Webs of lines are etched deeply into his face. A set of languid, deeply burrowed eyes tell the tale of a man tortured by life. If you pick a random event from precolonial Kenya, this man was probably a little older than that. With each hunching movement he clenches his gum and complains that a terrible ache pierces his back ‘like needles’. The elderly man had long forgotten what it felt to have joints that moved with ease without torturing him with a sting of pain.
As I help him onto a well-aged three- legged seat under a towering palm-tree, he lets out a shriek like a man who had stepped on thorns. This man is a member of a little Known Pemba community living in the Kenyan Coast.
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.