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The Face of Leadership

Lucas Marang'a and Dr. Jacob Mwangi

Reading Culture

IPR Smarts: Intellectual Property 101 for Content Creators and Publishers


Asteria Malinzi on Documentary Photography

Road to Burkina Faso The Land of Upright People

Let's cook, dad! Let's cook dad! editorial | translation | publishing | printing

we know that a comma can save a life


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46 24



Enjoying Poetry


Leadership The demise of the boy child

46 52

Book review Dreams from My Father: A story of Race and Inheritance

The diary of a budding writer Rejection



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Prose is published six times a year by Epsilon Publishers. The opinions expressed therein are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Epsilon Publishers.

52 Marriage of Inconvenience

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Of fatherless prisoners, the demise of the boy child, fine art photography and the travails of a budding writer


n unconfirmed report on Kenyan prisons revealed that more than 80% of male prisoners had absent fathers or highly dysfunctional fathers. I don’t know if this has made you sit up but I certainly did when I heard this disturbing statistic. Never has the need of strong male role models been great as it is now. So much emphasis has been put on the girl child, I reckon that the boy child was left somewhere by the wayside. Women in science. Women in the arts. Women in business. Women in finance. Women in agriculture. That these are real and tangible accomplishments cannot be overstated. We have done extremely well. We have outdone ourselves. We have done our mothers and our

grandmothers proud. But here is the sad truth. The boy child is no more. And what is perhaps more disturbing is that this trend is global. I have read many reports of countries developing programmes to bring back the boy as it were. First world and developing countries alike, it is a trend that is worrying. In this issue, we delve into the demise of the boy child. We sit at the feet of a seasoned educationist Dr. Jacob Mwangi to get his views. Lucas Marang’a, a husband, father and entrepreneur also shares his views. Tanzanian born fine art and documentary photographer Asteria Malinzi is our featured artist this month. She states that hers has been a journey of self-discovery and

growth in that she has managed to build a relationship with her camera that is therapeutic. Our msafiri travels to Burkina Faso, or Upper Volta if you will, on a fact-finding mission on why GMO cotton was banned in this tiny West African country. It is a journey that is not for the faint of heart, particularly as she finds herself on a ten-hour trip (one way) with the empty Kamba rhetoric no va (not far). As usual, our buddying writer explores various ennuis of his yet to take off career. In this instalment, he contemplates his big break but ends up staring at rejection in the face. Enjoy.

Mumbi Gichuhi



Incunabulum (noun) An early printed book, especially one printed before 1501.

A little bit of trivia Mind your language Redundancy

All things must pass

Redundancy is the use of words that could be omitted in a sentence, phrase or clause without loss of meaning. It manifests as repetition or verbosity and can hinder communication unless it is being used as a stylistic device for emphasis. Examples include ‘new beginning’, ‘end result’ and ‘false pretence’.

The adage ‘All things must pass’ means that nothing last forever. Its origin can be traced to the Bible in Matthew 24:6-8 (KJV) “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”


Famous quotes 6

A man is at his youngest when he thinks he is a man, not yet realising that his actions must show it.” - English writer (1905-1983)



All change, all production and generation are effected through the word.” - Senegalese poet and president (1906-2001)

Jettatura A curse of the the evil eye; bad luck

Phrontistery An establishment for study and learning

Pogonotrophy The act of cultivating, or growing and grooming, a moustache, beard, sideburns or other facial hair


The only ‘advice’ boys seem to get is of what they should not do. ‘A man does not cry. A man does not waste time gossiping. A man does not decorate himself like a woman.” - Daily Nation (Kenya) columnist

Tips on Character Development

C-Sectioned (n) The act or power of controlling; Control regulation; domination or command.

A good story is augmented by well-developed and memorable characters beside a racy plot. The tips below can help you enhance your characters when writing your novel: Show, don’t tell. “He stooped to get through the door,” in lieu of “He was tall.” Use anecdotes to show character. “Once inside, he greeted everyone with a sunny smile, enquiring after their health and that of their families and engaging in banter. Gradually, he worked up the whole room, creating an atmosphere of conviviality in what before was dourness all around us.” Use description to visualise your character. “He wore a cotton shirt, amber in colour and fraying at the collar and the cuffs. His face bore multiple scars, testament to the many street fights or bar brawls he had been involved in.” Use dialogue to build character. Your dialogue should be believable, with your characters talking as they would do in their everyday life. For instance, the kind of language a young man would adapt when talking to his parents at home would be more reverential than when he is on a night out with his mates at the local.


ontrol is a crucial ingredient in the running of any organisation. It establishes hierarchy- who reports to who, when and why- and ensures the quality of the organisation’s products or services. Further, control ensures that the organisation is run effectively and efficiently as well as complying to sector specific regulations. As a best practice, control ensures that any deviation – whether from the organisation’s mission, vision and core values, to the quality of its products or services- is quickly identified and remedial action promptly taken to normalise the situation.

That said, control is a two-way street; top to bottom, and bottom up. The top, comprising the executive and the management, need to communicate clearly to the workers concerning the controls in place and ensure they are adhered to. On their part, the workers, as the people on the ground, need to point out flaws in the controls in place such that they can be bettered. This is akin to a ship’s captain informing his crew on why a leak can sink the vessel and measures in place to prevent this. Then again, if a hand spots a leak and does not report it to the captain or acts as instructed on how to handle one, the whole ship goes down with everyone on board.


Kabarnet is the largest town in Baringo County and doubles as its administrative headquarters. It is named after an Australian Missionary, Albert Edmund Barnett, a member of the Africa Inland Mission who had settled in the region. The name means Barnett’s home since ‘ka’ denotes a homestead in the Kalenjin language. PROSE MAGAZINE | JUNE - JULY 2017



Africa’s sun You can’t, you can’t, you can’t! And now, he can’t Failure, failure, failure! Now, he embodies failure. Magnanimous, he is in defeat A disappointment as a father A ne'er-do-well, criminal minds The pub, his new home He has hit rock-bottom, dug some more. This sun of Africa, dulled Lacking his shine, we perish Once the spelling of vitality He has embraced death. Yet, there is a glimmer of hope That his future can be saved If nurtured in love, tender and caring That Africa’s sun can shine bright still.

Song of every day There is a song of Every Day It celebrates and praises The river and the dance There is a song of Every Day Still, it runs deep. There is a song of Every Day It’s sad, it’s cheery, it’s in-between Childlike, solemn at times It gossips, it chatters, it whistles Amazed by the fullness of life. There is a song of Every Day A world where possibilities thrive And misty dreams morphs into truth Echoes of wonder in the mundane Still, it runs deep.




