2019

Christopher Okemwa

Lecturer, Writer and Poet

Kenya

From May 17 to May 24, 2019

Biography —

Personal Website

Christopher Okemwa is a lecturer of Literature as well as the director of the School of Post Graduate Studies at Kisii University, Kenya. He holds a PhD degree in Literature from Moi University, as well as an MA and a Bachelor of Education degree in literature from the University of Nairobi, Kenya. He is the founder and director of Kistrech International Poetry Festival in Kenya.

His poetry collections include The Gong (Nsemia Inc., 2010), Purgatorius Ignis (Nsemia Inc., 2016), and Ominous Clouds (Nsemia Inc., 2018). His other collection, The Pieta, to be published by Narcis (Armenia) in 2019, is translated to fifteen languages. He has also published three oral literature texts, a short story collection, three children’s books, as well as five books of folktales of the Abagusii people of Kenya. Okemwa’s novella, Sabina and the Mystery of the Ogre, won 2015 Canadian Burt Award for African Literature (Kenya).

Project —

During my stay at Faber, I want to write one long love poem for my wife. This love letter will be titled Love Letter from Catalonia or Love from the city of Olot. It will comprise of musings, dreams, desires and longings for my wife. In the process of writing this, tradition and cultural practices of my community will weave themselves in, vis-à-vis experiences of my stay in the host country (Catalonia).  My publisher, Nsemia Inc. Publisher, will be in a position to publish this book of poem. The front cover of the book will bear the acknowledgement to Faber Residence.

Activity —

Sharing Oral Poetry and Issues in Kenyan Communities

Christopher Okemwa | INS Castell d’Estela (Amer) | May 22, 2019

We arrived at INS Castell d’Estela high school in Amer to cheers and applause from students. Nothing was formal and this made students to express themselves freely as though they had known us for years. While my friend and musician, Monique Mizrahi, played guitar and discussed much about artivism, I presented oral poetry from my community, the Abagusii people of Kenya. I sung and chanted five oral poems and translated them to students. They were glad that they were able to learn new things from oral poetry of a far way community in Western Kenya of 1 million people. They asked questions about marathon in Kenya, about Barack Obama whose parents came from Kenya, about students whom I teach, about the state of football in Kenya, etc. Questions were endless and it was all full of excitement, laughter and cheers. We had to spend four hours in order to satisfy the students.

After we finished, students jostled to take position for photo-taking with us. Some exchanged contacts with us, while some wanted to hold our hands not wanting to let us go. It was a warm experience, one to etch itself in our memory for a long time to come.

As we were leaving students suggested that it was a good idea that they should mentor and exchange ideas with students in Kenya. They also asked for my teen award-winning novel, Sabina and the Mystery of the Ogre, a copy of which I have already given to their teacher, Miquel Jimenez, to take to them.

The visit to IES Castell d’Estela high school, the experience we had with students and the hospitality of their humble teachers, is indescribable, is unforgettable.