Celebrating East African Writing!
Written by Akinyi Okulo
You wake up one morning and you realize that you are not comfortable with your life. Something is amiss. You are in a land far away from your motherland. No close family ties. No one to talk to about home. You have a burning desire to know where you have come from but there are no answers. You miss something but you are not too sure what it is. Your heart yearns for more. Maybe love, maybe acceptance.
On the first day of the Storymoja Hay Festival 2012, Nigerian born author Precious Williams and Addis Ababa born writer Dinaw Mengestu facilitated a session at the British Council Courtyard termed ‘Creative Writing: Displacement and Identity-Telling out Life Stories.’
Precious is a daughter of a Nigerian princess. She shared her experience of living in a white foster home where she struggled to find a meaning to her life. She wrote a memoir about being lonely and the desire for affection from people whom she loved but wasn’t too sure they loved her back.
Dinaw Mengestu talked about the pain of separation. Having been born in Ethiopia, his family moved to the USA to flee the revolution back at home. He was a child then. He did not understand why his family had to flee. He had been promised that life would be better but while living in America, he fought personal battles to understand what could be better about living in a place where you are teased about your name, skin colour and not “fitting in’.
Both Precious and Dinaw took readers through the pain they experiences as children who grew up emotionally distraught. They concealed that pain and only begun opening up about it in their writing. Both admitted that before they begun writing they kept to themselves in a bid to comprehend their fears, worries and deep questions. They said that writing helps people to deal with anger, resentment and fear arising from negative experiences that lie hidden in our lives.