Enjoying Poetry “I wish our clever young poets would remember my homely definitions of prose and poetry; that is, prose, —words in their best order; poetry, —the best words in their best order.”


oetry elicits different emotions in different people. For some, it conjures dreadful memories of a double-lesson afternoon poetry class (ranking up there with a double Maths or double Physics lesson) dictated by a sullen, unimaginative tutor; this, after a heavy lunch and when the mind is prone to wander into slumber. For others, poetry is bliss- transporting them to nevernever land, an oasis of wild adventure, else, touching their lives in the most profound of ways by activating new perceptions of the every day. Essentially, poetry should and must be enjoyable first. Only then can we move towards appreciating it wholly, gradually falling in love with its technicalities- rhyme, rhythm,

-Samuel Taylor metre, genre, stylistic devices, deriving meaning and so on. Otherwise, an insistence on rote-learning that stresses on the technicalities at the expense of enjoyment makes people averse to poetry. A phenomenon displayed at the formative stage that is the school curriculum. That said, we can learn to fall in love with poetry. The first step is to begin by savouring simple forms of poetry- haikus, sonnets- without even necessarily having to know their names; rather, choosing them for their brevity before moving on to longer and more complex poems. Once a particular poem is identified, we then need to read it again and again silently, aloud and varying the tone and speed to get a

feel for it. All the while, letting our imaginations soar with the words in the poem. Then follows the interpretation of the poem. For instance, suppose the poem contains the line ‘the sky, azure, turns red in the eve’- what is its interpretation? Perhaps, the blue sky is being equated to tranquillity before violence breaks out later. Again, the author could simply be making an observation on changes in the sky on a certain afternoon with nary a deeper meaning. The important consideration is to place the line in context with the poem in totality, then argue out your inference. In summary, as with truth, poetry is relative.







Photo credit: Quasarphoto

IPR Smarts:

Intellectual Property 101 for Content Creators and Publishers PROSE MAGAZINE | JUNE - JULY 2017




“I think copyright is moral, proper. I think a creator has the right to control the disposition of his or her works - I actually believe that the financial issue is less important than the integrity of the work, the attribution, that kind of stuff.” -Esther Dyson


ntellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. This is according to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). WIPO goes on to state that ‘IP is protected in law by, for example, patents, copyright and trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create. By striking the right balance between the interests of innovators and the wider public interest, the IP system aims to foster an environment in which creativity and innovation can flourish.’1 This, in summary, being intellectual property rights (IPR) for the creators. That said, for the creators to fully benefit from their creations, they need to be proactive in their approach towards IPR. This entails understanding what IP is all about regarding their particular endeavour – be it a work of art or a mechanical device, for instance. They need to be aware of where they can seek redress in case their IP rights are violated or infringed upon. On the flipside, though, they have to have 1 http://www.wipo.int/about-ip/en/



taken measures to safeguard these rights such that they can mount an effective case in the event of their IP rights being violated. So, what can content creators and publishers do to safeguard their endeavours? To this end, there are a number of best practices that they can adopt. First is awareness. Acquainting oneself with what the law says about intellectual property rights. Depending on one’s scope of work and capabilities, such knowledge can be gotten via consulting an IP lawyer for a particular project or projects. Else, reading through the various pieces of legislation having a bearing on intellectual property to have a basic grasp of what it entails. Another way to go about it is to join a professional association as per one’s industry in order to benefit from such perks as IP training and other collective beneficial action for their members such as combating piracy, honing members’ skills and providing a networking platform. In Kenya, such organisations are wide and varied. Representing the musical fraternity, there is the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK), the Music Publishers Association of

Kenya (MPAKE), the Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK) and the Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP). These organisations also double as collective management organisations (CMOs) and which are tasked with collecting royalties for their members. For writers and publishers, there is the Writers Guild Kenya, the Writers Association of Kenya (WAK), the Kenya Non Fiction Authors Association (KENFAA), the Kenya Oral Literature Association (KOLA), the Kenya Publishers Association (KPA) and the Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ). Others such organisations include the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) for online content creators, the Kenya Association of Photographers, Illustrators and Designers (KAPIDE), and the Reproduction Rights Society of Kenya (Kopiken) which licenses the reproduction of copyright-protected materials for authors and publishers. Authors and publishers can also take a raft of measures to safeguard their content – whether print or digital. For printed material, depending on whether it is a one-off publication, say a novel or report, or

Photo credit: Jirsak

a continuing series like a magazine or newsletter, a good place to start will be to secure an ISBN or ISSN for one’s publication. An ISBN is an International Standard Book Number and which is ‘essentially a product identifier used by publishers, booksellers, libraries, internet retailers and other supply chain participants for ordering, listing, sales records and stock control purposes. The ISBN identifies the registrant as well as the specific title, edition and format.’2 In Kenya, the ISBN is issued by the National Library Division (NLD) which is under the Kenya National Library Service. The NLD ‘is a repository for legal deposits in accordance with the Books and Newspapers Act Chapter (CAP) 111 of the Laws of Kenya which facilitates preservation of the national imprint. One of its responsibilities is creation, acquisition, preserving and dissemination of local content on a global scale.’3 On the other hand, the ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) ‘identifies all continuing resources, irrespective of their medium (print or electronic): newspapers, annual

2 https://www.isbn-international.org/content/what-isbn 3 http://www.knls.ac.ke/national-library

publications (reports, directories, lists, etc.), journals, magazines, collections, websites, databases, blogs, etc.’4 The guidelines for applying for the ISSN, depending on one’s location, can be gotten from the ISSN’s website at http://www.issn.org/. In Kenya, this can be done online via the same portal. Once the final draft of one’s publication is ready, including having an ISBN or ISSN as may be the case, one can apply for copyright protection. In Kenya, copyright protection is granted by the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) which ‘is a State Corporation that was established under Section 3 of the Copyright Act Cap 130 of the Laws of Kenya to administer and enforce copyright and related rights in Kenya.’5 For online content, there are a number of measures you can employ too to safeguard your creations. These include copyrighting the whole website by inserting the copyright symbol- © - at the foot of one’s site. Preferably, it should be accompanied by the years the site has been in existence, for instance ©2012-2017, for a site that went live in 2012. Individual posts too

can be copyrighted. To dissuade copyright infringement for online content, you can also insert a plug-in (a software component that adds a specific feature to an existing computer application) that does not allow one to copy and paste your content (both text and images) elsewhere. Typically, such a plug-in works by disabling right clicking and copy pasting shortcuts (Ctrl+A, Ctrl+C, Ctrl+X, Ctrl+S or Ctrl+V). Tools to check for plagiarism online include Copyscape and Grammarly. And should you find your content plagiarised, you can file a complaint via mediums such as WordPress in case the offending website is hosted on a WordPress platform as is yours. Typically, this involves a takedown notice while referencing the stolen content with proof of your content. Such a takedown request is courtesy of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and which is anchored in WIPO. Else, you can request the owner of the offending site to take down the material or institute legal proceedings against him for copyright infringement.

4 http://www.issn.org/understanding-theissn/what-is-an-issn/ 5 http://www.copyright.go.ke/8program/1-the-act.html PROSE MAGAZINE | JUNE - JULY 2017



The demise of the

boy child


ranted, there was a time that there were very few opportunities for women, and in particular, the girl child. She had little, if any, chance of receiving a good quality education, even less chances of finding a whitecollar job. The last three or so decades in Kenya saw many girls’ secondary schools being erected all over the country. Efforts to ameliorate the destiny of the girl child began in earnest, and this continues to be the trend. There are countless mentorship programmes for girls, countless scholarships and a host of other opportunities to ensure that her chances of success were significantly improved. As the girl child continued to rise through the ranks, other opportunities were opened to her. The stereotype of men-dominated careers slowly diminished. Now we see her everywhere; women in boards, women in leadership, women in academia, women in science and the list goes on and on.



