The third PPK Reading Circuit took place on the ninth of April 2011 at The Mug on Kaunda Street. We discussed Freedom in Writing.
A writer’s work embodies all kinds of freedoms; political, religious, moral, ethic and sexual. The questions that begged were, what was freedom and its expression in writing, and what was writing and its expression in freedom?
Freedom is the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints. It was generally agreed that freedom is freedom only when coupled with responsibility. Without responsibility, freedom becomes reckless and self-restraining and shackling.
An analogy was given, about all of us being born into a little cell. We have two choices; to break free of our own volition or to just stay put, serve our sentence and enjoy eventual freedom.
African writers of the sixties and seventies, writers like Ngugi wa Thiong’o, used their books to free the people from colonialism. From then, a cliché arose that to be an African writer, one must either write about disease and poverty, or about freedom and angst directed at the various kinds of colonisers.
In the meeting, it was generally agreed that such writing was relevant to the pre and immediate post-independence era. Africa is free in the sense that we have sovereign self-governing states. That is the argument anyway.
So we asked, are we as the new generation of writers free? Why are we still forced to carry titles such as ‘African Writers’? What do such titles mean to us? Do they free us or further shackle us? And what is our responsibility as writers? Do we free our minds, or do we free our readers?
It was pointed out that in freeing our minds, we shall free our readers.
In the end, we learnt that we condition ourselves to accept norms we did not create. Perhaps we need to question more, carry out our research well before we say things like “Africans don’t do that” or “We’ve always done things this way.”
We learnt that books are a preview into the human condition and as such, perfect characters do not or should not exist. Earth is not a utopia!
We also came to the consensus that writers have a lot of power in their hands. We hold a direct discourse with minds. With just a paragraph we can influence the thought of populations and generations.
This is one reason many writers have been persecuted by governments or gone into exile. This power can be counterproductive because instead of freeing it could shackle not only the reader but also the writer. John Emerich Acton said, “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”
Writers should be careful not to box themselves or be boxed in by their writing. We have a responsibility to ourselves and to our readers. For this reason, we all came into the consensus that it would be wise to invest in our writing. Gift plus skill is a potent combination.
Gideon and Wambui read excerpts of their own work, while Jackie read an excerpt from Stephen Derwent Partington’s essay titled Contemporary Vennyan Poetry, Circa 2010; a Manifesto, not for a Movement, but for a Moment in the History of our Kenyan Poetry.
It would be prudent to mention here that the success of the meeting was also courtesy of well-taken care of throats and a wonderful environment, Samosa and tea was in great abundance courtesy of THE MUG restaurant.
*Definition of Freedom courtesy of WordWeb, the Free Online Encyclopaedia.
Before we wish you a great week ahead, allow a short recap of last week’s magazine:
Locations On Your Phone – @Chiira Maina’s Last Post on the PP(K). Chiira has moved on and we wish him all the best in his new life! We also welcome Norman Osodo who will be taking over next week.
The Other Woman & Other Stories by Grace Ogot – A Review by Stella Riunga
Emotions on Chronic City – With Nyambura Kiarie
Rahab Wangari – March Diva 2011 – An Interview with the IvoryPunk
Behind One’s Back – The Punk’s Twilight Zone
My Legacy – @MoAngwenyi with Society & Identity
We wish you lots of creative energy and good will in the week ahead!