Interviewed by Kiprop Kimutai
My name is Kiprop Kimutai. I am here courtesy of Jalada. Today we are having our Jalada Conversation with Zukiswa Wanner. Zukiswa Wanner is an accomplished novelist. Under her belt, she has Men of the South, London-Capetown-Joburg, The Madams, Behind Every Successful Man. But beyond being a brilliant writer, she has participated so much in boosting literature in Africa. She has facilitated the Caine Prize Workshop in Elmina, Ghana this year and has been selected as a judge for the Etisalat Prize for Literature. Today, I am sitting with her, and we having a discussion on Language. I would like to understand how she languages her stories and how important that language is, to her interaction with readers; to her pulling that imagery which is just a thought in her mind to make it a shared reality with everybody who gets to read her. Zukiswa, tell us something about yourself and your experience with the language that is available in books.
ZUKISWA WANNER: While facilitating the Caine Workshop was really cool, I think it is important to highlight that I did the Workshop for Femrite and I am a Board Member for Writivism. These initiatives were created in the continent and are very close to my heart. So you were saying?
KIPROP KIMUTAI: Yes. I wanted to understand how you interact with language. Do you give it very careful thought? Or does it arise spontaneously?
ZUKISWA WANNER: What is important for me with language is: I suppose I get into a space where I say, who am I writing for? And, I write in a very pedestrian manner, and the reason I do that is, I want the person who says I don’t read, and I give them my book, to be able to read, and realize that reading can be enjoyable. It’s very nice for me, when writers tell me that they enjoy my books, when literati tell me they enjoy my books, it’s more important for me when people who have always thought that reading is a deep, horrible thing, read my books and then they are like, oh wow, reading is fun, why don’t you recommend for me to read, that’s important for me.
KIPROP KIMUTAI: So to you that is more important, connecting to that one reader who considers himself outside the circle of where get books get read or distributed? So the essence of you being a writer has been connecting to every ordinary reader who is out there and not necessarily being a critically acclaimed novelist or winning this award, or getting this title, or entering this space?
ZUKISWA WANNER: Yeah. I live in a time, as we do all, you know, where there is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so on and so forth. So with my writing, its always been important for me to write the sort of book where if one reads the first line, they want to read the next line and the next, and then the next line. So that if they are going to be on Facebook or Twitter, they are taking a small break, because they are going to the kitchen to have their meal and then they are going to tweet about how they are enjoying the story, and then they go back to it. But I don’t want to write the type of book that people say: “oh my God this is too hard to get into!” And then they close it and they never get back to it. I want people to be able to access the language, to access the story; to feel that even if it is set in South Africa or Zimbabwe, or Kenya or wherever my next book is going to be set in, or London, that they say, “Oh my God, I know that person, or I am that person!” You know, that type of thing. I like that my stories are character-driven.
KIPROP KIMUTAI: Thank you for saying that. I want to ask you a question specific to that. How do you consciously language your sentences and your experience of telling a story so that it doesn’t interrupt with a reader’s day to day experience? Exactly what you are saying, that someone can read your book, place it down to go to the kitchen, and cook and tweet about something and then come back, and re-enter the experience that you are building, the universe of the story that you are telling without feeling bad that they need to set time aside for, I need to go sit by a beach or close to a mountain isolated from everyone so that I could think to the depth of this beautiful story. Is it something that you strive for or is it second-nature to you, just know how to put it out?
ZUKISWA WANNER: I think what happens to me is that I write in my head. So I walk around with a skeleton of a story. Then at some point in time, when I feel that it is fully-formed, I will sit down and start writing and I literally vomit out the story. Obviously as you write, some characters might not turn out as you imagined them, as you built them in your head, they become something else, which is quite understandable. For that reason, I don’t deliberately set out to say this is what this person is saying. What generally happens is as a character is built up, they create their own personality that sounds very genuine where I say, okay, there is no way that for instance Germaine would say ABCD in London, Capetown, Johannesburg. Or there is no way that Mfuundo would respond to a situation like this, because he has been built in a certain way, and he is this guy So they kind of write themselves out, they kind of takeover, explain and express themselves. It basically flows that way. I try not to force things. There have been situations where I have had to edit out certain things because I have had a wonderful idea or line that I might have heard in a restaurant or a supermarket, and I thought wow, I would like to put that in my manuscript, but it just doesn’t jog with the character and I have cut that out. So it generally just goes with what I feel the character is all about.
