Esther Kamatari


‘’Which African writers have influenced you besides Chinua Achebe?’’

I pondered this question for a while before I thought of making a list of  writers who equally influenced my hunger for African history… my history. After scouring my memory and the internet, I have made my list of favourite East African Literary figures/Writers. Most of these novels, plays and Poetry are reminiscent of my high school literature curriculum. Others are just out of curiosity for fellow East African literary voices that I want to hear. I have compiled a list of authors from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi hoping that you share the same hunger to read as I do. This list does not even attempt to exhaust the East African writers that you may know of but hey, it is a start.

1. Song of Ocol ; a poem that expresses Ocol’s, (an African man) disgust for African ways and the destructive force of his self-hatred - Okot P’Bitek (Uganda)

2. Song of Lawino: a poem dealing with the tribulations of a rural African wife whose husband has taken up urban life and wishes everything to be westernised - Okot P’Bitek (Uganda)

3.The Burdens: a play that reflects the socio-political atmosphere in Uganda post independence -  Ruganda John (Uganda)

4. The River Between (1965): tells a story about the struggle of a young leader ‘Waiyaki’ to unite the two villages of Kameno and Makuyu through sacrifice and pain - Ngugi Wa Thiongo’o (Kenya)

5. Admiring Silence: A man escapes from his native Zanzibar to England. His furtive departure makes it unlikely that he will ever return, but he and his family agree a bright future lies ahead. He meets an English woman and they build a life together  - Abdulrazak Gurnah (Tanzania)

6. Two in One; a barren lady kidnaps three babies but the scam falls through a few decades after because one of the children is recognized later in life - Mwangi Gicheru (Kenya)

7. The promised Land: A young farmer and his wife who have migrated to Tanzania from Kenya become embroiled in issues of personal jealousy and materialism, and a melodramatic tale of tribal hatreds ensues.  - Grace Ogot (Kenya)

8. The Floods - Ruganda John (Uganda)

9. Paradise: Is a tragic love story about an African boy coming of age and a tale of the corruption of traditional African patterns by European colonialism  - Abdulrazak Gurnah (Tanzania)

10. I will Marry When I want (1977) : A peasant farmer and his wife are tricked into mortgaging their home and plot of land to finance a ‘’proper Christian Wedding.’’ This was a very powerful play of that time which according to some historians, attributed to Ngugi’s detention without trial. - Ngugi Wa Thiongo’o (Kenya)

11. The Ethnic Trap/Le Piege ethnique (1999): A study of ethnic polemics  - Benjamin Sehene (Rwanda)

12. Across The Bridge (1979): When Kihuthu’s daughter Caroline falls in love with Chuma and becomes pregnant with his child, she disgraces her family, who feel especially humiliated by Chuma’s lowly status as a mere houseboy. -    Mwangi Gicheru (Kenya)

13. Weep Not Child; Portrays the Mau Mau uprising and bewildering dispossession of ancestral land from the Natives.This book was the first novel to be published by an East African in 1964. He wrote this book when he was still a student at Makerere University -Ngugi Wa Thiongo’o

14. La Fue Sous La Soutane/Fire Under the Cassock (2005): a historical novel focusing on the true story of a Hutu Catholic Priest, Father Stanislas, who offered protection to Tutsi refugees in his church before sexually exploiting the women and participating in massacres . - Benjamin Sehene (Rwanda)

15. The Strange Bride (1983) an interpretation of a Luo myth - **Grace Ogot (Kenya)

16. White Teeth/Lak Tar - Tells the struggles of a poor young man, Okeca Ladwong who is forced to leave his village to find bride price that will enable him to get married. - Okot P’ Bitek (Uganda)

17. Silent Empowerment Of The Compatriots: is a powerful historical novel which forces us to re- think the whole notion of independence and the construction of a new society. - Gabriel Ruhumbika (Tanzania)

18. The Graduate: a novel set in post independent Kenya tackling the theme of corruption. How can the new government reorganize the system to benefit its own citizens?  - Grace Ogot (Kenya)

** Grace Ogot was the first female East African to be published.

19: Princess de Rugo - an autobiography of Esther Kamatari who fled to exile in Paris after the assassination of her father.- Esther Kamatari (Burundi)