One day, as we were all minding our own business, we woke up to worrying trends reported in various dailies; youths (read young men), are wasting away in towns as they imbibe on cheap brews. These same youths are not performing as well in school as the girls. These youths are good for nothing layabouts. Then we thought that it was just the youth. Other worrying trends began to emerge as these youths became men. They married industrious wives who brought home the bacon. A school principal once revealed to me that 90% of children reporting to school or going to school for the first time are taken by their mothers. Perhaps this explains why a certain radio station in Nairobi has a wildly popular breakfast show, our Oprah Show if you will, where mostly women call in to air various grievances of their domestic affairs. The laundry list is long; infidelity, irresponsibility, alcoholism, “deadbeatness� and so on. While not all men are like those who are painted above, the

clear question is, does this herald the demise of the boy child? I thought that this was just a Kenyan problem but research reveals that this trend is being observed the world over and has been subject to much debate. Some scholars argue that the conventional education system is skewed to favour girls and that it does not lend itself to suit the personality of the boy child. In other quarters, it is portended that the breakdown of the hierarchical structure of the society is the culprit. Others still argue that the demise of the boy child is attributed to the industrial revolution, where the notion of parental apprenticeship and mentoring began its decline because fathers (and sometimes mothers) spent long hours away from home. Whichever way, there is need to go back to the drawing board to address this growing and ongoing concern.

Photo credit: Monkeybusiness PROSE MAGAZINE | JUNE - JULY 2017








LUCAS MARANG’A From your interactions with you friends or even through things you have observed in the society, do you think that parents, and especially fathers, are too busy for their children? I think so. We are in a rat race, but now, the race is bigger. We are the bigger rats, I think. We are busy because of our children, whether boys or girls. By that alone, we even have no chance of seeing the deeper need to have extra attention on the boy. So, mum has to cover the entire base, hers and dad’s. It is mostly not intentional as many men are inherently good; though they go wrong on priorities as they first hustle to secure a house and education for their family. Unfortunately, you can’t put a pause on your children growing up to first get it all and then come back and un-pause them. By the time I have everything, my boy is a teenager and looks at me like, “What do you want us to talk about?”

I was talking to someone last week, a businessman, who told me that when he got to a certain age in his life, he said that, “What I have is enough. I am not going to look for new deals or new opportunities.” Do you

think this is an alien concept? Alien is a good word to use because alien means out of this world. I heard such a statement once from a brilliant lawyer and senior counsel. We were having tea in my house about three or four years ago. He said, “Can I challenge you to say how much is enough versus we need to get one more house, one more car, one more plot… you know?.” I was like, “Wow, that’s the hardest thing ever.” The more money I get, the more I realise that what I have presently is not good enough. That I need a new car as the one I have is getting old. That we can take our kids to a better school. That aside, this is something we have discussed in my house. That we can put the money elsewhere.

With the reality of an 8 to 5 typical workday meaning that parents see less and less of their children, what can they, more so, the father, do to correct this? There are activities you can do together as a family. For instance, golf is a big part of my life. My wife and kids are golfers too. With a typical game lasting four to five hours, we get to interact with one another. We do end up in golf courses during the holidays. It is true that life is busy

and that it is getting even busier. That said, the kids are growing up. Recently, we have had reports of teenagers committing suicide. I will dare say that they are either from a broken home or there is conflict at home. Men are wired to getting more baggage from what their fathers do or omit to do as opposed to what their mothers do or do not do. For example, should I say bad things to my wife in anger, my son may feel like he has let me down. Sons spend years trying to impress their fathers and if they are not validated, they may feel that they are not good enough. As such, I think us men should be easy with our boys. Once in a while, my sons need to be corny with me, and I with him, so to speak. After all, that is what he will remember. I cherish playing soccer with my dad more than his coming to my graduation in university. Why? These are just two boys doing their thing. I think this has contributed into moulding me to be what I am today because my dad is my pal up to today.

So, can you say your dad has been the biggest influence in your life?

Actually, I think it is my mother. Let me just be honest. I am a mummy’s boy, certified. But dad,



dad is a cool guy. I get my sense of dressing from my father. He had swag. He was a banker, a bank manager. He would come to school in a new, shiny 504. Even today, he is open to my confusion, I am at this age of 40, doing this, making this decision… I also realise that he is in his own version of 40, and he is 70. So, we are now connecting at another level. A deep one. Now I realise, this man is not my enemy, a stranger in the room. Then we men talk about politics and stuff.

Did he mentor you?

By default.

So, you didn’t know you were being mentored, but in retrospect you think… Yeah. When I look back… Funny enough, now in my house, I shop. My wife doesn’t knit. I do groceries. When I travel, then I have to go back home with something without being requested. No problem. One time, we were living in Langata when we were young. One night, dad came home with a dead and dressed antelope; roadkill on his way home from Nakuru. Now, here we are in our pyjamas and mum is upset as the next day is a school day… Looking back now as a father, this was the real deal. So, these are the things I remember. To boys and children, quality time is quantity time. I don’t say, “Let’s have 10 minutes of quality” No, kids don’t have 10 minutes of quality. Quantity time equals quality time.

So, you could be washing dishes, sweeping, but it is still time you have spent together? Yes. I think in this busy life, we should still make time. It is not like we are too busy for it such that we can’t make time to spend with our kids.

These days, businesses, such as banks and malls, operate on 18


weekends or even for 24 hours a day. As much as this is for our convenience, on the flipside, has this been to our detriment? It depends. For instance, if you are working there, you can still spend time with your family at the end of the day. If working for a bank, you can still go shopping with the family at 8 pm, then do other things together on Sunday. Where there is a will, there is a way.

What do you think technology has done in terms of cutting out face to face time? There is a story about a boy who asked his father to let him pray at dinner time. His prayer went like this, “Lord, I wish that I was a phone as my dad and mom are always on their phone…” We are like that. I get home and I am on WhatsApp, Twitter and so on… My bet is that many parents are like that. Like I said, we are inherently good, but sometimes we are not listening to the kids. That said, we should share the technology with them as it is here to stay. My daughter can only do her homework from daddy’s laptop. We then watch a Netflix movie on the laptop. That way, we are enjoying, first of all, and spending time together. I love animations.

So, what you are saying is that you are coaching and also mentoring? Yes. I am embracing it. In fact, we have invited my friend who is a social media expert to a PTA meeting to talk to parents who are struggling with technology and the dangers of technology such as pornography. As the kids grow up to be teenagers, they won’t be accessing the internet via daddy’s laptop. As a parent, I will have to buy phones for my kids, and there are all these places with free Wi-Fi where they can go on Saturdays… For now, though, it is just to interact with

this technology monster. It can still be bad when you are not there as they will still make decisions. Then again, every generation has its own set of challenges. Like in our generation, it was movies where we would access them from the video library without our parents checking to see what we were watching. Still, information was not widespread then. Now, kids can go online and see what their counterparts in Japan are doing. With parents being busy these days and the girls being considered the weaker sex, when it comes to parents giving attention to their kids, boys are left to their own devices. I have heard cases of sons, 10 years old, who got an STD from the house help. There is a gap of vulnerability that is not being addressed sufficiently.

For the boys who come from single parent homes, more so, from single mothers, what can society do to ensure they are raised to be men? I think we have to look for initiatives. For instance, in my kids’ school, we had the first ever fathers and sons last term. At the end of the day, we had to hose each other down before entering the house considering we were a pile of dirt. There was tugof-war, soccer, mountain climbing, a bit of basketball… I have even heard of men chamas or church groups going to the bush for such where they can just be guys. In our days, we climbed trees, rode bikes and tyres. Such initiatives need to happen more often. Then, it goes back to what I said earlier. Making time. For instance, I can cancel all my weekend plans and disappear with my son on Friday and come back on Sunday.

