‘I Have Always Wanted an Opportunity to See Nigeria’ – Stanley Kenani

– Stanley Kenani, a UN worker, Malawian writer and facilitator in the Caine Prize workshop for short story writing at the ongoing Port Harcourt Book Festival

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing since I was very young. I can remember at the age of 13, my story won a prize in my school. So if we start counting from when I was 13 years old, that makes it 25 years that I have been writing.

What is your expectation of this year’s event which is also a celebration of Nigeria’s centenary?

My expectation is to celebrate with Nigeria in this landmark event and achievement of its centenary of its existence. I remember that when I was getting the visa to come here, in Bern, Switzerland, the consular official asked me, ‘what is your expectation of Nigeria?’ I told him that Nigeria has had a big influence on Malawi, my country. We have learnt from Nigeria a lot, from football to music to the spiritual aspect. A lot of people come all the way from Malawi to pray in Nigerian churches here and to see Pastor T. B. Joshua and others. So I have always wanted an opportunity to see Nigeria; this is my first time and I’m very happy to be here.

Did you have any initial fears coming to Nigeria since you must have heard of Ebola in West Africa and insurgency in northern Nigeria?

I was not frightened at all because I know Nigeria is a country of more than 150 million people – some say 170 million people – and yet all these things are happening and there are over 170 million people living there, every day going to school, going to the office, going home to be with the family, so why should I be afraid when I’m just one of the 170 million people? If it happens to me, that is just bad luck.

Your immediate past president in Malawi is a woman. What visible effort did she make to improve the lot of women in your country since most African women are disadvantaged educationally?

I think she tried what she could. We must understand that she came in as a stopgap replacement after the death of the president, and she had only two years. And two years is a short time to make notable impact on policy issues, because policy issues take years to roll out. But I can say she did what she could and it is commendable.

How do you plan to make impact on young Nigerian writers who are here in Port Harcourt to learn from you the skills and secrets of writing?

As I said at the beginning of the workshop, I am not coming in as a better writer than they are. I am coming in to share ideas with them. Yes, I’ve had my fair share of publishing at international level. Just last week, a story of mine was published in London and I went there to read it. I know these people don’t have the opportunity to sit down and learn the craft of writing. So, with the little experience that I have, combined with their own experiences, we will sit down and share ideas, and I hope they go home with something, so that in future it will be easier for them to publish something.

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