Kenyan literature

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Kenyan literature describes literature which comes from Kenya. Kenya has a long oral and written literary tradition, primarily in English[1] and Swahili, the two official languages of the country.


Kenya has a strong tradition of oral literature, which continues today in several languages.[1] As a result of Kenya's position as a former colony of England, the national literature concurrently belongs to several bodies of writing, including that of the Commonwealth of Nations and of Africa as a whole.[1] Most written literature is in English; some scholars consider Swahili to be marginalized as a language, despite Kenya's independence from Britain.[2]

Notable writers[edit]

Important Kenyan writers include Grace Ogot, Meja Mwangi, Paul Kipchumba, Kinyanjui Kombani and Binyavanga Wainaina.[3][4][5][6]

Notable works[edit]

One of the best known pieces of Kenyan literature is Utendi wa Tambuka, which translates to The Story of Tambuka. Written by a man named Mwengo at the court of the Sultan of Pate, the epic poem is one of the earliest known documents in Swahili, being written in the year 1141 of the Islamic calendar, or 1728 AD.[7]

Thiong'o's first novel, Weep Not, Child, was the first novel in English to be published by an East African. His The River Between is currently on Kenya's national secondary school syllabus.[8][9] His novel A Grain of Wheat was said to"...[mark] the coming of age of Anglophone literature in East Africa".[10]

Works set in Kenya[edit]

Numerous authors of European background also wrote or based their books in Kenya. The best-known of these include Isak Dinesen (the pen name of Karen Blixen), whose Out of Africa was the basis for the popular film starring Meryl Streep; Elspeth Huxley, author of The Flame Trees of Thika; Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye, whose Coming to Birth won the Sinclair Prize; and Beryl Markham, author of West with the Night.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Kiiru, Muchugu (March 2004). "Kenyan Literature: A Call for Discourse By Muchugu Kiiru". The Nairobi Journal of Literature. University of Nairobi. 2.
  2. ^ Amoko, Apollo Obonyo (2010). Postcolonialism in the Wake of the Nairobi Revolution: Ngugi wa Thiong’o and the Idea of African Literature. New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan.
  3. ^ Grace Ify Achufusi, "Conceptions of Ideal Womanhood: The Example of Bessie Head and Grace Ogot", in Neohelicon, 2005 19(2): p. 95.
  4. ^ "Meja Mwangi". Internet Archive. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  5. ^ Paul Kipchumba[1]
  6. ^ "Visiting writer Wainaina winning worldwide accolades". Union College. 31 January 2007. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  7. ^ Knappert, Jan (1958). Het Epos Van Heraklios.
  8. ^ Muchemi Wachira (2 April 2008). "Kenya: Publishers Losing Millions to Pirates". The Daily Nation. Retrieved 5 December 2009.
  9. ^ Joseph Ngunjiri (25 November 2007). "Kenya: Ngugi Book Causes Rift Between Publishers". The Daily Nation. Retrieved 14 January 2010.
  10. ^ Caminero-Santangelo, Byron (1998). "Neocolonialism and the Betrayal Plot in "A Grain of Wheat": Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o's Re-Vision of "Under Western Eyes"". Research in African Literatures. 29 (1).
  11. ^ Ingham, Kenneth (24 May 2016). "Kenya". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 21 October 2016.

External links[edit]