What does this mean for you considering you are in the events business and the weekends are when you are setting up, perhaps for a

wedding or a function? How do you tackle that space in terms of creating time for your family? The hours are always there. Like 5 in the morning. Then again, I went to business because of the flexibility -with a short stint in employment. You can have a flat out week of crazy, then two days of very easy the following week. Then, I can drop the kids to school, do homework together and go out for pizza. It doesn’t unfold on its own, though. It calls for awareness. If I know I will be late on Fridays, I will be with my kids on Saturday. If I have an event on Saturday, I can take them out for ice cream on Friday. That way, we end the week together. Or just hang out in the house and watch a movie together. Camp in the TV room with duvets and we all fall asleep there. Then go to church on Sunday and hang out. Again, it takes balance. In the end, we still have to live. There is that thing that makes Lucas happy. Instead of taking it away from me in the name of being a parent or a husband, it boils down into who I am. Otherwise, I will long for parenthood to end so that I can be happy. I think it is possible to enjoy all these together.

Do your parents play an active role as grandparents? They do. They have been present in our lives. The fondness I have for my children, I got it from my father. He wasn’t afraid of expressing what he felt for me. He would grab me and kiss me and take me for walks upcountry. He had a sleepover with the children- mine and my siblings. He would be there checking on them, giving them assignments and so on. They speak on phone once in a while. These gives the children a strong sense of security and cohesion.

About your blog? What sort of platform do you envision it to be?

This blog was originally a selfish idea. Because of my forties chaos, which are positive chaos, I felt the need to write things down as therapy. Then again, having grown up as a Christian, I felt I could use it to minister. Not as a religious blog per se, rather, to reach out to someone in the same state as me. You know, us men don’t talk, rather, we drown in our own misery. The blog has done that for me. I feel good when people comment that it has helped them in one aspect or the other. For instance, the blog talks about a man in his forties, but again, a lady friend commented that it had sorted her out as they too are facing their forties madness. In my mind, the subscription base I have for the blog is men and women around 35 to 50 years of age and see how it goes. I am liking this hoping uncertainty… goalposts have shifted, so go out and create your own beacons. I am embracing disruption. Like the other day, my daughter spoilt the microwave, so now, she calls first before we get home and tells us about the microwave. So now, when I come home, she is there and she wants us to sort the issue first thing. My phone rings and she says that I put it away, we deal with the issue first, whether she is getting spanked or whatnot. For me, it is a learning curve. I tell her that she should not put metallic objects on the microwave. I did not spank her, after all, it is only a microwave.

more than one’s cars and houses. Glorifying that might encourage young men to cut corners in their pursuit of material success. Rather, behind the wealth is the grit, the perseverance, the hard work... the blood, sweat and tears, rather than instant gratification. That should be the focus. I purposeful pushed the interview in that direction, rather than the ninety thousand shillings phone. We should start doing what we love early as the younger we are, the less we have to lose shall we fall down. This entails getting off the script, that by this time you need to be married, have a house, a car, and so on. CURRENTLY READING

As a man in business, what would you say to young men who aspire to be like you when they grow up? Perhaps open their own businesses and have what you have. First of all, I would ask them who they are talking about as I too would like to see him. I don’t feel that way. Like I was on a TV show some years back and which was showcasing young and successful people. My contention was that being successful is an internal thing… that success is PROSE MAGAZINE | JUNE - JULY 2017





MWANGI Chairman, Rusinga Group of Schools You’ve been an educationist for many years? Yes. 41 years. I taught for a while in secondary school.

In the course of your journey, can you say that there is a difference between the male students, say of the ‘70s, the ‘80s, the ‘90s? Definitely. And it seems to have gotten worse in the ‘90s and the 2000s. That’s when the boy child started losing and the girl child getting more attention. Fortunately, there is hope. Increasingly, schools are recognising the need for rescuing the boy child. In my high school days in the ‘60s, there were more boys’ than girls’ schools. Later, the focus changed to establishing more girls' schools. Presently, though, we are focused on finding a balance.

So, what would be said about the fathers of the ‘60s and the ‘70s and the fathers who came later? In the ‘60s and the ‘70s, fathers focused more on educating their boys, including having them school overseas. This also extended to things like land, with land inheritance being a preserve of boys. As such, culture favoured boys. Nowadays, though, culture recognises equality, more so, with the influence of Christianity. Then again, because people recognise they have forgotten girls, they put too much emphasis on that. It’s still there. We recognised it at our school a few years ago and said that we must put appropriate measures to address this. This is at the student level. At the teacher level, we still have more male than female teachers, though we are moving towards a balance.

Could you attribute it to the fact that, in the ‘70s and the ‘80s, majority of the fathers were still upcountry; then, the fathers who came later in the ‘90s and the 2000s were more of career fathers? Yes. They got more education to start with. They have more international exposure and they may have even gone out of the country.

So that now, they don’t have time for their children? Do you think that fathers have failed? To a large extent, yes. In that contact time is not as it should be. They have taken their jobs and businesses too seriously and they don’t have time for their children. It is something that needs to be corrected to get a good balance.



And having lead Rusinga for 41 years, has the trend been the same? Perhaps, comparing the boys you had earlier on with the ones you have now? True. We have noticed that now we have more girls. Earlier on, we had more boys. This is reflected, for example, when you look at the alumni, when they get together, you see more men than women. But today, when you go to the classroom, the A Level classes, for instance, you see more girls than boys. Take another instance, the writing collaboration we are doing has more girls than boys as talented writers. This disparity is reflected at a later stage.

As part of the school administration, what do you envision for the future? What do you think can be done to reverse this worrisome trend? It can be done, that is, reversing this trend. Admittedly, though, it is a gradual process. You have to engage parents and bring to their attention that they -particularly male parents- need to be more engaged and involved in their families. As the head, in the Christian teaching, they need to provide that leadership, both at home and at school. They should not wait for mothers to do everything. We are engaging the parents and the teachers so that we can provide a solution, particularly in the books we are writing about parenting and the quality of a Christian school. We need to see how Christian teaching is embraced by both the administrators, teachers – male and female - and students.

That’s interesting. I am sure though that you appreciate that the reality is that parents



leave education to the schools. In fact, when you hear that children are going on a long holiday, say for two months, you hear the parents wonder what they are going to do with the children. Obviously, the daily contact is not there and you hear of parents getting stressed as now, there is no convenient scapegoat of the school, if you will, and now, they are stuck with the child. The reality is that, whether you like it or not, there are many children for whom school will be their primary place for parenting. What can the school do to fill that parental gap that may be lacking at home? I think, as I said earlier, teachers have to be proactive. Particularly in forums like Parents Teachers Association (PTA), to bring to the attention of parents that they must engage with their children and provide more contact time so that they do effective parenting. That’s why we have Christian parenting where the Christian faith says that the man is the head and must provide that leadership. In this, he is supported by the spouse, so that there is a strong base for providing that balanced parenting. To see that even children become partners, they work together. The teaching profession is also shifting. Teachers next year and in years to come will not be teaching. Instead, they will be doing something else called facilitating children to learn and to expand their learning capacity. This is because technology is taking over. This is what we are doing in Rusinga.

You know, not all the children will have the privilege of a Christian schooling with Christian schools in Kenya

being few and far between. What would you say to a parent whose child is not in a Christian school? What does the future portend for them? It is not as easy, I will definitely say so. More so, where there is no effective PTA, where those things can be brought to the fore for discussion, where parents can engage with teachers and find solutions. I find a very good structure in Rusinga where we have class representatives who are parents. We also interface with the chaplaincy services, so that there is a lot of pastoral work, with men as head of homes, in partnerships with their wives and also working with their children. As such, the children can grow in an environment where they are cared for. In non-Christian schools, this is difficult and we have heard of serious indiscipline cases in such schools.

