Nairobi ~ Kenya
2010 Prince Claus Laureate Kwani Trust is revolutionising creative literary production in Kenya and across Anglophone Africa. Starting in 2003, it launched an independent literary journal, Kwani? (Swahili for ‘So what?’), to challenge the institutionalised academic control of authorship and entrenched literary conventions of an older generation. Kwani’s editors, Binyavanga Wainaina and Billy Kahura, actively encourage new talent, original sensibilities and creative use of language. Poetry has a strong presence, alongside humour and slang. The wide range of stories, personal narratives and commentaries reflect day-to-day realities, exploring topics such as urbanisation, relationships, ethnicity, injustice and politics. The pool of contributors is constantly expanding and includes writers from many African countries. Positive response to the journal led to a variety of popular activities: Poetry Open Mic, a monthly performance event; Sunday Salon Nairobi, a prose reading series; writers’ forums, public debates, workshops and competitions; and the annual Kwani? Literary Festival, which features continental and global cultural figures. Kwani Trust publishes short-story collections and books such as The Life and Times of Richard Onyango (a Kenyan artist) and Kenya Burning (a visual narrative of 2007 post-election violence). Recognising the economic constraints of local readers, it also produces affordable pocket-sized editions and distributes literature from other African countries. It uses new technologies to reach wider audiences, has built a global network and facilitates local participation in international events. Kwani Trust is honoured for establishing a dynamic platform for new African voices and perspectives, for its progressive influence and energetic dedication to developing a supportive environment for literary expression, and for crossing social and cultural frontiers to expose new facets of reality.