KIPROP KIMUTAI: So you really respect the integrity of your characters?
ZUKISWA WANNER: Yes, I have relationships with my characters. I am very polyandric.
KIPROP KIMUTAI: [laughs] I want to talk about Mzilikazi Khumalo from your book, Men of the South. One of the best sentences you have ever written is a statement by Mzilikazi. He says, “Hi, my name is Mzilikazi Khumalo. If there was anything like a 100% Zulu boy who is cosmopolitan I am he. I am also a 100% gay.” This is a powerful statement since you are saying that being queer is not foreign, this guy is 100% Zulu, and also 100% gay. But even much more complex than that is how you decided to language the experience of Mzilikazi. When it comes to queer politics, it is always a language of victimhood. Oh, this queer African is fighting against negative legislation! Oh, this queer African is unable to enter health centers to access necessary treatment or to be educated or to get government services that are necessary to his livelihood. There is that strong sense of victimhood and surrender on how the African queer experience in Africa is languaged. But you speak about a person who is very confident about himself and about his life and how he navigates his own space, without that nagging sense that I am at a loss. Oh, this government is after me, or I can’t access this because I am queer. In essence when you do that, you are saying that queer people have always existed in Africa and they have been meaningfully navigating this space as it is without necessarily being victims all the time. So could you possibly say something about Mzilikazi. Anything! You don’t even have to follow what I am trying to put across, just about who he is.
ZUKISWA WANNER: The truth of the matter is that we all live in this continent and we do know that there are gay people who are victims of society. But Mzilikazi maneuvers a different space. He works for an NGO for instance. He is in Joburg, and then later on he moves to Cape Town which are very cosmopolitan and gay-friendly cities on the continent, not necessarily in the lower-income bracket area but in the high-income bracket areas. And he is middle-class. And so, my story was about the type of guys I encounter in my space; the type of guys who might be my friends. Mzilikazi was that guy, that guy that I hang out with, who maybe got married because everybody in society told him that is what a real man does although he had an inclination, and he was attracted to other men. At some point in time, it hit him like, no I can’t live this lie and he decided to come out. That is Mzilikazi. I wanted to write that story about him. It was very important for me because I have quite a few friends that mirror Mzilikazi. There is also the very deliberate thing I did in calling him Mzilikazi Khumalo. In Southern African history, Mzilikazi was one of the Shaka generals who escaped and ended up founding the Matebele nation, also known as the Ndebele nation. He is very macho. The name is very macho in itself. It’s like, Mzilikazi is a warrior, and so I am saying that somebody can be a warrior and they can be attracted to other men.
KIPROP KIMUTAI: Oh yeah, so none of these experiences are mutually exclusive, being queer and being a warrior?
ZUKISWA WANNER: Exactly, that was really my point. And that was very firm for me to write. Because, somewhere in that Chapter, I think, I talk about Mzilikazi stick-fighting and then the statement that Mzilikazi says rather than me, is reincarnate him and I can out Zulu Shaka Zulu. Because here is the big joke about Shaka having been gay historically; having been you know, for they would go out for these missions with his warriors for months on end and stuff and everything. And they would go with young men, young boys carrying their bags, whatever who would then act as their sexual partners. So there are little nuances about history and how we, perhaps because we become deeply entrenched Christians as Africans or Moslems, we get into a space where we actually, deliberately chose to ignore that certain sectors of our history actually existed, and we say oh, this is foreign, this is whatever.
KIPROP KIMUTAI: Let me ask you a question, further still on Mzilikazi, was it hard to listen to him, and hard for him to come across; was he a problematic character? Because it is very easy to write about a queer story for it is already been excessively languaged by NGOs, both by people who are allies and those who are dismissive about people’s diverse sexualities. So it is very easy to tap into available literature and to language that experience as ordinarily as it has been.
