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Spotlight: Wanjeri Gakuru

Spotlight: Wanjeri Gakuru

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.

Wanjeri Gakuru is a member of Jalada Africa. She was elected as the Collective’s Managing Editor in 2018. Wanjeri is also a freelance journalist, essayist and filmmaker invested in gender equality and social justice. A cross-section of her writing has appeared in Transition Magazine, The Africa Report, The Elephant, LA Times Magazine and CNN, among others.

Wanjeri is an alumna of the 2014 Farafina Creative Writing Workshop. She was selected as the 2018 Literary Ambassador for Nairobi by Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel and in 2020 was appointed Nataal’s Nairobi-based Contributing Editor. In 2018, she served as Co-Curator and Festival Producer during the Collective’s inaugural Jalada Mobile Literary and Arts Festival covering Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, DRC and Rwanda (2017).

She co-wrote feature films, Supa Modo (2018) and Lusala (2019) as well as the pilot for TV drama series, Country Queen (2019). Her directorial debut, the mockumentary short film, Get Laid premiered at Shorts, Shorts and Shots Festival in collaboration with NBO Film Festival in June 2019. Wanjeri is a founding member and the Partnerships Director of Rogue Film Society (RFS), a Collective of multi-talented African filmmakers and thespians working in film, TV, theater and advertising. 

This month, she shares a profile feature on Kawira Mwirichia, a queer Kenyan performer, curator and activist who passed away this November.  

In her own words:

“I wasn’t surprised to come across Kawira while researching my piece about the local drag scene. She had already built a name for herself through a provocative and ambitious kanga project that told the story of queer politics around the world. Kawira was brave, talented and on the cusp of great things when I interviewed her in August. The news of her passing was heartrending and her community has lost a warrior and truly wonderful soul.”

Kawira Mwirichia: Curator, Activist, Drag King

Kenya’s burgeoning drag scene is a space for the rehearsal and practice of gender nonconformity, cross-dressing and trans expression. Largely defined by aesthetics, for a few years now, artists have gathered at designated safe spaces to put on fashion shows, dance and lip sync performances. Online social sites have served both as an archive and arena for safe play through make-up, dress and visual presentation.

Regarding what motivates her, Kawira said: A lot of my work has been centred around celebrating queerness in all its existence because I believe there’s so much there to explore and realise for ourselves, especially as Africans who are decolonizing our spaces and our world. So, I am really, really driven by a deep desire to see an authentic excellence in the way we show up. I just want to see us be true to who we really are, and then be really, really good at the things we are and the things we do. That’s what keeps me going.”

Read the rest here.

Wanjeri is the Creative Lead on the forthcoming Jalada 09: Nostalgia issue. She served as Project Manager on Jalada 08: Bodies. Wanjeri was Fiction Editor for Jalada 07: After+Life and Bonus Edition, Jalada 05: The Fear Issue. Wanjeri facilitated the collaboration with Digital Writers’ Festival (Australia) that resulted in Jalada 06: Diaspora x DWF. She served as Fiction Editor and contributed “These languejs of ours” to Jalada 04: The Language Issue. Wanjeri also had Damned. Gifts featured in Jalada 05: The Fear Issue and “Transaction” in Jalada 01: Sext Me Poems and Stories.

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