‘We should one day walk into the offices of the two major newspapers in the country and demand that they channel funds toward this award that bears the name of the one man who not only made their papers widely read but also saved many men from being thrown out of their houses after they arrived home late in the night….…
These were the words of the chief judge of the Wahome Mutahi prize, Dr. Tom Odhiambo, a man I like to refer to as a literary activist. He was speaking during the award ceremony that happened on Saturday evening 27th of September at the Nairobi Club’s vast Tennis Court.
Hundreds of writers, editors, critics and book lovers gathered on the warm September evening to witness the awarding of the winners for the biannual prize and the official closing of the 17th Nairobi International Book fair.
The ceremony started off with a number of youthful poets reciting their pieces. Njeri Wangare, also known as Kenyan Poet then read out a piece , asking the audience to tell her which was more powerful between a pen and a gun. This question, I found rather hard to answer it being the first anniversary of celebrated Ghanian Poet Kofi Awonoor losing his life at the hand of gunmen at the Westgate Mall.
Attorney General Githu Muigai , the guest of honor, seemed quite at ease even amongst scribes perhaps because as a learned friend, he too had made friends with books.
The Chairman of the Kenya Publisher’s Association, Lawrence Njagi, requested the attorney general to help save the publishing industry through enactment of stringent measures to curb the rampant piracy that is ongoing and which could easily bring the industry to its knees.
Attorney General Muigai in his speech, promised to look into the matter and help chart a way forwad. He then congratulated the writers and editors and informed them that intellectual property earnings are chiefly the reason why Kenya has moved from a low income to a middle income economy.
Pete Openda, the Mcee’s rich baritone then took the audience through the awarding ceremony. The adult English category was won by Yusuf Dawood with his book The Last Word (Longhorn).He beat Waigwa Wachira’s A Gift From a Stranger (KLB) and Ng’ang’a Mbugua’s Different Colours(Big Books).
The Adult Kiswahili Caregory was won by Jeff Mandila for his play Upepo wa Mvua. This is the second time he is scooping the prize after his first novel Sikitiko la Sambaya won the same award in 2012. Mandila beat Juma Namlola’s Kula Kwa Mheshimiwa and Tom Olali’s Watu wa Gehenna.
The English children’s category, introduced this year, was won by Charles Gachega for his book Kuti Makes a Difference. He beat Joseph Mzee’s Naomi the Detective and Mureithi Maina’s A note for Alice.
In the Kiswahili children’s category, Lilian Wairimu’s Kiswahili Gani took home the trophy. She beat John Kobia’s Maskini Punda and Bitugi Matundura’s Adhabu ya Joka.