Literary Activism

Harriet Levin Millan

Thursday, December 23, 2010


So I got back to Nairobi from Lamu on a Sunday and stayed there until Thursday, attending fiction workshop in the mornings and Kwani LitFest in the afternoons and evenings.  On Thursday I left Nairobi for a safari at Samburu.  Samburu is up north in the semi-desert environment of Kenya.  I flew for an hour in a small Cessna and arrived at the landscape right out of the pages of the novel I am writing.  In my novel I mention a small african antelope called dik-dik and as soon as we arrived at the lodge, the driver pointed out the dik-dik.  I couldn't believe it.  That night I went for the game drive and saw elephants, zebras, antelopes, impalas baboons, a thousand kinds of birds and the next day I saw leopards. The lodge was 5 stars.  But  most amazing of all was the Turkana village way up in the North that the driver (Samson) took me to.  I was met by the village chief and shown all through the village. The beautiful women wrapped my neck in beads and led me by the hand to the dancing. I'll post some pictures because you really must see this!


Back to Nairobi

The power in the hotel was too inconsistent to keep this blog, so I'll just recount some of the things I did after I returned to Nairobi and post some pictures.  The opening party for Kwani LitFest was incredible! I met Kenyan writers, some of them heros whose books I read years ago, Ngugi Wa Thiango'O among them!  Some other authors who were there were Binyavanga Wainaina, Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye, Micere Mugo and Eva Kasava.  The party was held at themansion of a Kenyan musican, whose name I don't know, but another musican, Atemi Hatimaye played and I bought her CD.  It's great! We also attended the launching of the new issue of Kwani at the National Museum, that's the Museum where Leaky's skulls are exhibited! Both events were extremely exclusive with beautiful talented people. I hope I stay in touch with all the Kenyan authors I met. Some of them live in the US having been forced to exile.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Last Day in Lamu

I took some amazing pictures of the Masai in Lamu and will post them.  The Masai live still immersed in traditional ways.  Last spring, Joseph Tipanko, a Masai activist and leader came tot he States and I saw him many times and I contacted him here and he's invited me to his village. So I may have the opportunity to go to a real Masai village and spend the night there.  The Masai are so sweet.  One of them showed me the scar from where he killed a lion--part of their initiation is to be alone in the woods and not come back until they've killed a lion.  And he showed me the claw around his neck that he wears from the lion he killed.  

Friday, December 10, 2010

Leaving Lamu Today

It's been very difficult to post while in Lamu because of the lack of internet.  The hotel does have WIFI--when it works! That and a hot shower. Hahahaha! I've been showering with ice cold water for 5 days, but fortunately the Indian Ocean is right out my door. Lamu has got to be the most exotic place I've ever been to. Donkies in the streets, Masai warriors who wear the claws and teeth of the lions they've killed around their necks, little children playing games with coconut shells and mango seeds, people carrying bundles of wood on their heads, fisherman, old timers, and everyone greeting you with "Jambo," (hello in Swahili) and a smile.  
Last night was SLS's open reading and it was so beautiful to hear the work of all the participants on Mando Beach.  We ate a giant buffet and swam in the Indian Ocean and sailed back at midnight under stars that we can't see from the Eastern US, thousands of them lighting up the sky.  I'm going to lose my internet connection so just was to load in some pictures of this magical place before I do...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

First fall day in Nairobi

Well I just spent a full day in Nairobi and did quite a lot. Went into town to buy a cheap cell phone with SLS leaders Tom and Rich.  Went to the Nairobi synagogue--it was closed and I couldn't get through the security gate. Had a long talk with poet and fiction writer Terese Svoboda all the way to the Rift Valley. Saw part of the Rift Valley from an overlook (place where Leaky explored, where the Garden of Eden existed, where humankind began).  Met Bishee's mother and brother-in-law and delivered to them their gifts. Attended SLS opening reception where I met among others the Kenyan poet Ngwtilo Mawiyoo.  Here's the final stanza from her poem Childhood Revisited:  "The grass is dead, the last generation gathered in a heap at the foot of the hill.  No one has offered last rites, else it would rot, become part of the healing.  The soil has slid downhill since earth has limited and receding immunity.  There is no hedge..."

Am exhausted!