Kwani? (Sheng for so what?) is a leading African literary magazine based in Kenya that has been called "undoubtedly the most influential journal to have emerged from sub-Saharan Africa", although that tribute might more accurately go to Transition Magazine which was founded in Kampala, Uganda in 1961. The magazine grew out of a series of conversations that took place among a group of Nairobi-based writers in the early 2000s. Its founding editor, Binyavanga Wainaina, spearheaded the project shortly after winning the 2002 Caine Prize for African Writing. The first print issue of the magazine was published in 2003. Kwani? has been called "the most renowned literary journal in sub-Saharan Africa". It is produced by the Kwani Trust, which is "dedicated to nurturing and developing Kenya’s and Africa’s intellectual, creative and imagination resources through strategic literary interventions".
Kwani?, which receives significant funding from the Ford Foundation, has become a major platform for writing from across the African continent. It has served as a launching pad for the careers of several writers, including Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, winner of the 2003 Caine Prize; Uwem Akpan, author of the best-selling short story collection Say You're One of Them, and Billy Kahora, now the magazine's managing editor. Each edition of the journal contains up to 500 or more pages of new journalism, fiction, experimental writing, poetry, cartoons, photographs, ideas, literary travel writing and creative non-fiction. The seventh edition of Kwani? "is subtitled 'Majuu' – a sheng (street slang) reference to 'overseas' – and is a 570-page testament to the journal's diasporic roots."
Kwani Trust is a regional literary hub and a community of writers that is committed to the growth of the region's creative industry through publishing and distributing contemporary African literature, offering training opportunities, producing literary events and establishing global literary networks. The Kwani? Literary Festival is organized on a biennial basis, where for the course of one week, the literary leaders of Kenya, enriched with visiting writers from around the world explore issues through the lenses of the continent’s past, present and emerging literatures.
Kwani? Manuscript Project
In 2012, the Kwani? Manuscript Project was launched, a one-off literary prize for unpublished fiction manuscripts from African writers across the continent and in the African diaspora, with a judging panel comprising Jamal Mahjoub, Ellah Allfrey (deputy editor of Granta magazine), Helon Habila, Simon Gikandi, Mbugua wa Mungai (chairman of Kenyatta University's Literature Department) and Irene Staunton (of Weaver Press in Zimbabwe). In July 2013 the winner was announced as Ugandan writer Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi.
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- Kwani Trust: Our History
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- The Kwani? Manuscript Project.
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- "Uganda's Jennifer Makumbi Wins Kwani? Literary Prize", The Star, 3 July 2013. AllAfrica.
- Kwani? website
- artmatters.info - a critical review
- Stephen Derwent Partington, "War on Kwani? marks the death of literary engagement and rise of spite", Daily Nation, 9 February 2013.