When Makena Onjerika, Christine Mungai and Dr. Ken Walibora took to the stage at the launch of the “Whispers from the River”, a collection of short stories by Turi students any doubt that this was a big deal was erased. These celebrated writers were proof that the African voice, no matter how faint, how weary or how young counted. They were here to celebrate the achievement of 19 young men and women who were now published authors.
A week prior Dr. Walibora got a hold of the book. Not surprisingly, someone had dropped in another pre-published book for him to read and give his thoughts. But before he even turned the pages to analyse its contents/whispers, he said yes! He would be delighted to join these writers at the launch. More African voices to celebrate and teenage ones at that!
Together with his colleagues on the panel, they encouraged the “Whispers” team to keep writing. No matter what professions they went in to.
It was a brief encounter, with hopes and plans for more but as we’ve certainly come to learn, that was not to be. Prior to this encounter, Team Turi had not engaged with Dr. Walibora but the support he gave the students and the entire team, beyond attending the event was touching to say the least.
Indeed, East Africa is not a literary desert as Taban Lo Liyong once stated and this is because writers like Dr Walibora, Makena and Christine have been planting and watering the region with their words.
My only encounter with Mr Ken Walibora was when he answered a question I asked at the launch of the Whispers from the River book- what’s the significance of speaking ones own language to one’s identity as an African? His answer was an affirmation of his life’s work- it is of utmost importance. His tireless dedication to the use and teaching of Swahili demonstrates that his answer to my question wasn’t just words but enacted in his life. From that one answer my colleagues and I were immensely impacted as budding African writers and we salute a vanguard of African literature as he returns to the Father.
Maria Etiang- Year 13
A man that kept the conversation interesting, who was an inspiration from our first meeting
Tamunomiete Whyte- Year 13
The passing of Ken Walibora deeply saddens me. My brief interaction with him during the panel discussion at the Whispers from the River book launch left a lasting impression of a strong, well-read, and educated African voice like I had never encountered before. This is a deep and tragic loss for the continent and the world. My prayers go out to his family and friends. Rest in peace, Ken Walibora.
Shawn Mwenje- Year 13
Professor Ken Walibora was indeed a Kenyan hero. An individual who was definitely part of the vanguard spearheading a revolution in Kenyan literature; especially through his profound plethora of acclaimed work that has been praised countrywide.
It is particularly bittersweet for me, considering I had only met him 2 months prior, when he graced our book launch event. To hear this shocking and despairing news, especially in a time of global turmoil, it is indeed a conspicuous reminder of the trying times we currently have to endure.
However, although a brief encounter, I shall always remember Professor Walibora’s wise words and enlightening counsel on what it means to portray the African story. He’s a beacon for Kenyan writing and one who shall be remembered fondly. Rest in power, Mr Walibora.