Nairobi ~ Kenya
Henry Chakava: publisher, Kenya (b. 1946, Vokoli) Henry Chakava is an innovative, courageous and enterprising publisher who has devoted his life to the development of book publishing on the African continent. Following studies in literature and philosophy, he became editor and then managing editor of the Nairobi branch of Heinemann, a multinational publishing company. He was involved in the publication and promotion of many African writers who have become major internationally recognised authors, such as Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Chinua Achebe, Ali Mazrui, Okot P’Bitek, Meja Mwangi, Francis Imbuga and Marjorie Macgoye. He later took over the Kenyan branch of the company and transformed it into East African Educational Publishers with offices in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. When Heinemann stopped publishing their African writers series, Henry Chakava took up the East African list – something that has not happened elsewhere on the continent. Under his leadership, the company contributes enormously to the educational and cultural needs of the region, publishing leading writers and a notable range of children’s literature in local languages as well as English, and producing school and tertiary study textbooks on every subject from an African perspective. Henry Chakava has taken serious risks in defence of freedom of expression and suffered assault by State agents. He published in local languages when this was considered subversive and has produced controversial books by authors who criticised the local governments. He has been at the forefront of publishing in African languages and has been instrumental in building up local readership, both important factors in the African context.