Magunga Williams a blogger and creative writer from Kenya will
attend the #Babishai2016 poetry festival in Kampala, from 24-26 August. He was
nominated for the 2016 #BAKEAWARDS-Bloggers Association of Kenya Awards and
runs a large online bookstore.
online bookstore is thriving and making a large difference regarding
accessibility of literature, how did this idea emerge?
It is one of
those things I have always wanted to know. It stemmed from a heartbreak I had
when I was a kid when a neighbourhood library was shut down after its owner
passed away. I cannot even remember his name. But I remember how much I loved
going to that place. It was my refuge. When we were sent home due to unpaid
school fees, my brother and I would visit that library. It had so many
That heartbreak healed, like very few heartbreaks usually do, but like many
heartbreaks, it was not forgotten. Fast forward to 2014-15 and my partner and I
are walking around Nairobi bookshops trying to get her poetry collection into
bookstore unsuccessfully. Then I realized many self published authors, and many
other authors had trouble distributing and marketing their books. I saw a
vacuum and nature did the thing it does with vacuums. Now here I am, managing
an online bookstore from the comfort of my house. One step at a time, because
that is how I was taught to do things.
How may we
support this fabulous invention of yours?
How can you
help? I throw that question back to you. You read books. You consume them with
so much relish. Tell me what challenges you experience and then we can have a
conversation about how you think we can solve them. I want to reach as many
Africans as possible with this venture. Put a book in as many hands as
the most popular books so far, from the Magunga online bookstore?
John’s book, Born On A Tuesday, lasted
all of two days and they were gone. Same with The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma.
Then there is Den of Inequities and Last
Villains of Molo by Kinyanjui
Ooooh! Any book
by Zukiswa Wanner rarely stays for long. See, Zukiswa and Kombani have learnt
that books are products like any other; you have to market them aggressively,
and that is working very well for them.
(Do not tell my
What kind of
poetry do you like to read?
I like easy to
read poetry. The kind that affects you without your mind being forced to
understand whatever is going on. Think Warsan Shire, Amu Nnadi, Abigail Arunga,
Sheila Okong’o and Eric Onyango Otieno.
Woi! This chap
called Saddiq Dzukogi is phenomenal.
I still do not
know what the difference between poetry and spoken word is. Because Peter
Kagayi is amazing.
surprised by your invitation to the Babishai Poetry festival last year and why?
Yes. I was
surprised. Because I do not consider myself anyone of note in these literary
circles, much less in poetry circles. I am a pretender. I know as much as Jon
What do you
expect from the festival this year?
I expect more
fun. Last year was so well organized and so informative. Guests were treated
well, the classes were just as good as they can get. Beverley is an angel. I
can say that given the success of last year’s festival, then I am hoping to see
a bigger crowd.
you place Christian literature in this secular world?
know everything has its own space, yeah? People who like stories will enjoy it
regardless of whether it is Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Legion Maria, Polo
Piach or Atheist. Remember that book, My Book of Bible Stories that we used to
read as kids? Loved that book. Not because it was Christian, but because I was
entertained by the stories. Left to Tell by
Imaculee Ilibagiza is a sublime story about a woman finding God in the midst of
the Rwandan genocide. But regardless of it’s religious inclinations, the story
is well told. But of course there are material that I do not see people other
than those of that faith buying. For instance, many people will not read The Hand of God simply because they have
no interest in it.
Am I making
on your 2016 #BAKEAWARDS nomination, who are some of your favourite Ugandan
But you have to
agree with me that Ugandans have not really taken to blogging like we Kenyans
have. Your internet keeps getting shut down every time the Leopard wakes up on
the wrong side of the bed.
What food in
your opinion, is best for writers?
The edible kind
Be a good sport and buy books. Sharing is caring with other
things, but not when it comes to books. So go to www.books.magunga.com
and make an order now. Haven’t you been told that the best place to be is in
between the pages of a good book?