Wanjohi wa Makokha’s Nest of Stones (ISBN 9789956578306) is the second book of poems, since the publication of Sitawa Namwalie’s Cut off my Tongue (Storymoja: 2009), devoted in principal to the moment of the 2007-2008 Kenyan Crisis. The crisis is locally known as the Post-Election Violence (PEV). The book collects over sixty pieces of his recent verse chosen on the basis of artistic merit and social relevance. The poems focus sharply on the tumultuous period between the General Elections of 2007 and August 4th Referendum of 2010. Some of the poems relate to events drawn out of earlier moments in Kenyan history but are invoked as contexts of the recent discord.
Wa Makokha’s interesting narratives are written in the form of lyrical folk verse. The verses are poignant vignettes, out of experiences of different communities and regions of Kenya, serving as repositories of the memory of a tumultuous moment in the life of a nation. Nest of Stones derives its themes from the commonwealth of Kenyan experiences across ethnic and political divides. This idea of the interrelatedness of the peoples inhabiting the Kenyan space; is in a way, a veritable interrogation of the ‘imagined community’ leitmotif most often recoursed to when analyzing the tensions of co-existence in the post-colonial world. The heart of these amazing poems lies in Kenya but their philosophy of life is universal.
Below are commentaries made about the book by some of Africa’s renowned writers;
“This is a kind of epic that all can consume, that compromises nothing….” – Binyavanga Wainaina, Director, The Chinua Achebe Center for African Writers and Artists
“wa Makokha writes poetry as architecture, poetry as sculpture, poetry as a visual and structural engagement with the page. To read this book is also to enter a gallery of words.” – Shailja Patel, Kenyan poet and social activist, Migritude (2010)
“wa Makokha’s verse whispers, talks, shouts, cries and laughs all at ago. It carries you with its history, its pain, its silences, its loudness. It teases you with the urbanised Kiswahili, the poet is so at home with; it flings you at the edge of reflection and snatches you back into its clarity. In essence, it is beautiful.” – Dr Susan N. Kiguli, Ugandan Poet, The African Saga, (1998)
“A poignant poetically and emotionally charged collection – from the heart of a passionate young Kenyan with an authentic African voice – reflecting the rawness of the PEV era and forcing us to look in the mirror” – Sandra Mushi, Tanzanian poet, Rhythm of my Rhymes (2007)
“The poems in Nest of Stones form a catena, a chain that parodies, taunts and subtly provides an alternative ethical dimension/vision. They are powerful, poetic, penetrating. The poet’s tone is both mystifying and unveiling, framing the issues without being too obvious or condescending. In this book, wa Makokha politicizes the poetics of memory in order to transcend a sordid and painful present that breeds nothing but more pain.” – Professor Ali Jimale Ahmed, Department of Comparative Literature, CUNY & Somalian Poet, Fear is a Cow (2002)
Wanjohi wa Makokha (b.1979) lives and writes in Neukölln, Berlin. He teaches courses in African, South Asian and Caribbean literature at the Freie University of Berlin (FUB). He is a committed literary critic with several publications to his credit including Negotiating Afropolitanism: Essays on Borders and Spaces in Contemporary African Literature and Folklore (Rodopi: 2011) co-edited with Jennifer Wawrzinek.