The Year In Literature

Brenda Wambui
30 December ,2014

“and when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcomed but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive”

Audre Lorde

These are the works that spoke to us the most in 2014. [Click the title, in bold, to go to the respective piece.]

How NOT To Approach the #MyDressMyChoice Conversation

by Olivia Kidula

“The nature of these attacks stems from the entitlement to women’s bodies. For so long women have been viewed as property, extensions of men and not their own independent entities. A woman’s body belongs to her and her alone. For men to strip a woman naked because they disagree on how she dresses is a direct violation of her rights. #MyDressMyChoice has been addressing demanding equal rights to privacy and public safety and debunking ridiculous notions are commonplace in society. However due to the brevity of Twitter posts it has been difficult for the supporters of the hashtag to properly articulate the issues with the opposer’s arguments. Here are some of the arguments that I have observed online and the reasons why they are inaccurate.”

Kenya’s Security Act: A Series

by Keguro Macharia

“On December 19, 2014, Kenya’s president, former ICC indictee Uhuru Kenyatta, signed a very bad piece of legislation into law. Rushed through the National Assembly, the legislation was not subjected to much, if any, public scrutiny…Clearly, Kenya is far from any kind of democracy that depends on persuading others through convincing arguments, the kind of democracy that is much theorized, but nowhere practiced. The president has asked Kenyans to read the legislation. Following his advice, I will post five blogs on different aspects of the legislation: 1. The Police 2. Refugees 3. Citizen Reporting 4. Human Rights 5. Everyday Life …Each post will tackle how this new legislation transforms Kenya into a less free, less possible space.”

Will This Be A Problem: The Anthology

by Will This Be A Problem

“We’re big fans of fantasy here at WTBAP. Over the years I’ve talked about the rather inexplicable lack of African fantasy books. The content is really just begging to be written and I know African fantasy readers aren’t rare by any measure. But, somehow, there just isn’t much of it and when there is people tie themselves in knots to not call it fantasy. Magical realism pops up a lot and I’ve even seen Ben Okri’s work called (I’m not even kidding) African Traditional Religion Realism. It’s kind of the overlooked child of African literature. So, the minute we got a chance to make some fantasy we hopped right onto that train (though one could argue that we may have accidentally boarded onto the horror express. Oops). We made the theme for our first issue Fantasy and we got down to work. I think we’ve come up with something special.”

Why A President In Military Fatigues Should Worry Us All

by Morris Kiruga

“Civilian leadership of the military is a principle that must not only be law but must be seen to be done. The capitalization of the entire legal command within the office of the President is meant to ensure that we do not slide into a military dictatorship. The President is bound by democratic principles; primarily that he will not extend the power of the arm of government he heads, the Executive, using his hold on the military command. The Constitution provides the basis of the President as Commander-in-Chief, specifically, a civilian head of the military. Had he been the Chief of Staff of the military, he would have first had to resign from his position to run as a civilian presidential candidate.”

disappearing women

by ku[to]starehe

“at a party three weeks ago, someone in the crowd caressed my fully covered breasts and disappeared before i could say anything. my friends explained to me that childbirth had given me an admirable bosom. i went home and chopped off my boobs and bled and bled and bled. my shirts no longer fit me. last weekend, my husband stumbled into our bed piss-drunk and grabbed my butt. i told him to leave me alone, and he said my butt belonged to him. i told him itdid not and he hit me hard across the head. i think i remember our daughter crying. i woke up and felt the pain he had left between my legs. he told me that’s what love felt like sometimes. he did not notice the holes in my chest.”

Human capital, not mega-projects, will turbo-charge the economy

by David Ndii

“We are investing Sh300 billion or thereabouts in the standard gauge railway. A year of tertiary education costs about Sh300,000. The opportunity cost of the SGR is a million person years of tertiary education (250,000 degrees, or 500,000 diplomas). Which mega-project, the SGR or an additional million person years of tertiary education would have a bigger impact on long term economic growth rate?”

Look in the Mirror

by Aleya Kassam

“It is said your whole life flashes before your eyes in a near death situation. November 26th 2014 is probably the closest I have come to tasting my mortality. And it stank of cheap alcohol. I had just driven home from work that night, and when I opened my car to get out, I was confronted by a shadow with a loud whisper. And a gun. In that moment, it was not the life I have lived that flashed before my eyes, but the life I wanted to live. I saw it all. The kids. The adventures. The book(s). The crows eyes. The bittersweet. The joyful. The falling. The getting up. The mundane. Each not-yet-memory tumbling out with a pang of disappointment at hopes that may never be realised.”

The Guilt Of Victims

by Patrick Gathara

“Not even our justice system provides a refuge for those whom we have disempowered, including our women. Despite the existence of thousands of survivors and witnesses of the 2008 post-election violence crimes, we are told that there exists no evidence to prosecute any of the offenders. The rules and norms privilege the powerful. Even when we dare prosecute they can afford to tie up their cases in legalistic tape for years on end. They can even secure judgements to stop themselves being investigated! Many times, the presumptions and requirements of the courtroom serve not to protect the innocent but to shield the powerful. Many of the victims, denied justice inside the courtroom, find that outside it, their suffering is itself rendered illegitimate. They are said to have “moved on” or even to have “come out way ahead.””


On Brainstorm, the essays that were most popular were:

How To Be A Kenyan

by Brenda Wambui

“Money: Almost everything is acceptable as long as it was done “for the hustle”. Whenever you can, steal from your place of work. Do you work at a bank? Steal from your customers. Are you a contractor? Skim. Once you are rich, no one will care how you got your money. They will love you, and pester you with questions on Twitter all day on how they can be like you. Fatten your chicken with ARVs. Use carcinogens to ripen your fruits faster. This same formula can be applied to any business. Brake fluid? Dilute it. Alcohol? A little methanol and formalin don’t hurt. Are you a matatu driver? Drive over kerbs, on pavements and through petrol stations. Some people might die…but that’s none of your business, right?”

Corruption and Terror: Somali Community in Kenya Caught in the Crossfire

by Samira Sawlani

“Somalis in Kenya not only live in fear of terrorists like the rest of the country, they also live in fear of those very agencies meant to protect them. Through “legal looting”, men and women who work hard to feed their families, run businesses which aid the Kenyan economy and largely mind their own business are being exploited. As if this is not enough, they then experience humiliation in police stations, in their homes and on the streets only to find that when they speak out, no one is listening. How many media houses have continuously reported on this? How many public figures came forward to clarify to people what their rights are?”

Even The Streets Aren’t Safe

by Sheila Maingi

“There is an urgent need for us to address the problem of street harassment. We need to stop treating our mothers, daughters, sisters and friends like inferior human beings. As a man, you never have to worry about going to a certain shop because the men who sit outside might make an unwelcome comment. You never have to worry about male colleagues at work- some as old as your father- making inappropriate sexual comments and jokes directed at you. As a man, you’re not constantly in fear of darkness falling while you are away from home because some man on the streets might attack and rape you. When you go to the club, you don’t have to worry about not wearing your favourite skirt because some pervert might slip his hand under it. When taking that taxi home, you never have to worry about the cab driver turning on you. Most women end up having one or two trustworthy cab drivers who they will await for as long as it takes because it is much safer than taking an unknown cab.”


This list is not exhaustive – a lot of great writing happened in Kenya, and about Kenya, in 2014. Which pieces did you like that we did not include? Please share in the comments. From the Brainstorm team: thank you for the contributions, support and criticism this year. We look forward to to growing, thinking, learning and loving with you all in 2015. Happy new year!

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