Longform & Features

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o: three days with a giant of African literature.The Guardian Long Read. (audio here)

The Kenyan novelist Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o has spent a life writing about colonialism, language, and the role of the artist in politics, and in this profile, I spend days with him, reflecting on the legacy of his work.

We Love to Hate the Travel Bucket List. Why?Afar

In recent years, the idea of the bucket list has been attacked for ruining travel experiences by reducing travel to a list of checklist activities. Is this criticism deserved?

A Reminiscence Of P-Unit In 11 Parts.” Debunk Media.

The Kenyan music group P-Unit was, for more than a decade, at the forefront of the Genge industry in Kenya. Now, the music group is disbanded, its members retiring from music, an exemplar of the short span of the careers of Kenyan musicians.

The Political Education of William Ruto.” The New York Review of Books.

In the eighties, Kenya’s president Daniel Moi came up with a scheme to ensure the long reign of his party by training a cadre of young students in his right-wing ideology. In the election of William Ruto to the presidency, the success of his plan was made clear.

The Party has a Purpose.” The Johannesburg Review of Books.

In Nairobi, literary parties are a way of creating literary structure, and in the Kenyan journalist Frankline Sunday’s house, a scene that showcases this kind of structure-making emerges.

Sea Change.” w/ Andrew Blum. Rest of World.

Google and Meta are investing billions of dollars in new subsea internet cables, some of them in Africa, with the two companies vying for Africa’s unconnected billion, and potentially changing the nature of the physical ownership of the internet.

A drowning world: Kenya’s quiet slide underwater.” The Guardian Long Read. (audio here)

Over the last decade, lakes in Kenya and the rest of East Africa have risen beyond their previous boundaries, displacing hundreds of thousands of people from their homes, leading to questions about whether this rise is due to Anthropocene-driven climate change or tectonic activities deep within the fault lines of the Rift Valley.

The Failed Promise of Kenya’s Smart City.” Rest of World.

Over the last 13 years, multiple African countries have announced plans for tech cities with grand civic utopic dreams. These tech cities, often proposed as part of McKinsey-pushed Vision projects, have largely failed, or been beset with massive delays, and the failure of Kenya’s Konza City, one of the earliest tech cities to be proposed on the continent is particularly stark.

This Is The Story of the World’s Greatest Soccer Team.” Guernica.

In the 2000s, the comic series Supa Strikas about an eponymous fictional football team was one of the most popular pieces of culture in Kenya. However, the magic of its appeal lies in the fact that, while it had a localized story in Kenya, it also had localized editions in all the countries in which it was distributed, thus increasing its appeal among its readers.

The Njahi Wars: Behind Kenya’s Controversial Black Bean.” Serious Eats.

In Kenya, a war has been simmering about njahi. On the one hand, there are its defenders who praise it for its taste and its nutritional value. On the other, are its detractors, who rail against it, and use all manner of glossy expressions to dismiss it as food. At the heart of this battle is the question of who gets to decide savour.

A Brief Extrapolation of Nairobi’s Recreational Meat Culture.” The Takeout.

On the streets of Nairobi, a person can buy and eat several types of meat, and what binds these meats is that they are eaten for recreation, rather than for any nutritional purposes, and they, collectively, make up Nairobi’s recreational meat culture.

The Original Karen.The Drift Mag.

Karen Blixen became famous for her writing about Kenya, and had a Nairobi suburb named after her. However, through the existence of this suburb, conservation, and other things in present-day Kenya, the colonial history of Kenya continues to reveal itself

Kwani: Intimations of an Ending.Johannesburg Review of Books.

An oral history of Kwani?, a literary organization that emerged in Kenya in 2003, and the story of how a combination of political machinations and changes in the donor landscape hastened its demise.

The Joy of Eating Mutura, Nairobi’s Blood Sausage of Ill Repute.” Serious Eats.

Mutura is one of Kenya’s premier street foods, but its occupation of this position is made possible both by its remarkable cultural history, and the contemporary culture around its consumption.

The African slave who taught America how to vaccinate itself from smallpox.Quartz Africa.

In April 1721, when a small outbreak swept through Boston, USA, an enslaved African’s knowledge of inoculation proved important in helping slow the spread of the disease.

A Street Named Bi. Pendo.” The Elephant.

In August 2017, amid the fracas that accompanied the Kenyan presidential elections, police officers swept through residential areas in Kisumu at night, harassing residents, and eventually bludgeoning to death Samantha Pendo, a six-month-old baby. In the immediacy of this, one of Kisumu’s main streets was renamed after Pendo, and three years later, the renaming, as informal as it was, still stands.

Hashtag Jacaranda Propaganda.” Gay Magazine.

When the British left Kenya at the end of their colonial rule of the country, one of the things they left us was the gift of the jacaranda tree. Every year, these trees flower in purple flamboyance, at once eerily beautiful, and a reminder of the violence of colonialism.

The Kenyan Literary Hustle.” Brittle Paper.

A reflective account of the Kenyan literary scene, its contours and eddies, and the difficult politics that impede literary production in the country.

A Brief Contemporary History of Nairobi’s Literary House Parties.” Literary Hub.

A lot of the important literary organizations in Nairobi started as communities that coalesced around several houses, and here I trace the parties that gave forth to these organizations.

The Parkroad Boys.” adda (Commonwealth Writers).

In 2003, Kenya reached the semi-finals of the ICC Cricket World, the team buttressed upon the talents of a group of boys who had grown together in Parkroad Estate, Nairobi. However, when these boys aged and retired from the game, Kenyan cricket fell away.

Stuck in a Ruck: The Perpetual Crisis of Kenya Sevens’ Rugby.” The Elephant.

An account of how the Kenya Rugby Union’s inefficiencies have led to several stop-and-starts for the Kenya Rugby Sevens team, and thus plateaued the team’s success in the HSBC Sevens Circuit.

The Joys of Commentary.” Popula. 

A study of patterns in sports commentary, and how DJ Afro, a Swahili film commentator in Kenya, has established himself as the best in Kenya’s commentary scene.