ZUKISWA WANNER: Actually, Mzi was very easy for me to write. Because, you know, there is a belief, and I think it might actually be international and not just continental, that gay men are effeminate. I know tons of gay men who are not effeminate. That to me was Mzilikazi, for there is the normal guy that girls are like, oh my god he is so hot. And he is comfortable with his sexuality and his partnership with another man. You will go and flirt with him as a girl, but he will be like: “oh no, thank you. You are very nice. But no, thank you.” I enjoyed writing Mzi. I enjoyed writing him with all these nuances, and complexities, and stuff and everything. You know, a society-and it is not even just in Africa but in so many places-a very heteronormative society that insists that every man or every woman should be married to a person of the opposite sex and all procreate and so forth and so on. And I wanted to deal with this guy because I was like okay …so he conforms. Sometimes there are people who conform and stay like that for the rest of their lives; and some times, if they are men, they will go out every once in a while with the boys and they will have their relationships with male counterparts; similarly stories have been told in every country on this continent, every country everywhere, stories have been told of husbands finding out at some point in time that their wives were in a relationship with their best friend. So yeah. So Mzi wasn’t difficult for me to write. I know Mzi. I felt Mzi. I just hope that I wrote him as well as I know him.
KIPROP KIMUTAI: You definitely did. On that context alone of accessing the characters that are gonna participate and play out your story, has there been any character that you found most problematic? Most hard to access and probably, caused you sleepless nights and a lot of scratching of your hair? Something like that.
ZUKISWA WANNER: My characters are, I never find my characters very difficult, you know. I have relationships with my characters as I mentioned before. So, my characters are never quite that difficult. I never really find them problematic. If I had to stretch it out (silence). I can’t eh. I enjoy my characters.
KIPROP KIMUTAI: And they enjoy interacting with you as well. They never cause you any anguish.
ZUKISWA WANNER: I hope so. I have never gotten in a space, where, you know when I was still creating in my head, London, Cape Town, Joburg in my head, Zuko was a girl initially. But at some point in time I was like no, Zuko is actually a young boy. And when I wrote him, it just flowed. And of course, I was very lucky because I had a ten year old who I use as a script consultant, because I would be like, would a nine year old write this in his diary so am like can you read this out.
KIPROP KIMUTAI: But you know your son is quite precocious, and not like the ordinary ten year old boy around?
ZUKISWA WANNER: Yeah, I know but then I was making him read older stuff. That is when that I know it actually flows you know. And whenever I found out that he was having difficulty with any particular word, then I would actually like remove it from my manuscript. Because then I think no, if he can’t read it, then there is no way this child would be writing a journal entry.
KIPROP KIMUTAI: Tell me something about grief. And, we had this discussion with you before, about the universality of all human experiences; that if a mother loses her son in Somalia, the grief she feels is as precise and concise as a mother losing her son in Alaska for example. And love is love; though it filters into different situations and into different cultural contexts. It can paint itself differently. But essentially, human emotions are very central to our lives, are common and can be easily understood by everyone basically. London, Cape Town, Joburg has this cloud of heavy sorrow around it.
ZUKISWA WANNER: Come on, I infused it with a lot of humor.
KIPROP KIMUTAI: (LAUGHTER) So tell me about grief with specific focus to London, Cape Town, Joburg.
ZUKISWA WANNER: I think really, it is just what you said in the discussion we had before, which is the universality of the human experience. So often, people assume, there is an African grief. You know we might grieve differently; some people grieve in a quiet manner, others go on Facebook and say I am so broken and share that with their five thousand strangers only ten of them who they know personally, other people get into a space where they close themselves up, other people as you have seen at a lot of our African funerals threaten to fall into the grave with the body and everybody has to restrain them, and they actually have a team of minders. So we have different ways of grieving, but it is the same grief weirdly enough. And I don’t know if I am explaining that well. And what I mean by that is that we cry but we hurt the same way. It is the reason why, when somebody in Brazil picks up the Portuguese translation of Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, they can relate to what is happening to Okwonkwo and everybody in that book. When somebody in India picks up Ama Ata Aidoo’s Changes, they see this woman: and be like oh, she is empowered but she is going to be a second wife? They can see all those things. Here is the thing, human beings love, laugh, hate, hurt-and that is the universality of the human experience. Sometimes what makes one laugh might not make another laugh as much. But we have those things that we want in our lives, those things that we all want, we want to be happy. And maybe we go about it differently. Some people think if I make two million dollars am gonna be happy, other people say I just want a one bedroom apartment, enough money for a matatu and I want to have food for my children and I want to be able to afford school fees. But then general stuff is that we all want to be happy. We all get sad, we all get hurt, and sometimes we hate, and sometimes we love, and sometimes we like, and sometimes we dislike.
KIPROP KIMUTAI: And how has that been for you, being able to access emotions from different kinds of people and different situations? How has that journey of empathy been for you? Is it something other people can learn from as well?
