forest being resolved. Could this be a signal that a sequel to the book is in the works. This is not far-fetched for, towards the end of the book, Benji and his pal, Jasper are plotting to visit Abele in Balaza.
Benji’s Big Win makes for interesting reading but the author needs to work on a few issues to improve on his craft. First, his writing needs to be grounded on some reality. How is it that Benji learns, at the last minute, that Karis is playing for Mawingu? Even prior to his expulsion, there was no mention of Karis’ involvement in football. Just like with Benji’s example, football requires commitment and regular training. One just doesn’t wake up and find themselves lining up for a major tournament.
The author’s stay abroad shows in his usage of US phrases and words. While these do not hurt, some words like cleats, for football boots, as it is understood locally, might end up confusing the young readers.
All in all, Benji’s Big Win is a major score for Nducu and the fact that it won an award is testament to his writing potential.

Books Featured Non-Fiction Personalities Releases Reviews

In Spare, British tabloids more than met their match

Title: Spare

Author: Prince Harry

Reviewer: Mbugua Ngunjiri

Never, in their wildest imaginations, did players in the British media expect that a member of the royal family would come swinging at them the way rebel Prince Harry has done in his tell-all book Spare.

The tabloids took refuge in the fact that the royal household operates under the motto of ‘never complain, never explain’, to launch all manner of cowardly attacks on the monarchy, including outright fabrications and falsehoods. After all, they comforted themselves, the royals, bound by their strict rules, can never come out to tell their side of the story.

They also knew that they owned the megaphone through which they could poison the mood of the public against the royals, if they did not cooperate.

With the British media, the royal household is held hostage; they are virtually prisoners; the message being: ‘you either do as we want or else…’

Enter Prince Harry, a rebel within the royal household. Still smarting from the way his mother, the universally loved Princess Diana, who was hounded by paparazzi, who were only interested in taking photos even as the she lay dead in an accident they had caused.

The tabloids targeted Harry from an early age, when he was still in school. Normal teenage truancy by the prince was regularly being analysed and dissected in the papers. The royal family could not bring itself to defend and protect the vulnerable prince.

From the book, it is clear that two of his girlfriends broke up with him as they could not cope with the hounding and relentless intrusion of their privacy. One of His exes committed suicide in 2020. He blames the media for her death.

As the book’s title suggests, Harry is the Spare as opposed to William who is the Heir. Thus, according to Harry, the royal family was too willing to sacrifice the Spare in order to protect the Heir and indeed the rest of the family.

Thus whenever the media caught wind of something negative emanating from the royal household, they were appeased by being given ‘something’ about Harry, never mind its authenticity. Whenever Harry complained to his father – the now King Charles – the father always had a stock answer for him: ‘don’t read the papers’.

This was hypocritical coming from Charles seeing as it was him and his wife Camilla who, through their offices, regularly fed the media with negative information about his sons, in order to shore up their image. William also followed suit and also took part in leaking stories in the media about his brother.

In the book, William comes out as an aloof whiny entitled brat, given to throwing tantrums over minor issues. Despite the fact that he is almost certainly assured of inheriting the kingship from his father, he is not happy with the roles assigned to his younger brother and which appears to accomplish rather well.

William griped endlessly when the Palace approved Harry’s patronage of war veterans’ activities, claiming that those activities were eating up the royal household’s budget. This is despite the fact that Harry’s involvement with the veterans was only taking up a tiny fraction of the budget, with corporate donations plugging the rest.

The royal household saw red when Harry hooked up with Meghan Markle. Here was a woman, who through her acting had curved out a global profile for herself. They could not, according to Harry, stand being outshone. That is when the media leaks against Harry and went on overdrive.

From the palace, the onslaught was led by William. Many are the days when Harry came home to find his wife in tears. Such was the intensity of attacks that Meghan, according to the book, considered ending her life. The race-baiting was especially ugly.

When they could take it any longer, Harry, his wife and child ran to Canada, where for six weeks they led a peaceful life, before the Daily Mail leaked their location and the hounding by paparazzi resumed.

