Celebrating East African Writing!

Living Memories

The first dead body I ever saw in my life was that of a little white girl. I was about ten years old. Even now, 69 years later, i have not forgotten the impact and profound epiphany that I had then: not only that white people actually die, but that death cannot be justified even if it occurs under the banner of justice, truth and fairness or any other noble concept.

This is how Muiwa Ole Ntutu’s story begins in the book authored by Al Kags titled Living Memories. Living Memories is a compilation of stories as told by several elderly Kenyans of their experiences through Kenya’s past.

Al Kags’ says: “I have come to firmly believe that what we do is a result of our past and our history and the beliefs and behaviours of those who came before us.”

In Living Memories, you will see the story of a woman who has lived in Nairobi 60+ years, and who came to the city as a 15 year old to work for a Christian Indian. She tells of being raped, losing her pregnancy, losing her job and going through hardships that led her to a job as a prostitute for 12 years. But then she tells of a change of fate that led to an education in England.

You will then read the story of Said Ongwen Olaga who worked as a Kitchen boy in Kisumu, and Mwanaisha Hamisi who went to study at The London School of economics in 1952. You will read in all 13 stories of remarkably normal people who went through remarkably impressive experiences as Kenya grew through the colonial era into post-independence.

Some reviews:

The brutality of the era is etched clearly in every account. The loss of life both white and Black and the abuse meted out on women, children young men is heart wrenching but the vital way it is described in the book gives it a sense of normalcy without taking away the significance and prevalence of it through out the country.

Each of the stories make for interesting-easy reading but embedded at the back of my memory are the stories of Hussein Warutere (the last story in the collection). This is a ‘loo’ story that is as shocking as it is hilarious. He woke up after a siesta with the need to go to the loo. Because of desperation, he ends up using the white mans toilet. A white corporal sees him leaving. He is arrested days later, accused of assisting the Mau Mau by trying to plant a bomb in the loo.

An excellently readable oral history of Kenya, from the end of colonialism until the 1990s. Kags has interviewed both ordinary people and important players, and presents his interviews verbatim with minimal editing and no editorialising. A highly recommended insight into little-known episodes in Kenyan history.

You can buy Living Memories in local bookstores and Supermarkets as well as online as a Amazon Kindle Single.

In the meantime:

Pick an event that actually happened, and create a fictional conspiracy story around it. Death, murder, politics, crime, family vendettas, and so on are acceptable themes for this contest. Before you send in your story, please refer to the Judges’ Note below.


Word Count – Maximum 1600 words.

Must be a fictional story not a commentary.

Email to: with ‘Conspiracy’ in the Email Subject.

Deadline for Submission: 8th May 2012.


1st Place – 2 books, 2 Season Tickets to the Storymoja Hay Festival( 14 – 16 September 2012)

2nd Place – 1 book, 2 Season Tickets to the Storymoja Hay Festival.

3rd Place – 1 Season Ticket to the Storymoja Hay Festival.

Authors of the three top stories will have a chance to consult with an editor regarding developing their work for print publishing.

A Note from one of the Judges: 

Creative writing is both an honourable and rewarding art. Please treat it as such.

  • Do not send in your first draft. Go over your work and edit at least two or three times.
  • Please observe the rules of the written language. Avoid run-on sentences. Use punctuation marks where they should be. If you want to be clever with words, understanding the rules makes it possible for you to execute the play efficiently. If you do not understand the rules of language avoid making clever word plays(metaphors, cliches etc.)
  • Always make sure that the story you submit has your name inside the document, preferably at the top, or at the bottom if you must (if you include your pseudonym, please indicate this in your submitting email). Your document should ideally be a Word 97 document, single spaced, 12 point Times New Roman Font.
  • Follow submission guidelines. Read them through and go over your work to ensure it fits within the guidelines. Your story could be brilliant but it may be excluded because it does not fit into the guidelines.


This entry was posted on April 30, 2012 by in Writer's Blog.
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