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Spotlight: Moses Kilolo

Spotlight: Moses Kilolo

Spotlight is a monthly series showcasing work by a member (or member emeritus) of Jalada Africa. Each month, we explore poetry, fiction, nonfiction, photo/video essays, comics, films: it could be anything, as long as it’s produced by a Jaladan. We also highlight their past and present contributions to the Collective, whether editorial, managerial, or organizational.

Moses Kilolo is a founding member of Jalada Africa. He served as the Collective’s Managing Editor between 2014 and 2018 and currently manages the Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature. Kilolo’s writing has been published in Saraba Magazine, Veem House of Performance and Radio Africa Magazine among others.

He has a book chapter in the Routledge Handbook for Translation and Activism. Kilolo studied Journalism at the United States International University–attaining Magna Cum Laude–and Publishing at the Seagull School of Publishing. He writes in Kikamba, Kiswahili and English. He is working on a novel. 

This month, Kilolo shares an excerpt from his 2016 story, An Immortal Precariat Goes into the Night. It was published in his first language, Kiikamba in Absinthe, a literary journal that is run out of the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan. Saraba Magazine featured the story in English while Radio Africa Magazine published it in Spanish.

He says: “I am a strong advocate for multilingualism in storytelling and in publishing. African languages are instrumental in understanding and realizing the potential of African nations and its people. We must embrace translation and publishing in African languages as an opportunity to harness our cultural wealth. Of note, increased use of African languages will enhance participation in emergent knowledge-based economies for the majority speakers across the continent. Many may also become producers of knowledge they previously only imagined possible if conceived and conveyed in international languages. This is why I advocate for more work in African languages.”

Kimwana Kithini Nikyalika Kivinduni

Mwiso nukuma nyumba saa nyanya sya utuku, itina wa kuya masilingi Awĩnja eeite kavalukini vau vakuvi na tiivii. Elika matatuni itena abilia ona umwe, lakini yiendete tauni. Ngali isu kawaida ikuaa andu ikumi na ana. Lakini nao makunite musiki wina wasya mwingi ki, uutuma kelele isu iyananga kukilwa kwa kiwiyoo kiu.

Niivo ĩndĩ ukumiswa Ilovĩ taoni nthini kula ukwiwa thayu wake ta ukwitwa ni mandaimoni. Etembea mituki mituki athengee eitu ala maungamite laini vau stlitini wa Koinange. Evungua metho make muno, ayona kana amalasimthwa kuvunguka ou nukumwona mwiitu wa inya ula witawa Aggy. Ni Aggy eweka umulilikanasya undu mundu wiwaa kwithiwa na usyaaniwa, ona kethiwa ndaila kumwona mwaka mingi muno. Na ngoo yake yina thina mwingi. Namo mesilwa ni maito ki. Nivo ayiwa wasya ndu ya ivuti, na indi swwiiii wa kisasi yiathite kungi. Ĩndĩ o mituki ayiwa ivuti yingi yamuatha kituoni, yikamulasimithya kutulya ndu, vakuvi avaluke nthi vyu. Ivisa yake ya mwiso kuyona ni ya Aggy, auite mbu nene na asembete kuka vala ũĩ. Ndesa kumanya Aggy amusembeete na muyo kumwona kana ni woo wa kila cheekika. Na o mbola mbola ayona kiwiyoo kĩi kiyusua kĩvindu kinene na kukilwa vyu, na ayiyiwa avalukite vandu vololo veumumelwa tene na tene.

An Immortal Precariat Goes into the Night

He walks out of the house at two in the morning, with the coins from the jar that sits beside the TV. He gets into a matatu going to town, the only other passenger in the fourteen-seater with music so loud it feels like a violation to the sanctity of the night.

He is dropped in the heart of a city whose caged demons suffocate his soul. And he walks faster and faster towards the girls that line Koinange Street, his eyes bulging as though the wider he opens them the easier it will be to see Aggy among them, the fading memory of his only blood relation. And as his heart sinks deeper into the abyss, his ears are shut temporarily by the shrill, initial swish of a stray bullet, and then the penetrating pain of another through his right shoulder, driving him to his knees. His last image is of Aggy, running towards him screaming. With joy or pain he does not know. And then slowly the night grows so dark and quiet he feels himself fall into a soft, swallowing infinity.

La precariedad inmortal de la noche (Translated by Gerard Casas)

Se marcha de la casa de Awinja a las dos de la noche con algo de calderilla que ha encontrado en el jarrón al lado del televisor. Sube a un matatu en dirección al centro; un matatu de catorce plazas prácticamente vacío en el que la música está tan alta que parece como si violaran la santidad nocturna.

El matatu le deja en el centro de una ciudad cuyos demonios enjaulados le consumen el alma. Cada vez anda más deprisa hacia las chicas de la calle Koinange, con los ojos abiertos como platos, como si por tenerlos más abiertos fuese más fácil encontrar a Aggy, su hermana, el recuerdo desvanecido de su único vínculo familiar. Su corazón se sume en el abismo y su oído se detiene con el estridente silbido de una bala perdida. Justo después, siente el dolor penetrante de otra bala que le atraviesa el hombro y le hace caer de rodillas. Su última imagen es la de Aggy corriendo hacia él, gritando. Si era de pena o de alegría, eso no se sabe. En ese instante, la noche se vuelve tan oscura y tranquila que Elliot siente cómo se sumerge en una infinidad dulce que lo absorbe.


Moses Kilolo is the Project Lead for Jalada Translation Issue:01 which he conceptualized and continues to provide editorial coordination. It features a fable by Prof. Ngugi wa Thing’o, Ituĩka Rĩa Mũrũngarũ: Kana Kĩrĩa Gĩtũmaga Andũ Mathiĩ Marũngiĩ. Currently at 93 languages, it is the single most translated short story in the history of African writing. Kilolo also served as Festival Director for the Jalada Mobile Literary Festival in 2017 and was Jalada’s Managing Editor between 2014 and 2018.

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