March 2019 marked the first instalment of the annual Swahili Literary Festival, the inaugural theme being “Celebrating Achievement”, a participatory theme informed by the dire need to acknowledge and celebrate heroes in the East African littoral space. While heroes come in many different shades, our intention was to celebrate those whose achievement was literary or artistic in nature.
Thousands of our kinds were killed that time, but history won’t remember a single one. We arrived at Mutara wa Tsatsu in the forgotten years. We were invited by our dreams, smiling at our future, our young romping about like lion cubs. We came seeking peace but never saw the signs of nightmare to come. We rowed for many days upon foam crowned blue seas, defeating the veritable tempest of the seas.
A few months ago, we did a call out seeking short fiction submissions from Coastal writers and the feedback was amazing, considering that Hekaya is a relatively new name in the coastal writing scene. The main aim of setting up this platform is to amplify coastal voices by publishing prose, poetry and portraiture from the region which spans from Mogadishu all the way down to the Kiswahili-speaking part of Northern Mozambique, largely because the people from these region share a whole lot in common.
For instance, Kiswahili is a common language here. In matters, dressing, the Kikoi is a common attire, differing only in style such that it would be easy to tell a Somali kikoi from its Lamu counterpart. The Chakacha and Taarab music from Mombasa differs only in tone from the one in The Comoros.
Please download the anthology here
The region has also given birth to globally acclaimed scholars of language and literature like the late Professor Ali Mazrui, Professor Abdulatif Abdallah, Professor Alamin Mazrui, Professor Rayya Timamy, Professor Rocha Chimera, Professor Abdulrazak Gurnah from Zanzibar, Ngala Chome, Ali Attas, Alwi Shatry to name but a few.
The Coast is a diverse place which has seen the good and bad of what the Sea has brought over the centuries and has been at the fore front of not only trade transactions but also fusion of languages as people sought the best way to trade and coexist. Over time, the merging of languages saw the Coastal towns rise to meet the demands of a dynamically developing world. As such, stories have been with us, part of us for a very long time.
Hekaya is seeking short fiction submissions from writers in the East African Coast.