“Going down river road you can find yourself anywhere.”
- Clifton Gachagua
No, this is not a book review of Meja Mwangi’s classic. But, as I find out on a Umoja rooftop one cold evening, there is something classic about it. The brainchild of Clifton Gachagua and Franklin Sunday as Kavochy and DRR welcome us to choma, readings, music and drinks.
The premise is simple, Franklin reveals to me a few weeks earlier over as we sit on a different rooftop, Pawa 254, in a more affluent area of town. The question he asks is simple “what happens when we move these spaces closer to the people?” Perhaps this is why the name Down River Road is so enticing. Because if there is somewhere you will find “the people” it is on riverroad. You will find them selling wares on the streets, looking for buses to go home, looking for buses to go to their homes (and there is a difference). Walking down river road you will feel the bump of shoulders, the smell of labour and the taste of cigarette smoke.
Which is why the deliberate thinking around the recently launched Down River Road journal is so important. And, perhaps why their call for papers for their first issue is interesting. Take this from their about page:
“Place has always been difficult in two ways. Firstly, the subjective spaces we exist in, the product of the senses. Then: the imaginary places. Often we inhabit both places at the same time, creating varied possibilities and realms as we claim our existence in each reality. Place is always changing, moving, even when our bodies remain static. And when our bodies do finally move, place moves with us. In these new places we create homes for ourselves because our survival depends on it.”
And as places move and change, we move and change with them. Like listening s Kamwangi Njue play tunes that fill the chilly evening with warmth. Or hearing Ndinda Kioko read about lovers and being close enough to touch them. When the setting is made properly a place can turn into any place. And any place can be found as long as you get on the right bus and alight at the right stage.
Down river road promises to be the bus for the people who are looking to get a taste of arts and literature that is born of the people – of art that occurs rather than is occurred. Like reading about Sir Owi’s rise in the ranks of the music industry or letting M K Angwenyi take you to places where you can no longer see.
And they are open for submissions.
The journal is looking for submissions for its debut issue themes on ‘place’ with the submission deadline being 1st October 2019. They are looking for:
“…work ranging from poetry to (non)fiction between 3500 – 5000 words. We’ll accept 3-5 poems maximum of 40 lines each. Flash fiction pieces should be between 500 – 1000 words. We also welcome other experimental forms (mathogothanio) and medium including interviews and conversations, maps, photography, illustrations, video and audio.”
So join in. Take a walk down river road and share where you end up – it could be anywhere.