Celebrating East African Writing!

To be a man

Written by Martin Njaga

Arnie is a fascinating person. At the end of a long-term romantic relationship, this Dutch-South African embarked on an unusual journey of self-discovery. His journey was unusual because, by looking outward, not inward, by talking to men all over the African continent, story-catching as he calls it, he hoped to use other men’s lives as mirrors by which to re-examine himself.

Aernout Zevenbergen

His travels took him to diverse places, from Monrovia among juju men to Kayole and Kibera, through to Kisangani; from the alcoholic wrecks in Soweto to the corridors of the stately home of former Zambian President, Kenneth Kaunda. And the result of all that travelling is a book titled Spots of a Leopard, which is an extraordinary, non-fictional exploration of what it means to be a man in modern day Africa.

On August 7, 2010, at the Storymoja Hay Festival taster,  held at the British High Commissioner’s residence, I had a chat with Arnie (a name I formulated because his full name, Aernout Zevenbergen, kept tripping my Ndumberi tongue).. The question was, of course: What does it mean to be a man?

Are men still protectors in the day and age of G4S? Are we still providers in these times of rising female domination in financial and corporate fields? And if we are not, then who are we? To quote the angry female saying: ‘Who exactly needs a man?’

Aernout Zevenbergen’s response to this question is that the anger that is evident in men today, whether it is the alcoholics in Kibera drinking themselves to an early grave or the Eagles in Soweto riding their Harley motorcycles to ‘relieve stress at home’, comes from a sense of not knowing what is expected from them. And unfortunately, that anger is often let out on the weakest in society.

How do we deal with this anger? How do men shape a role that will make them feel that they are meaningful members of society even though they may not have a job or may not have the financial clout of their partners?

At the 2010 Storymoja Hay Festival, Aernout Zevenbergen will try to answer these questions and discuss themes from his book with Oyunga Pala, the well known columnist who represents the voice of Kenyan men. We invite you to come share your insights and experiences during this riveting session.  The festival will be held at the Railway Club grounds from the 1st to 3rd of October.

Come and let’s see who really needs men.

And now, to this week’s Kenyan Conversations. The Stories below were entered into the Storymoja/Generation Kenya– Kenyan Conversations Contest last week. Please read them, and vote on them to choose the story that will be entered into the Kenyan Conversations Final Judging Round.

An African Recipe: Jacob hadn’t yet thought of an excuse to leave the kitchen. So he decided to slick away while Chef Ojwang tasted Robe’s Mukimo Surprise.

The Good Man: Is he dead? This was not the first time he had used Ny’aunyo on her, which he kept under the mattress of their bed.

A Change of Hands: “Sir! These men have worked here for thirteen years! Shouldn’t you at least think about their families before you let them go?”

Trouble: They are talking about me as if am not here.  Dekka’s face is turned upwards; she is telling the clouds to hurry up and cover the sky so the sun won’t …

Jambo na Karibu: The only thing Mokwele wanted when he and the others resumed work after the thirty minute break was to see the indicators of the clock…

The Kenyan Conversations Contest is almost over, with just 3 more weeks left to run. That means just 6 more pictures left. Remember, when you see the photos up, you can comment on the blog under the picture on the Storymoja Blog or Send in a story or dialogue that is not more than 500 words long to Clearly mark in the subject Contemporary/Kenyan Conversations (Insert Number indicated)

Have a look at the contest guidelines here before you send in your piece. All entries that do not adhere to contest guidelines will not be published.

The prize details are as follows:

1st Prize: 2000/-, 2 Storymoja books and 1 complimentary day pass to the Storymoja Hay Festival

2nd Prize: 1500/-, 1 Storymoja book, and 1 Complimentary day pass to the Storymoja Hay Festival

3rd Prize: 1000/-, and 1 complimentary Day Pass to the Storymoja Hay Festival

3 complimentary day passes for best comments on the pictures.

Be Part of the Kenyan Conversation! For more details, write to



This entry was posted on August 30, 2010 by in Writing.
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