Harry says that their unending war with the media led to Meghan suffering a miscarriage. That explains why he reserves his harshest words for the media, calling them a ‘dreadful mob of dweebs and crones and cut-rate criminals and clinically diagnosable sadists along Fleet Street’.

As stated earlier, the media in Britain never thought that a royal would go to the media to tell his side of the story, let alone a tell-book. Their coverage of the book is telling; it is full of hurt and anger: How dare this brat turn the tables on us, exposing our lies about him and his family; making us look bad.

If they thought that they are the only wielders of the megaphone, well Harry, with his best-selling book, wields it better. Not forgetting that Meghan is yet to write hers…

In Harry, the British tabloids have finally met their match. Diana must be rejoicing wherever she is.

For their shameless race-baiting of Meghan, British tabloids deserve anything and everything coming their way.

Books Culture Education Featured Fiction Personalities

Kenyan priest who wrote a novel and won an award

Ten things you should know about Father Samuel Wachira, the only priest in Kenya, to have written a full-length book on popular literature.

1. Father Samuel Wachira was born and raised in Sagana, Kirinyaga County.

2. He studied priesthood at the Pontifical Institute for Biblical Studies in Rome.

3. His first posting as a priest was in the Amazon Forest, in Brazil, where he served for close to ten years.

4. Deep in the Amazon Forest, there was no electricity and the road network was poor. Sometimes it would rain for a whole straight week and the priest would spend the entire time indoors. “I decided to occupy myself with writing,” he says. That is how Gold Rush, his first book, was born.

5. The death of Father Kamau Ithondeka, who was his college-mate in Rome, during the 2007/8 Post-Election Violence, moved Father Wachira to write Whistleblower. He was still ministering in Brazil.

6. After he came back to Kenya, Father Wachira served briefly at St Mukasa Parish, in Kahawa West, before being posted to Blessed Allamano Runogone Catholic Parish, in Meru, where he serves to date. Back in Kenya, he wrote Tales from the Amazon, a collection of short stories targeted at Standard Seven and Eight pupils.

7. His fourth book, A Spider’s Web, dealing with drug abuse, was made a set-book for Teacher Training Colleges (2021 to 2025). “Writing this book helped me cope with the deaths of my father and younger brother,” says Father Wachira.

8. During the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, Father Wachira, again, found himself with spare time as churches had been closed. He used the time to write Hustler’s Chains, which won the Wahome Mutahi Literary Prize, in September.

9. Two of his books have been runners-up in the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature (Whistle Blower in 2017 and The Spider’s Web in 2019)

10. Father Wachira has been published by three different publishers. East African Educational Publishers (Gold Rush and Tales from the Amazon), Longhorn (Whistleblower) and One Planet (Spider’s Web and Hustlers’ Chains).

Books Culture Featured Personalities publishing

Prof Kithaka wa Mberia has occupied the same office for 41 years

Five little known facts about Prof Kithaka wa Mberia.

1. He teaches Linguistics at the University of Nairobi and not Kiswahili, as widely believed by many. One of the many Vice-Chancellors he has served under, at UoN, long held the belief that Prof Mberia taught Kiswahili.

2. His book Kwenzi Gizani, which won the Jomo Kenyatta prize for Literature, last month (September 2022), was the first book he was submitting to be considered for a literary award.

3. He has self-published all his books, including Kifo Kisimani, which was a set book between 2005 and 2012.

4. He has occupied the same office, at the University of Nairobi for 41 years.

5. He writes in Kiswahili as a matter of principle. “I would be read more widely if I decided to write in English,” he says. “That is a price I am willing to pay.”

Books Featured Issues Personalities Reviews

Raila Odinga: My life at Magdeburg University

When Jaramogi Oginga Odinga sent his son Raila Odinga to communist East Germany, it was on the firm understanding that he would eventually study Medicine, despite the fact that the son was inclined to the arts.

This was in 1962 and Raila was only 17. He had just left Maranda School. In Germany, he was enrolled at the Herder-Institut in Leipzig, which had been a faculty of the prestigious Leipzig University.