In the old system of education, we used to have pastoral learning. Children would go to their different classrooms depending on their faith. I am not sure whether it is in the 8-44. Do you think it is something that should be revived? Christian teaching need to be revived by teaching, and by much more, in behaviour, in both parents and teachers. Children are very good at observing role models in their parents and in their teachers. And they can tell. I am told that our students are very confident. Who is this? What is he doing? They engage you. Today’s children are not like us where we could not question our parents. Today, they can ask many questions and they have a lot of demands.

So, what do you think the

future portends in terms of resuscitating the boy child, so to speak, with countries across the world having such programmes? I think the best models are to be found in Africa, with Kenya being well placed in this regard as Christian influence is very high. This shows that we have very good schools, good teachers, good morals and which is a big plus for us. We have leaders who are Godfearing and many churches which are a positive influence. The future is optimistic for the boy child provided we persist, not only at the school level and engaging parents, but also in churches in collaborating with pastors so that we can heed the cry of teachers concerning the young ones who need to be guided and mentored.

In Kenya, we have a vacuum in leadership going by the rampant corruption that beguiles us. What can be done to make the

role models more visible? In my own view, role models are created in schools, nurtured in universities, given space in churches. It is a process, a chain, and at all those stages, they need to be encouraged. And to grow them takes a lot of time because they have to speak against vices such as corruption and so on. We need churches that are outspoken. We need schools that continue to teach a lot of morals and I am glad that we are one of the best schools in East Africa. We are a drug free school and our students and staff have very high morals. The feedback from visitors about our students is that they are very well behaved. And we are very happy about that.

That is what you were saying earlier that transformation takes time? Yes. It takes time. It starts small. It starts in their early years and

Photo credit: Michael Jung

Role models are created in schools, nurtured in universities, given space in churches. It is a process, a chain, and at all those stages, they need to be encouraged. And to grow them takes a lot of time because they have to speak against vices such as corruption and so on. We need churches that are outspoken. We need schools that continue to teach a lot of morals and I am glad that we are one of the best schools in East Africa.

by the time they are leaving school, we have developed their character. We are very strong in character development. We have excellent alumni who can stand on their own.

So, you are saying that reversing this trend of the boy child disengagement is not going to happen overnight? No. It calls for deliberate action. It calls for giving the issue a platform in schools, churches and in any other forums. It calls for collaboration and comparing notes.

Do you think the media should play a role? If so, what sort of role? Yes. Definitely. Media should encourage as well as report on progress on both the boy child and the girl child to achieve parity.




Photo: Asteria Malinzi Self Portrait 1

ASTERIA MALINZI A visual artist specialising in fine art and documentary photography

In a nutshell, who is Asteria Malinzi?

Asteria is a visual artist who specialises in fine art and documentary photography. I am also an art enthusiast, who also curates and has experience working in the various art industries around the world. I am from Tanzania.

How has your journey as a Fine Art and Documentary Photographer been like?

It’s been a journey of selfdiscovery and growth. By producing series that are close to the personal, I

have managed to build a relationship with my camera that is therapeutic. My camera listens without judgement and allows me to see my own conclusions.

In your bio, you have stated that you live and work in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, how do the two compare? What are their influences on your work?

The two cities are both home to me in very different ways and have both played a role in both my work and my personality. I moved to

Nairobi from Dar for boarding school at the age of four. The foundation of my work is based on the stories and structures of the ocean, therefore, Dar es Salaam being a coastal city, aids in the creative process of my projects. Nairobi, being a predominantly metropolitan city with a visibly developing industry is very fast paced and requires you to be speedier in terms of the creative process. For my work, I have struggled to find inspiration in the land-locked Nairobi and this has forced me to work outside my comfort zone and delve into collage making and painting.

You have also lived and schooled in South Africa and in the UK. How was the experience like (life in general and the educational experience), more so, as a foreigner? Having also studied music and drama, have the two had an impact on your career as a Fine Art and Documentary Photographer? Everyone’s experience is different. My experience living abroad has taught me how to put systems in place to achieve goals and the importance of planning, for both my work and my personal life. At the same time, my time away from home has made me appreciate my home more, my culture, my history and my food.

In your work, you have stated that you use yourself as a reference point and subject matter using self-portraiture. Kindly elaborate on this.

I started my journey as a self-taught photographer learning through YouTube tutorials and reading photography blogs in my student accommodation room in university. Most of the time I had to be my own subject when testing new techniques. I became comfortable with the intimate relationship I have grown to have with my camera through self-portraiture photography. It is a weird space between self-love and self-judgement. Even outside my photographic practice, my art has always been influenced by my personal, sometime this happens consciously and sometimes it my subconscious that leads my work.

Your bodies of work include The Middle Passage (2015), Foreign (2015) and Perseverance (2014). What is the connection between the three? Were they inspired by personal 26


experience? Your thoughts on slavery/modern-day slavery/ mental slavery? Fine Art and Documentary Photography as a medium/tool for entrenching slavery or for emancipation?

The three works are connected with their study of the ocean, particularly histories that the ocean have brought and taken. The works focus on the migration of people, both forced and willing. All the works are inspired by my personal experiences. In Perseverance, which is inspired by lessons taught to me by my mother, I focus on the continuous movement of water as it makes its way from the mountains, through the urban landscape and back to the ocean. The Middle Passage, which is a progression of Perseverance, looks at the anxieties of travel on the sea. During the making of this work, I had been robbed of my passport and the anxiety of being a foreigner lead the work. My thought drifted to the anxieties slaves travelling from inland felt the first time they encountered the ocean and in which they would have to travel on for months on end. Foreign, was a project that grew off The Middle Passage. In order to break the isolation of other people’s voices in my work, I started to search for fellow immigrants in Cape Town especially those who had entered or left the country through sea. I met a fellow Tanzanian who had attempted to leave Cape Town as a stowaway on a ship to Spain. I started documenting the immigration stories of three individuals in Cape Town and included my own story of my passport being stolen. These projects are therapeutic for me. I think the three bodies of work are the beginning of a much larger body of work that I have been working on since I was 16 years old. One project leads to the next and the next leads into the next. It feels like

am pressing the zoom button with each series. One day, maybe I will have an exhibition with all the works and the connections will be seen, this will need a couple more years.

Your thoughts on The Missing Passport as a metaphor? Your experience with fellow migrants, both legal and illegal immigrants? Is there such a thing as a better life abroad, in terms of moving from one’s country to another? Any experience with xenophobia/ racism?

The Missing Passport wasn’t a metaphor; I had had my passport stolen while I was a student in Cape Town. This was the time incidents of xenophobia were taking place in South Africa. I experienced a lot of anxieties in my day-to-day life during the time between when I had my passport stolen and when I got a new one. I felt stuck. Everyone has different experiences with life abroad, for some it’s prosperous and for others it’s a constant merry-goround of trying to make it day-to-day. Regardless of your experience, there are great lessons to be learnt from travelling and experiencing how other cultures live.