ZUKISWA WANNER: It is very interesting in particular because, as you mentioned earlier in London, Cape Town, Joburg, I deliberately made Germaine, a White, British woman, as a character, because my whole point was that a lot people would assume that as a black person, my characters should be black and therefore I would relate to them better if they are black. I am telling you now, I have a friend who is British and she read the manuscript. She called and she was crying, and she was like, *oh my god I just had to hold my kids and I felt that you know, I never want anything bad to ever happen to them. I want to protect them. And this is somebody who was feeling something that I, as a black person had written about. So essentially, we all hurt and we all love. And, when a story is well told in my opinion, it can move anyone to laughter, into tears, regardless of where they come from geographically, regardless of their race, regardless of their gender.
KIPROP KIMUTAI: And let me just ask you a quirky question, people tend to be very sensitive about how their story is told, especially if they are not the ones telling the story, or if the person telling the story is outside their cultural context. So has any person been angry with you rather, for how you showcased Germaine? (laughter) Coz you are not white and you are not English?
ZUKISWA WANNER: Not at all. Here is the thing though, I think it would be very difficult for anyone to be mad at how I showcased Germaine. Germain is, for all her human failings, which are also very universal, she is a character to admire. She is assertive, she is feminista-she is amazing. And she is married but she is also very independent. And she has got all these spaces that she has carved out for herself. She has got a career. She’s got her personality as a mum a wife and everything. She is doing all this things. But at some point in time she is able to say, “husband, child, take a back seat. I need me time.” That is something all women can relate to. So, no!
KIPROP KIMUTAI: I want to ask you a question on language and identity.
ZUKISWA WANNER: Again?
KIPROP KIMUTAI: (LAUGHTER) I think the central theme of this conversation is language, so I am going to say language over and over again, I hope nobody gets bored. And Specifically on your artistry and your experiences growing up, coz you have grown up in many nations and all of these spaces that you grew up and became the person that you are right now, have obviously contributed to who you are as a person. One of the interesting things that you told me is that you don’t necessarily choose to identify as belonging to a certain nation specifically. But to you the most important thing is that you are African and can feel at home wherever it is you are. Yes, you are South African because that is what your passport says but home for you can be anywhere.
ZUKISWA WANNER: Except may be for Francophone Africa for I don’t speak French yet. But as soon as I speak French I will be fine.
KIPROP KIMUTAI: How does that contribute to how you write? For some writers can chose to. I don’t know, to be very egotistical. Maybe. I don’t know if that is the right word. But I am a Ndebele writer and I am gonna write about Ndebeles. But you are fluid as a writer. Could you speak about that?
ZUKISWA WANNER: It is both an advantage and a disadvantage. The disadvantage is that I am not quite rooted to any particular group. But the beauty of it, and it is part of the reason why my column in the Daily Nation is named the way it is, “Outsider Looking in”. Is that I always get the experience of the outsider who is looking in. It is almost as if uh, there are certain insights that I get that, perhaps a person on the inside might not notice. I have the privilege of entering into spaces. The way it works for me, I will give you an example, mum is Zimbabwean and when I do something untoward in Zimbabwe that is not what women are expected to do or whatever, my mum’s family always excuses it as “you know these South Africans!” Similarly, when I do the same in South Africa, it is interesting, because my South African family are like “you know these exiled children!” But also it allows me to get certain insights that human beings are self-critical, but they are self-critical in a very interesting way. For example, if you are in a family and your father is a drunkard, you can say my father is a drunkard. If you get to the playground and one of the kids says that your father is a drunkard, it is a fight. But I have been lucky that I am given the license where I can say your father is a drunkard, for your father is also my father. I am lucky that way. The continent has been incredibly generous to me. I get into spaces and I have just been accepted. I get into Uganda. When I am in Uganda, I am just a Ugandan. I get to Nigeria. The continent has been incredibly generous to me and I am been lucky that way.
KIPROP KIMUTAI: I want to ask you something in regards to that, because when it comes to the literature front, that is where Africa has never had boundaries. Our books flow beyond our geographical, political and economic boundaries that we have imposed on ourselves as a continent. Writers have never been burdened by that. You have also benefited from that obviously. Just say something about that, or how we can enhance that, or how we can enjoy that, or how we can, I don’t know, make best use of that freedom we have as a writers.