“Students would arrive from many different parts of the world, having gone through widely varying education systems, so there was a need for them to be harmonised into the German system and to pass a university entrance exam before they could be admitted to any German institution of higher learning,” writes Raila in his book the Flame of Freedom. “The Herder-Institut was thus a combination of high school and language school.”

“I was just coming out of primary school, so I had to go through the Herder-Institut’s high school programme, taking three and a half years, along with fellow students from Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and many other non-German speaking places,” he adds.

Among his colleagues at the Institute was Moses Keino who would later become Speaker of the National Assembly. Keino had however finished his ‘O’ Level studies back in Kenya, so he only spent a year at the herder-Institut before joining university.

Keino struck friendship with Etta Kirui, a Kenyan girl who had come to Leipzig to further the Nursing course she had acquired in the UK. The friendship blossomed into romance and soon, they were married, with Raila acting as the Emcee.

Their studies included a mandatory three-month basic German language course. “At the end of the three months, I came second to Ruhti in the German language exam,” writes Raila. “Coming from German-speaking Switzerland, he had an advantage over me.”

Back to the ‘Medicine course’.

The path to medical school involved studying Maths, biology, physics and chemistry. During his second year of study, the students had to do some practicals, at a local hospital, which involved the study of human anatomy. This is where a ‘problem’ arose.

“To my horror, the students were practicing on cadavers, cutting them up and examining various pieces of the dead bodies. I looked at it and just felt sick,” writes Raila. “I knew immediately that I was not cut out for medicine.”

Thoroughly traumatised, Raila threatened that he would go back to Kenya, if the institute’s administration did not allow him to change his course of study to Mechanical Engineering. “Changing courses initially put me at a disadvantage,” he writes. “The engineering students had completed courses in subjects I had not been studying… I had to work extra hours to catch up.”

Raila says that at the end of the three-year course, he passed ‘in all the subjects with high marks’ and was admitted to the Magdeburg College of Advanced Technology, which eventually became the Magdeburg Otto-von-Guericke University. “I chose Magdeburg because it specialised in heavy engineering,” adds Raila.

According to the book, Raila was at Magdeburg between 1965 and 1969.

At Magdeburg, Raila was the only African student; the only other African (a Sudanese) chose to identify himself with Arabs. He remembers a certain Norbert Shonborn who was jolly and full of jokes. He was the class clown. “He unfortunately failed his exams and was expelled,” says Raila.

His roommate and best friend in campus was Roland Obst, a German. “We would meet up again, many years later as middle-aged men, at a 2007 college re-union, we attended with our wives,” he writes.

It is at Magdeburg, Baba had his first taste of romance with a girlfriend named Huldegund Ruge, who was studying Chemical Engineering. The girl was fascinated by Africa and since Baba was the only African in a group of 300 students. It is easy to see why she was attracted to Raila.

That romance lasted only six months and Baba hooked up with another German, a school teacher named Margita. “…she used to come see me in Magdeburg, while I also visited her in Arendsee… I stayed with her several times and would take my books to study while she was working… It was a very happy and pleasant time,” writes Baba.

During his time at Magdeburg, Raila was the secretary general of Federation of Kenyan Students in Europe (KFSE). This involved a lot of travel in European countries attending student gatherings. At some point he was scheduled to travel to Moscow. Baba had written a telegram to his brother Oburu, who studying in Russia, so he could pay for their visa and clear them at the airport.

The telegram did not get to Oburu on time, leading to a lots of frustrations by uncooperative airport officials. Fed-up with the frustrations, Baba and his friend decided to hop into a taxi and get to their destination without visas. Airport officials stopped the taxi and ordered the two out. By the time Oburu arrived to sort them out, Baba had already been deported back to Berlin!

Did you know that when the famous American Jazz artiste Neil Armstrong came for a concert in Magdeburg, Baba was hired as an interpreter!

He explains that the courses at Magdeburg were extremely rigorous and that the dropout rate was high. “Of the original 40 in my group, only 17 of us eventually graduated,” explains Baba.

