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Blurring generic borders and blurring literary hierarchies in Kenya. The Kwani? magazine between the press and literature

Text Article


ID: <ywagWYR4WI1fpAffmyjQm>


Since its creation in 2003 by a collective of Kenyan writers and intellectuals led by Binyavanga Wainaina, the literary journal Kwani? has become a renowned literary institution in Kenya and abroad. A hybrid textual object, at the interface between media and literature, the journal, explicitly qualified as « literary » by its founders – most of whom are journalists by training –, invites an exploration of the relationship between the press and literature. By re-inscribing the journal within a specific literary history and tracing its multiple influences, this paper seeks to offer insights on the fine line that separates media and literary practices for writers such as Wahome Mutahi or Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Claiming the influence of popular magazines such as Drum or Joe rather than that of intellectual little magazines like Transition or Black Orpheus, Kwani? emulates the former’s humorous and irreverent style. Since Billy Kahora became the editor in 2003, the journal has also sought to promote a specific genre, creative non-fiction, influenced by Tom Wolfe’s New Journalism, and presented as a hermeneutical tool particularly adapted to Kenya’s political and cultural context. Reading the complex dialogue and exchanges between the press and literature in Kenya sheds light on various figures of the writer and journalist and how they are reinvested within the pages of Kwani?.

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