What are your thoughts on art as a viable career (photography, DJeeing, etc.) in lieu of mainstream careers such as business, law, engineering and medicine? Were your parents supportive of your chosen career? My parents have always supported and encouraged my creativity. From a young age, my sister and I would have after school art lessons at home. I also thought this was a way for my parents to keep us busy. This went on until the end of my high school. After that my



Give and Take VI (from The Middle Passage Series), 2015





Shorelines (from The Middle Passage Series), 2015





Give and Take V (from The Middle Passage Series), 2015





121 Days At Sea (1) (from The Middle Passage Series), 2015





121 Days At Sea (3) (from The Middle Passage Series), 2015

Jacques’ work can be found at www.jacquesnkinzingabo.com, www.kwandaart.org and at his Instagram page @jack_yakubu1





Portholes 1 -2 (from The Middle Passage Series), 2015



121 Days At Sea (2) (from The Middle Passage Series), 2015

father wanted me to follow in his footsteps and to everyone’s surprise, myself included, I ended up with a diploma and a degree in Business Management and Marketing. During my time in university is when I shifted my practice from painting and drawing to photography. After I completed my degree in the UK, I moved to Cape Town, South Africa for two years to pursue my studies in photography for two years. I think my parents are my biggest fans now. I believe any career is viable, it just depends on how much energy you put into your choosen career that counts.

Kindly walk us through APRIL.

APRIL is a three-part curatorial project exhibiting work by female artists and curators in the East African region. I started APRIL in 2015 alongside two of my childhood friends, fellow photographer Maysoon Matthysen and designer Asia Sultan. APRIL creates a space for women to explore their artistic potential and be celebrated in the art industry. In response to the apparent gender gaps in the East African art scene, with few opportunities for women to thrive, we curated APRIL Female Art Group Exhibition as part one of the APRIL curatorial projects, in Dar es Salaam. The exhibition included ten established and emerging Tanzanian artists, both in the country and in the diaspora. It also featured two emerging artists from South Africa and Germany. A selection of thirty works in the media of photography, fashion, painting, graphic design, culinary, writing, film and music were presented at the exhibition. Later this year, APRIL embarks on part two of the curatorial project titled, The Kitchen Party. Our newly graduated Roseline Odhiambo will curate the exhibition, which is to be held in Dar es Salaam. The exhibition aims to create a dialogue around the kitchen as a traditionally gendered space but also as a fugitive space of survival, growth, unity and reflection.

Take us through some of your Fine Art and Documentary Photography techniques.

I shoot my personal projects on film, usually 35mm film. This makes my approach to photography slower than most. Living in Tanzania and Kenya where the use of film photography is little in use or nonexistence, it means that either I or someone else has to travel for me to get my hands on rolls of films. Once the film is obtained, I carefully selects what I am going to be doing with each roll of my limited resource. Film photography, being a rather

APRIL creates a space for women to explore their artistic potential and be celebrated in the art industry. In response to the apparent gender gaps in the East African art scene, with few opportunities for women to thrive, we curated APRIL Female Art Group Exhibition as part one of the APRIL curatorial projects, in Dar es Salaam expensive medium, challenges you from becoming a trigger-happy photographer to one that carefully calculates about each shot one takes as you only have 36 images in each roll. Once I have taken enough rolls of film -3 or more - I have the used rolls of film sent to my sister in Cape Town or to Manchester, UK to get the films developed. Thanks to the internet I get the images scanned and sent to me wherever I am. Next year

am considering setting up my own darkroom studio so that I can be able to develop my black and white film and shorten the process.

Memorable events in your career?

My graduate final year exhibition in Cape Town is one of the most memorable moments. During that show, I exhibited work that was sensitive for me and it was well received. The exhibition enabled me to see the potential of what I could do with my photography and how I could make it even better. I also sold my first photographic print during that exhibition. The opening of the first APRIL exhibition is also at the top of list. It was the first time I was also exhibiting my photography in my country. Getting accepted into the art residency programme at the Yoruba Institute of Arts and Culture in Belo Horizonte, Brazil for four months from August is also on that list.

Any solo or group exhibitions? How was the experience?

So far, I have participated in about 10 group shows, mainly in Cape Town and one in Dar es Salaam. I think it’s still too early in my career to have a solo exhibition. Maybe in the next 3 to 5 years I will be ready for a solo exhibition.

Where can one access your work? Visit my website www. asteriamalinzi.com or email kuiwachira@yahoo.com for an extensive portfolio.

Last word on Fine Art and Documentary Photography?

Always listen to what your work is saying and question it constantly.






BURKINA FASO The Land of Upright People




Photo: George Ogutu Photography



hen I tell my parents that I am going to Burkina Faso for a week, they give me a quizzical look and ask me where that is. I might as well have said that I am going to outer Mongolia. I quickly remember that until 1984, Burkina Faso was called Upper Volta, therefore my parents are probably relying on their knowledge of the Geography lessons of yesteryear. This will be my second trip to West Africa but my first to a francophone country. My last trip to this part of the continent was a cacophony of misadventures so I desperately hope that this one brings good fortune. The journey from Nairobi to Addis Ababa is uneventful, apart from the fact that our boarding time is 0500hrs, meaning that we have to be at the airport by 0200hrs, meaning that I have to leave the house at 0100, meaning that I don’t sleep a wink that night. What can be said of this early bird flight though is that watching the sun rise in the sky, the hues of the sky change from midnight blue to a pale blue to a riot of red and orange is breath taking. The last time I travelled solo to West Africa, I was caught between a rock and a hard place. I found myself sandwiched between an amply endowed lady who had taken her seat and half of mine on the one side, and a jailbird who was celebrating his recent release from a French prison on the other side. This time around, we are travelling in a group and so mercifully, we shall sit together. I wonder if there is any explanation as to why when one is travelling west, time seems to drag. What is meant to be a five-hour flight seems to take almost twice the time. I have no expectation of what Burkina Faso will bring. Apart from the weather, I try not to Google much about a place that I have never been so that it doesn’t influence my perception of it. The only knowledge that I have about Burkina Faso is that we shall be sweltering in 38-42 degrees Celsius temperatures. I have written before that if a country were a brand, then the airport

would be the first interaction with that brand. My jaw drops as we land at the Ouagadougou Airport. There is not a single plane in sight, apart from a small plane and a Mercedes Benz that is presumably going to carry a VIP. That’s it. What’s more, once our plane lands, it will immediately turn back with the next lot of passengers who are travelling from Ouaga (as it is popularly called) to Addis Ababa. Maybe I need to say that again slowly. There is no other plane at the airport. This is very telling of the economy. We disembark and make our way to immigration. The visas, we are told cost USD180. I wonder what makes the visa price so prohibitive but as we advance in our stay here, I begin to understand why; the government has such few sources of revenue, it literally has to squeeze everything out of what they can get. We are told to leave our passports at the airport for the visas to be processed and are issued with hand written receipts which we are to surrender when our passports are released. Statistics reveal that it is a predominantly Islamic country with 50% of the population being Muslim, about 30% Christian and the rest following traditional belief systems. I am told that witchcraft is alive and well. Our hosts meet us. I am the only French speaker in the group, and as I haven’t spoken more than eight sentences of the language in more than a decade, I spend the first several minutes hawing and humming as I desperately try to remember my conjugation and tenses. We are led to a small minivan. I sit by a window so that I can take it all in quietly. Ouagadougou is by all accounts a small and vibrant city. The roadsides are dotted with small traders and business is looking brisk. What stands out, however, is the sheer number of motorcycles around. However, unlike Nairobi where our boda bodas (motor cycles) are ridden with reckless abandon and the riders and passengers alike kept alive by the grace of God, the system here is very organised. They have their own lanes in traffic, which they actually keep. In my early years as a driver, I kept a constant PROSE MAGAZINE | JUNE - JULY 2017


