Some have called him the Kenyan Shakespeare.
Veteran Swahili Journalist and author Ken Walibora is no more, but his legacy lives on in his critically acclaimed novels that will be passed own from generation to generation.
The renown linguist lost his life after being knocked down by a matatu on Landhies Road on Friday. He had been missing since Friday, with his family searching for him for days.
He also worked as a Kiswahili newsreader on NTV, which helped make him a household name across the country.
Back then when KBC used to air KPL matches, Ken Walibora had the best football commentary, his combination with Jack Oyoo was unmatched, he had the best way to make fun of those who missed scoring chances, he was so good in radio. We have lost a gem. May he rest well ❤️❤️.
— aleckie ronald (@SirAlexas) April 15, 2020
The famous author has about 40 titles to his name that he will be remembered for, especially with some of those having being read as compulsory set books in highschools for some years.
He is popularly known for his critically acclaimed Swahili novel Siku Njema, which was a secondary school set book between 1997 and 2003.
The novel was published in 1996 and saw Walibora become an instant household name in Swahili fiction. Written in the first person, the book deals with the life of a young man, Msanifu Kombo who is born in Tanga, Tanzania and who faces family hardships with his single mother, who is a talented singer of taarab. Being a child born out of wedlock does not make life easier for him as he is chided by his schoolmates in a culture that frowns upon illegitimate children.
Ken Walibora was one of the greatest Kenyan literal geniuses I have met. The last time we spoke, like two years ago, he talked of how he wanted to see more young Kenyans write. He challenged me to write. RIP Ken. pic.twitter.com/j6aCvfGzCx
— Oliver Mathenge (@OliverMathenge) April 15, 2020
“Writing Siku Njema was a labour of love, just like my other subsequent works. Of course, my first formidable foe was that no one knew me. I was acutely aware of the fact that people, particularly editors at publishing houses, would ask: “Ken Walibora who?” This motivated me to ransack the closets of my imaginative and linguistic ability in order to pen a novel that would stand the test of time.
“I intended for my first novel not only to be irresistible to the fastidious editors, who did not know me, but also to create a story that would have no sale-by date. I benefited from the remarks of unnamed readers that the publishers commissioned to read my raw manuscript. There were also elements of style for which I am hugely indebted to the then Kiswahili editor, Simon Sossion, for sending me Ezekiel Mphahlele’s guidelines on creative writing. Prof Kyallo W. Wamitila also had immense influence on the book,” Ken said during an interview.
Rest in Peace Ken Walibora! Leading light in African literature! Such a tragic loss!
— Yvonne Okwara-Matole (@YvonneOkwara) April 15, 2020
Some other famous books of his include Nasikia Sauti ya Mama, Ndoto ya Amerika and Siku Njema. One of his other books, Kidagaa Kimemwozea has also been a set book since 2013.
Which Fasihi book did you Love most. Kidaga Kimemwozea by Ken Walibora made my high school time worth it. pic.twitter.com/EYiM64ivNB
— LincolnKE🇰🇪™️ (@DLincolnKE) April 15, 2020
Talking about one of his books, Ken described his process.
“As I penned in the preface to Nasikia Sauti ya Mama, I would regale friends and family with exploits and adventures of my childhood. Pressure from them stirred me to chronicle those accounts. In fact, I am currently working on a number of memoirs covering various phases of my life. I believe writing more life narratives in Kiswahili would enhance and enrich the literary corpus of East Africa’s lingua France,” he said.
He has left a mark on many people’s live and Swahili literature will not be the same again. Rest in Peace Ken Walibora.