Baba graduated with Upper Second Honours (Gut) in Production Technology, which qualified him to register for a PhD, which he did, but failed to take up the offer.

The Flame of Freedom is published by Mountain Top Publishers.

Books Education Events Featured Issues News publishing

Relief as Kenyan publishers hold first book fair in two years

It was relief for Kenyan publishers after they held their first book fair in two years in Nakuru City last week.

The publishers are just recovering from the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw them lose a whole year’s sales when learning institutions were closed in 2020.

Kiarie Kamau (third from left), the chairman of Kenya Publishers Association conducts Jared Obiero (in blue suit), the Rift Valley Director of Education, around the stands at the Nakuru Regional Book Fair. PICTURE| KLB

Due to restrictions pertaining to Covid protocols, they could not hold a physical book fair. They therefore tried something new, a virtual book fair, which however did not realise any sales. The disappointing outcome made them to cancel plans for holding fairs in 2021.

In total, Kenyan publishers missed out on four book fairs. Each year, the Kenya Publishers Association (KPA) holds two book fairs; a regional one in the counties and an international one at the Sarit Centre in Nairobi.

They were thus raring to go when it became clear that the Nakuru regional book fair would finally become a reality. Kiarie Kamau, the chairperson of KPA expressed optimism that the worst is now behind and urged publishers to diversify their product portfolio to avoid over-reliance on textbooks. “Though schools were closed due to Covid restrictions, people were still reading behind closed doors. We need to fully service this general market while at the same time publishing for the school market,” said Mr Kamau who is also the managing director of East African Educational Publishers (EAEP).

He noted that their decision to hold the regional book fair in Nakuru was informed by the fact that exactly a year ago the town acquired city status. “We wanted to celebrate with the people of Nakuru,” explained Mr. Kamau. “We were excited to see the enthusiastic response from teachers, parents, students and booksellers who thronged our stands during the four days we were at the Maasai Market, along Kenyatta Avenue. Publishers made good sales.”

He added that booksellers were particularly excited to see the fair come to their city. “Booksellers were hard hit by the Covid pandemic; some had even closed shop. To them, this was a clear indication that things are back to normal,” added Mr Kamau.


On her part, Mary Maina, the chairperson of the Nairobi International Book Fair, regional book fairs are the best avenues of taking books to the people, in the true spirit of devolution. “In our case we are distributing knowledge, thereby giving Kenyans throughout the country a chance to sample what publishers have to offer,” said Ms Maina, who is also the managing director of Moran Publishers.

She added that visitors to the Fair got a chance to see all the books that have been approved to be used in the Competency Based Curriculum, which is currently in Grade Six as well as the remaining classes of the 8-4-4 System. “Also on offer were revision books for school children, as well and books for general reading like readers and novels for adults. We got very encouraging reception from booksellers who were keen to stock up,” added Ms Maina.

Kithusi Mulonzya, the CEO of One Planet Publishers, noted that the Nakuru Regional Book Fair was a dry run for the Nairobi International Book Fair that will be held in September. “This year’s event will be bigger and better,” he said. 

John Mburu, the general manager of Patmat Bookshop, in Nakuru, thanked publishers for marketing and promoting booksellers in the region. “The coming of the book fair in Nakuru has really boosted our sales,” he said.

The highlight of the Fair was a visit to the Love for All Children’s Home in Shabab area, where publishers donated foodstuffs and books worth sh200,000.

Arts Culture Featured Personalities Travel Uncategorized

Adrian, the ‘lion-hearted’ artist

It is long since I last sat down with Adrian Nduma and the Covid restrictions were not helping matters. Being one of the top rated visual artists in Kenya, I have always been amazed by his works; they are so breathtakingly real.

The other day I went for a meeting in Karen and it occurred to me that this would be an ideal opportunity to hook up with Adrian; after all, his studio is situated in nearby Dagoreti Corner. I called him and he told me that he was on his way to Rongai and if I would call him when I was through with my meeting to see where he might be.

