Meet the Long-listers Part IV


Amka amplifies women’s voices – Gloria Mwaniga Minage 

Gloria Mwaniga Minage is a high school teacher in Baringo where she also runs a children’s reading club. She is also a freelance writer of literary pieces for The Saturday Nation and The East African newspapers as well as coordinator of Amka, a literary workshop that meets monthly at the Goethe Institut in Nairobi to critique works by budding female writers in Kenya. This is her first attempt at writing a short story. We asked her about Kenyan writing and Amka.

Some younger Kenyan writers have declared that their work is greater than Ngugi’s. What do you think of Ngugi’s influence on contemporary Kenyan writing?

Ngugi chose to write about two essential things; Kenya’s past and the politics of his day. That alone makes him a terribly important writer because Kenya is a nation that suffers from national amnesia. Contemporary writers can learn the importance of documenting our history and that artists shouldn’t shy away from the politics and social undertakings of their  day.

Where did the story that you submitted for the prize emanate from?

There was an article in The Standard newspaper in 2015 about how the Sabaot Land Defense was regrouping. I went to query a colleague who had witnessed the war and she told me everything she remembered from how her mothers’ house was burnt down with all their documents to the way the army brutally dealt with the militia. The details were so shocking I felt I had to share them.

What do you think of the idea of labels for writers? Would you prefer any of the following labels, i.e. Kenyan writer, African writer, Woman writer, Black writer etc?

I find labels rather prescriptive. A writer’s theme could be universal but because they are labeled ‘African’ or ‘woman’ a reader might approach the text with a particular expectation in mind. Therefore, I’ll be very happy if I could do without labels.

What are your most enjoyable African reads? And why?

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim’s Season of Crimson Blossoms is superb prose-poetry. Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus excellently brings to life a girl’s coming of age conflicts. I go back to Yvonne Owuor’s Dust a lot lately as I watch Kenyan politicians spew out hatred while seeking their tribesmen’s votes. The list is endless, Elnathan John, NoViolet Bulawayo, Grace Ogot, Helon Habila …

Would you call AMKA a feminist space for writers? Why? Or Why not? 

I am disinclined to label the literary arm of Amka feminist. I’d rather term it a forum interested in amplifying women’s voices and ensuring that they occupy their rightful space in the literature world. Our focus is critiquing and circulating texts written by women, that doesn’t make us feminist, or does it?


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