Photo: George Ogutu Photography Flowers laid on the mass graves of the genocide victims in Kigali

eye out for pedestrians. Now I keep a constant eye out for boda boda riders who seem to all simultaneously conspire to materialise from thin air when one is about to turn, enter a junction, or get ready to go when the lights turn green. The riders in Ouagadougou obey the traffic rules. What stands out the most is that there are as many women as men who ride motorcycles, which is not a very common sight in most African cities. Smart women in formal dress, women with babies straddled on their backs confidently ride on the streets. I find this oddly liberating. We make an abrupt stop in front of a burnt building whose exterior is clad with bathroom tiles. Our hosts ask us to dismount the bus to take a tour of what we are told was the National Parliament which the Burkinabe burnt almost to a cinder three or so years ago, in yet another political uprising. The compound is littered with burnt cars whose shells have turned ochre-red with rust. Since independence from the French in 1960, the Burkinabe have had their fair share of political



turbulence, what with a military coup just 6 years after independence. It has since had a series of coups and counter-coups including the most recent one in 2014, where the sitting president was ousted and an interim president installed before the sitting president finally took oath of office. Our journey continues. We weave our way through several streets. The sights are largely the same, small buildings with small traders whose wares are on the streets, plenty of motorcycles and a handful of French banks. Our van screeches to a halt outside a rundown building. I think that this is going to be another tour of sorts. No. This is our hotel. I gasp in disbelief. Once more we disembark from the van and we are led gingerly down a dingy and dimly lit corridor. The kind that you see in movies. I don’t know where this is going and I don’t like it. Nary a word is spoken as we walk further into the gallows. The host stops outside one door. I am called to the front to tell the group that this can be one person’s room. I step inside. The bed has a

mattress that is draped with a single sheet that is as thin as onion paper and which is still wrinkled from use of the previous occupant; the toilet bowl is half broken lengthwise, and what looks like a shower is less than ten centimetres away from the said loo. The host looks back at me. He is waiting for me to tell them who in the group has volunteered to sleep in this room, if one could call it such, so that he can show us the rest of the rooms. I announce in Swahili, “hatuwezi kulala hapa” (we can’t sleep here), whereupon a mini revolt breaks out with the rest of the group saying that they will not sleep here. We spend the rest of the afternoon and a better part of the evening looking for alternative lodgings for our stay. The next morning begins the purpose of our tour, to visit the cotton fields of Burkina Faso. I am still exhausted from all the travel. Our hosts come to the hotel and tell us that our first farm visit is about four hours away. We are expected by the chief for lunch at around noon. And so once more, we pile up in the bus and set off for the country side. On the

expiration of the fourth hour, we start to get restless. Are we almost there? Yes, we are. Another hour passes. Are we almost there. Yes, we are. This goes on for about seven hours. By this time, the mood on the bus has changed. We are barely on talking terms with our hosts. However, none of us dare say a word because we are at their mercy. We don’t know where on earth we are. Apart from a few mumbles from the hosts that we are almost there, which I am told to translate, stony silence fills the van. There are several police checks on the way, mainly because there was a recent terrorist attack by insurgents from the neighbouring Mali. The countryside stretches for many kilometres with no visible town in sight. It is peppered though with a few women who sell fish by the roadside. On the eighth hour, we finally make a stop to where we are told is a government office. Apparently, we are making a courtesy call to a government official to tell her of our visit to the cotton farms. The break makes us more genial and we are able to exchange a few pleasantries with her. We take a few photos outside. As we are about to leave, she asks us when we are going back to Ouagadougou. Tonight, we say nonchalantly, whereupon she bursts into laughter. You can’t possibly go to the fields and come back the same day, she says matter of fact. You need a full day to travel and a full day to return. As she says this, our hosts are nowhere to be seen. She continues to bear bad news, at any rate, you are still two hours away from the fields. It takes a moment for that to sink in. We have been duped. We are well and truly at the mercy of our hosts. We get to the fields in the late afternoon. I have never seen fields of cotton before. It is a beautiful sight to behold. Small buds of cotton are peppered throughout the fields. There are a few pickers scattered here

and there, all bent forward picking the cotton. The slave songs of backbreaking pickin’ cotton come to mindSwing Low, Sweet Chariot, Coming for to carry me home… It is laborious. The villagers usher us to their homes. The poverty is heart rendering. Naked children run amok, the adults walk about with tattered clothes and worn out shoes. Years ago, they tell us, life was good. Cotton is the backbone of the Burkinabe economy. Cotton is to Burkina Faso what coffee or tea is to Kenya. Their cotton was one of the most superior in the world and it constantly fetched good prices at the cotton auction. Until a few years ago, business was booming. The harvest was rich. Until, unbeknown to them the government sold to them genetically modified cotton seeds. For about 6 consecutive years, they got dismal returns on their crop. In one year alone, they lamented, thousands of metric tonnes of cotton went to waste because it was all rejected at the cotton auction houses. It was distressing to hear them recount their losses. In 2013 thus, the government of the day banned all genetically modified cotton in Burkina Faso but it will be a while before they can go back to the production levels that they once had. Burkina Faso is an extremely poor country and it is not hard to see why the dismal yields impacted the economy so hard. There are no industries as such to speak of, and so apart from cotton and corporate taxes, there is not much in the way of revenue collection. Agriculture comprises a huge proportion of its gross domestic project and it is easy to see why they would be so hard hit by a failing crop. Furthermore, the illiteracy levels are also high and so a service economy is equally dismal. In as much as our hosts were dishonest about the time it would take to get here, this visit was well worth it. We walk to the fields with them and I even try my hand at

picking some cotton. At dusk, we start to make our way out of the village. The hosts gingerly suggest that we can continue to drive towards the second biggest city, which the locals call Bobo, where they propose we spend the night. They tell us that it’s less than an hour away. With the way we were hoodwinked that morning, we are adamant about returning to Ouagadougou, even if it means travelling all night. Finally, at three in the morning, the van snakes its way back to the hotel. Exhausted doesn’t even begin to describe what we are feeling. The next few days pass uneventfully. After the happenings of our first two days, anything that follows is fairly innocuous. We drive around the city. The upmarket part of town is dotted with a few international hotels and government centres. We also get to sample some local food. Grain based foods such as sorghum, millet and maize are very popular. They are served with fish or beef. Chicken is also popular and one can find many street vendors selling “Poulet-bicyclette” which literally translated means chicken on a bicycle. We even visit the market, where we purchase a lot of fabric and a few souvenirs. The traders drive a hard bargain and I am not sure if those are the authentic prices or whether we are being ripped off as tourists, nonetheless, the pieces we buy are beautiful. On our last day, our hosts throw us a big farewell dinner. They more than make up for the false start that we had. There is a large buffet of traditional and contemporary cuisine. We say our farewell speeches, exchange gifts before we finally call it a night in readiness of our departure the following day. It has been an adventure, to say the least.