ZUKISWA WANNER: I think one of the beauties that we have right now is that we have initiatives like Jalada, and Writivism, and Short Story Day Africa, and Femrite; where we have people on the continent getting together and using that dynamism. The failing that is happening is in the distribution of books. It is easier for me to get a book published by Harper Collins or Faber & Faber than it is for me to get a book published by a Ugandan publisher. And I am in Kenya. These are the things we need to talk about and find a way of getting around, I think the problem is that our publishers in the continent keep doing things the same way. They are not using the whole dynamism; they are not trying to interact with each other, and to say “hey, you know what, you are in South Africa, I’m Nigeria or and I am in Kenya. Why don’t we do a distribution deal where you give me your catalogue in South Africa, and I shall publish three of your titles every year; in Kenya I will publish three of your titles, in Nigeria I will publish three of your titles, that is across the three countries. Then what we will do is that we will invite those three writers. People are not thinking whatever.” And it is kind of sad for the simple reason that we have platforms where these writers could be highlighted. We have got Storymoja, we have Ake, we have Time of the Writer. We have literature festivals around the continent, where a publisher simply has to jump on board and say, ah listen, can you invite my writers? I have got a writer coming from Kenya. I have got a writer coming from Nigeria or Tanzania or wherever. Can you invite this writer and I shall also throw in another writer from South Africa. Then we do the same thing in Nigeria or we do the same thing in Kenya. Wherever we are. I think it is a missed opportunity. A lot of our publishers are more interested in running to Frankfurt or London Book Fair. Not that there is anything wrong with them. Actually, they are amazing. But what is interesting is that I have a situation where I brought, there is a writer I read from Nigeria and I absolutely enjoyed his story. And nobody knew who he was in Kenya. And I brought his book. He is a lawyer guy-Chimeka Garricks. I brought his book and I gave one of my friends and said read this, tell me how you like it. I am buying this copy for you. Read it and if you like it, tell your book club members to get this book and then they can buy it from me for this amount. So she said to me great you know. So she read the book. As soon as she finished, she called me and she was in tears, and she was like oh my god what is his email, is he on twitter. It was crazy.
KIPROP KIMUTAI: Many people have called you crying obviously.
ZUKISWA WANNER: And laughing ha! But the thing about it, it is stuff like that-we have that bit of mental colonization and we always assume that when somebody has been given a nod by the west, then we decide that they are deserving of our attention. While prior to that we ignore them. They will say, ah you know- you will meet somebody and they say I am a writer and you like okay, whatever.
KIPROP KIMUTAI: Let me ask you a question based on that. I have to ask a question based on that that somebody has to –
ZUKISWA WANNER: Have you realized that you begin every question with let me ask you a question?
KIPROP KIMUTAI: (laughing) I am Kenyan. It is the 8-4-4 system. I will try my best to take it out. But it is part of my identity. It is part of the language of my identity. (laughter) Okay, in that regard, that is how the industry plays out. But just get out of the context of the industry for a bit, and go to that ordinary reader you want to reach out to. Is that stamp of approval from the West necessary to that ordinary reader out there? And not just what you think, but what you have experienced with people who are reading you. Do they need to know that, I don’t know, a certain Western Country has said Zukiswa is the one?
ZUKISWA WANNER: I think, there is that. Very much so! Certainly, my doing the Caine Workshop for instance, or my getting on the Africa 39 list has distinctly changed peoples’ perception. Like, tt is nine years since I started writing. My first book came in 2006. So you have people who are discovering my first book and saying, “Oh my lord, you are really good,” and they all sound surprised. So, personally I think I am okay. I am average. There are a lot of brilliant writers in this continent. Unfortunately there isn’t enough amplification of how brilliant their work is because as I mentioned, distribution sucks.
KIPROP KIMUTAI: Final question, tell us about your awards, specifically the one you won recently, the K.Sello Duiker Award in South Africa. And, I don’t know, I don’t want to say this but sort of like give a message of hope. That doesn’t sound so nice-
ZUKISWA WANNER: Oh, lord, you sound like a Pentecostal preacher!
KIPROP KIMUTAI: (laughing) I was a preacher at some point in my life. No, I am asking this because when you take this creative journey you sort of need to validate yourself as a writer. You have to say that I am a writer and I am going to tell stories. May you will never be awarded or get respected. May be even the critics who could have written bad reviews about me will never hear about me, because I am a nobody. And it is essential to sort of just say, you know what I am a writer because I am sitting on my desk every day and I am writing. And may be that is how your journey started. But now you are getting into all these spaces and getting all these awards. Right now, you can say OH, I AM A WRITER!