After my meeting, I called back and by coincidence, Adrian was in Karen. He asked me to join him at the Talisman Restaurant. When we met up, he put on a horrified face when I told him that it was my first time at the Talisman. “What! Tembea Kenya bana.” I had to defend myself saying that with ‘working from home’ I don’t get out much.

My main reason for meeting with Adrian was basically to touch base, and not necessarily discuss arty things – although you can never avoid that.

Once settled down and with our pots of tea on the table and the initial pleasantries done with, Adrian told me that he had gone to Rongai to supervise a project he is undertaking there. Our talk then drifted to construction, building materials and the rest, but he could not bring himself to discuss exactly what project he was undertaking and I did not press.

Would you, when you are enjoying specially brewed tea and exotic samosas at the Talisman? Me, I decided to enjoy the ambience and the piped music that was filtering through. On the walls, there were some art pieces and Adrian told me that an exhibition was currently ongoing.

The artist, whose works were on exhibition had used mixed media, including pieces of clothing on the canvas. This style reminded me of an artist named Kamicha; I wondered where he is today. He has been missing in action lately. Adrian, too, wasn’t aware of his whereabouts.

The Talisman is also an outlet for Adrian’s works and he has exhibited a number of his works there. Little wonder that he was quite at home there; the staff were passing over to say hi. You could also tell from the personalised service we got there.  He is some sort of a celeb there.

The Talisman has this cool, homely ambience about it. From the entrance, the establishment looks deceptively simple. There is a bright yellow vintage pick-up truck at right at entry, in spic spac condition. Now, this tells you people who patronise this place appreciate the finer things life has to offer.

This immediately manifests itself when you step inside. Well, not many establishments hold active art exhibitions, so that tells you the kind of clientele that frequents there. They are the sophisticated type.

Sophisticated does not necessarily mean wealthy – although you need to be rather well endowed to be able to appreciate FINE art. We have moneyed individuals in this country, whose idea of art is what their kids do with pencils and drawing books in school. I hope this gives you a rough idea of who frequents joints like the Talisman.      

Inevitably, Adrian and I find ourselves talking about his art. He tells me that with the Covid restrictions, he’s mainly been involved with commission works, and which has kept him gainfully occupied.

Since his studio is within his residence, Adrian told me that there are times when inspiration strikes, forcing him to wake up in the dead of the night to work on his paints and brushes, to produce magic on a blank canvas.

“I work best with music playing in the background,” said Adrian, a former banker. And what is his favourite kind of music, I ask. “Well, I like all kinds of music as long it strikes the right chords in me,” he said, adding that he even finds certain genres of vernacular music appealing.

And on that musical note, I seized the opportunity to ask him a question I have always wanted to take up withhim; his uncanny resemblance to Gikuyu Benga artiste Kariuki Kiarutara. He smiled wanly and acknowledged that he has indeed been told of the resemblance a few times. “But looking at Kariuki’s pictures, he doesn’t have a moustache, unlike me,” he protested weakly.

He added that he gets spooked by people who look like him, but he promised to check out Kariuki’s music on Youtube, especially after I told him that his music packs heavy messages and is comparable to the late Joseph Kamaru.

Like all visual artistes worth their salt, Adrian is also an ardent art collector, including his own art. “I collect my art for posterity sake,” he said. “That forms part of my children’s inheritance. Once I feel that a particular piece of art should go into my collection, I simply roll it up and put it aside. It doesn’t get to be viewed.”

And while he has made a name courtesy of his diverse variety of art, the Lion series stands out as perhaps his signature. Before talking about the significance of the lion in his works, Adrian reclines back on his seat, takes a deep breath and with a far-away look, says that he cannot get enough of drawing the lion.

“It is not for nothing that lion is king of the jungle,” he says. “There is a lot of mystery surrounding it. Of all the animals I think it is the lion that comes closest to man, in terms of personality.”    

As our conversation draws to a close, we agree that we should catch up more often.

PS: Did you know that in 2013 Adrian wanted to be the governor of Embu?