Creatives Academy: Investing In Knowledge
Ken Walibora is a Kiswahili author of novels like Siku Njema, a chronicle of a young male’s troubles after the death of his mother. He is also a prominent news anchor and is frequently featured in shows that teach Kiswahili. He is an authority on the language and is a star in many Kenyan’s eyes. Despite his fame, Walibora garbs himself in a thick cloak of humility and quietude in a conspicuously innate fashion.
I am embarrassed to admit that I find it more difficult to read novels in Kiswahili than in English. It is a weakness I intend to improve on. So when my high school Kiswahili teacher announced that we would be reading Siku Njema as an examinable set-book for my finals, I grunted in usual laxity and disinterest. The book was discouragingly thickset compared to the typical, and I wondered at the author’s surname which literally translates to ‘better cooked rice’. It was definitely a clue to the experience I was to have reading the book. It was better literary cuisine – a fresh and captivating narrative with a good story line that transfixed us in compassionate suspense through a relieving denouement. He tells the story so well that it becomes difficult to separate his identity from that of the character’s. I personally remember watching him in the news and carefully examining his face for expressions that would give remaining traces of the traumatic scourging of the novel’s character’s past. Unlike with the other two Kiswahili set books in the course outline, we greeted the teacher with extra enthusiasm on days we were to tackle Siku Njema. I personally have not had another Kiswahili book that held my focus quite like it does, but I am open to discovering more.
Unfortunately, Walibora was not a member of the panel this year. He flew in and out of the country as the academy went on. He however showed up for the Developing A Good Story class lead by Tony Mochama, Yvonne Owuor and Ng’ang’a Mbugua. Walibora – in perfect Kiswahili – and Ng’ang’a, touched on the investment habits of the regular Kenyan – that the average Kenyan values material possession more than ideology; that Kenyans generally do not invest in knowledge aside from the education structured by government curricula.
It is this discussion that opened my understanding of the importance of including the quest for knowledge in our culture, not just classroom education. I shared many of my deliberations on this topic in Monumental. The following is a segment from that post.
I recently found out that at some point Africa ruled nations beyond its current geopolitical disposition; that Africa claims a stake in the timeline of superpower world rule. How empowering it would have been for me to grow up knowing that I, as an African, have been on the same level playing field with other leading civilizations; that I am not really mentally, or racially, or any way fundamentally incapacitated to hold my place with the best in the world; that there is no race superior to mine, nor is there a natural existence of a racial food chain. I suggest that our self-esteem as Kenyans would have gained a significant boost… There would have been a better chance for quicker and more stable advancements if we were taught from a young age that we are just as gifted and empowered as any other human race – and not just by baseless assertions, but by proof of fact that is, for starters, in factual historical accounts.
I look forward to learning more from Walibora. I hope that he will be present in next year’s Creatives Academy because I plan on being a lifelong member.