ZUKISWA WANNER: I have always been a writer even before I won an award or anything. But the K. Sello Duiker award is particularly special to me because K. Sello Duiker, as far as I am concerned, was the writer of my generation who actually started the new wave of South African writing, where I fall in and people like Niq Mhlongo, Angela Makholwa, Lauren Beukes and so forth and so on. My generation of writers. Because you had the old guys, then you had the guys in the middle, like Zakes Mda for instance. But then we had this new wave of children who were born in the seventies, and as far as I am concerned K. Sello Duiker was that guy. You read 13 Cents. You read The Quiet Violence of Dreams and you are like amazing. So to me, he was somebody that I admired. And one of my greatest regrets in life is that I never got to meet him in person, because by the time my book came out, he had passed away. So there is that honour that one gets from that. It was very nice. The K. Sello Duiker Award is part of the South African Literary Awards which is in their tenth year. The tenth year is significant because it is their tenth anniversary. So in the tenth year you get the K. Sello Duiker and it like wow. But I had already got some accolades for Men of the South, as you know, because I got shortlisted for the Commonwealth Best Book Prize back in 2011, with Helon. And yeah, Aminatta Forna won that. I always say that Aminatta beat me to it. Although The Memory of Love…
KIPROP KIMUTAI: (laughter) Yeah, you can say that again.
ZUKISWA WANNER: (laughter) I am not even like, I am like, ah fuck shit, she deserved that. You know me when I got shortlisted for that thing, I looked at the list and was like Aminatta is here, because I had already read Memory of Love. Then I started, I was like floating, you know, walking on air, feeling like I have been shortlisted for an award in which Aminatta is, for Memory of Love, for I loved her book. That said, awards they are nice but I think what is more important-some of the most brilliant writers have never won awards. You must understand that judges are humans. They will have their biases. They come with their baggage. Also, when you read you come with your own experiences as a human being. I mean I have recounted the story of a publisher in a certain Western Country, who said of London, Capetown, Joburg that I write pretty well but do I have a more African story. So people come with their biases, there are issues and stuff, and that is quite okay. Sometimes it is not the best book that wins. Sometimes it is the book that is a compromise book. May be you have got five judges; two like this book, the other two like this book, one likes this one. And they are like, since we can’t agree let us to go with what that one judge likes. You understand? It is nice to be acknowledged but essentially what is more important is that I keep on writing; tell the stories as best as I can, to be true to me and what it is that I want to communicate.
KIPROP KIMUTAI: Where can people listen to you, how can they talk to you, where can they read you, both online and if they want to get your book? How can they find you?
ZUKISWA WANNER: I would rather people not listen to me. I am very nervous of the way I speak. I am not a public speaker. I would rather people not listen to me. I would rather people just read me. They can get my books on Amazon. In Nigeria they are available. In Uganda they are available. In Zimbabwe they are available. Pretty much in South Africa, in Lesotho, in Botswana, in Tanzania! So check the stores at the Anglophone African country near you or go to Amazon and you will be able to access them because there is loot.co.za, and there is kindle.
KIPROP KIMUTAI: Thank you so much Zukiswa. This has been a wonderful interview. It is part of our Jalada Conversations and we are going to upload it on our website. It is amazing the experiences we have been able to contemplate about based on the conversation we have had. We are going to continue this conversation even more. My name is Kiprop Kimutai and I did this on behalf of Jalada.
ZUKISWA WANNER: I just like to highlight that whatever you heard, if you don’t agree with it, I didn’t say it.
KIPROP KIMUTAI: (laughing) Take care people!
ZUKISWA WANNER: Alright! Thank you Kip!
Kiprop Kimutai (@Tirobon ) is 30 years old, and was the second runner’s up for the Kwani? Manuscript Project and his book The Water Spirits will soon be published. Aside from the 2015 Caine Workshop, he has participated in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Farafina Workshop in Lagos, as well as a Granta-sponsored workshop in Nairobi facilitated by Ella Allfrey and two young British authors, Nadifa Mohamed and Adam Foulds. He is an editor with Jalada Africa and has been able to successfully publish three anthologies so far based around insanity, sex and afro-futures. He believes that if he had been born in Salinas, California, he would have turned out as a re-incarnation of John Steinbeck