Photo credit: Victory Velychkom

Dreams from My Father: A story of Race and Inheritance We began to talk about my visit, and she told me of her studies in London, as well as her interest in traveling to the States. I found myself trying to prolong the conversation, encouraged less by Miss Omoro’s beautyshe had mentioned a fiancé; -than by the fact that she’d recognised my name. That had never happened before, I realised; not in Hawaii, not in Indonesia, not in L.A. or New York or Chicago. For the first time in my life, I felt the comfort, the firmness of

identity that a name might provide, how it could carry an entire history in other people’s memories, so that they might nod and say knowingly, “Oh, you are so and so’s son.” No one here in Kenya would ask how to spell my name, or mangle it with an unfamiliar tongue. My name belonged and so I belonged, drawn into a web of relationships, alliances, and grudges that I did not yet understand. This is an excerpt from Barack Obama’s memoir, Dreams from My

Father. He has just landed in Kenya, at the invitation of his sister, Auma, to visit his extended family on his father’s side, and more importantly, to see where his father rests as a sort of closure. Barack’s sister is supposed to pick him up though he is running late. To while away the time, he lights up a cigarette and is soon joined by a guard who asks for a cigarette as he engages him in banter. The guard queries Obama as to whether he knows the guard’s nephew, a Samson Otieno, and who is studying engineering in Texas, and is disappointed that the two are not acquainted. The guard then directs the future president to a Miss Omoro and who might be of help in retrieving his missing luggage. Miss Omoro gives Obama a form to fill, which he does and duly returns it to her. Seeing that his name



is Obama, she enquires as to whether he is kin to the late Dr. Obama and offers her condolences at his loss on affirming that, indeed, the late Dr. Obama was his father… An epiphany for Barack Obama as he now belongs… but before that. The memoir starts with Barack Obama reminiscing on his stay in New York. A few months after his twenty-first birthday, a stranger -an Aunt Jane- calls him from Nairobi and over the static, informs him that his father is dead before the call disconnects. Obama then ruminates on his father’s death, and his own life up to that point and which establishes the motif for the book. He recounts that his father remained more of a myth than as a man, at least to him. This view is informed by the fact that his father had left them when he was two years old, and as a child, Obama only knew his father through the prism of his mother’s and his grandparents’ (on his mother’s side) stories. From his mother, how the Senior Obama had arrived to accept his Phi Beta Kappa key (an award from one of the earliest collegiate fraternal societies in the United States) while clad in jeans and an old knit shirt when everyone was dressed in tuxedos, and which she states to be the only time he ever saw her embarrassed. From his grandfather, Obama recounts the tale, no-doubt exaggerated, of how his father had once dangled a man over a cliff’s railing for dropping his pipe down the cliff and which had been a gift from the said grandfather. Really, as Obama’s father put it, to show the man why he should take good care of other people’s property. Also, that his father could handle any situation, hence the epitome that “Confidence. The secret to a man’s success.” Through his mother and grandparents, Barack continues to weave a montage of his father… that he was an African, a Kenyan of the Luo tribe, born on the shores of Lake Victoria in a place called Alego. Of how his father had found his way to the United States via a college scholarship, met Barack’s mother, Ann Dunham, and begot a son, Barack Obama. We are also taken down memory lane on the lives of his grandparents on his maternal sideStanley Armour Dunham (Gramps) and Madelyne Dunham (Toots, from the Hawaiian word for grandmother, Tutu). Ever restless and worldly, he elopes with his young bride, does a stint in the army and where they beget a daughter and soon move to California. From there, chasing one



prospect or the other, they move to Kansas, a small series of small towns in Texas, Seattle, before ending up in Hawaii for the long haul. With a daughter rapidly growing, they too encounter racism. In one instance, while in Texas, Toots find her daughter being taunted by a group of other neighbourhood kids for playing with a ‘coloured’ child. Gramps is riled and files a complaint at the local school, even going to the extent of calling some of their parents and giving them a piece of his mind. Their response? His daughter is the one at fault for playing with the black kid. It is his contention that such racism was the reason the family moved to Hawaii, which having recently joined the United States as the 50th state, was touted as a racial melting pot.

Photo credit: Wimbledon Barack Obama at Bayfront Park 2008

As he grows up, Obama encounters racismcovert and overt, as his father had done so before him as a student in America. For instance, he stumbles on an article on a man who had undergone chemical treatment to lighten his complexion and whom Obama describes as looking sick. Eventually, with Obama’s father out of the picture, his mother falls in love and moves to Indonesia where Obama spends some years before his mother sends him back to his grandparents so that he can get an American education. Once back in America, he is enrolled in a prestigious school, with a few blacks amidst a sea of white humanity. Now, acutely aware that he is different, he keeps to himself, though gradually learning to socialise

with the other white kids (enhanced by his father’s visit to the school). This is repeated throughout high school and college, a most turbulent time for the young Obama as he grapples with the issue of race and identity amidst social, political, economic, family and intra-personal upheavals. Fresh and though-provoking, Obama’s book is an excellent coming-of-age memoir. Narrated prior to his joining politics at the state and national level, it is a candid narrative on race relations from the vantage point of a young man descended from two worlds. In the end, he is able to find himself and his place in the world. The memoir culminates in him returning to his fatherland and paying homage to his people there. PROSE MAGAZINE | JUNE - JULY 2017








Rejection W

hen it rains, it pours. So, Naserian is getting hitched in December. It still feels surreal as I am not in the picture. And the double-hurt is that she did not have the courtesy or guts to tell me. Rather, I found out about her impending wedding in the most unlikely way. See, here I was minding my own business. I had taken a break from penning the greatest novel ever when I found myself on the net on some random googling. As is wont to happen, I gravitated towards social media, Twitter and Facebook to be specific. You see, I get my news on Twitter while Facebook is to see how my friends are doing well in life and in their careers and get jealous. So, now I am strolling through Facebook. I have three notifications but I am just too lazy to check them out. On Facebook, it is the usual- cute selfies, birthdays, a short story here and there courtesy of the creative writing groups I am in… that sort of thing. Might as well check out the notifications before I log off. Namely, the notifications are that someone commented on a friend’s post, the invitation to like a page and so on. Marriage Material, is the name of the page I have been invited to like. Liking the wordplay, I decide to scroll through the page. Apparently, the page is a market place for vendors of all things weddings… gowns, tiaras, cakes, event planners, reception



Marriage Material, is the name of the page I have been invited to like. Liking the wordplay, I decide to scroll through the page. Apparently, the page is a market place for vendors of all things weddings… gowns, tiaras, cakes, event planners, reception venues, the random 10 secrets to a happy and fulfilling marriage post, etc., Absentmindedly, I scroll down the page, idly, as I try to whip up the enthusiasm to write one more paragraph, perhaps stretch it to a page, for my greatest novel ever. venues, the random 10 secrets to a happy and fulfilling marriage post, etc., etc. Absentmindedly, I scroll down the page, idly, as I try to whip up the enthusiasm to write one more paragraph, perhaps stretch it to a page, for my greatest novel ever. The name leaps out. Naserian Leshore. A relative to my beloved, perhaps a cousin? Naturally, my curiosity is piqued. This Naserian Leshore, she wants to know the various types of wedding gowns and their costing. In the comments section under her post, there are all manners of advice; from recommendations to go purple, a suggestion to procure the wedding grown from Millennial Weds, that a wedding and a marriage are two different things and so on. I click on her name and I am directed to her personal wall.

My heart skips a bit. My mind goes blank. My mouth goes dry. The world stops for an eternity. I feel disoriented, wobbly, though glad that I am seated as I might have just collapsed. For you know, the Naserian getting married is my Naserian. Only that she goes by the name of Naserian Leshore, not Naserain Lemaiyan as I know her. So many unanswered questions as my thoughts run amok. Really, a clash of my next course of action as reason battles with impulse. Stomping angrily to her place and breaking things versus stoically bearing the heartache like a man. Then the horror stories and why I should be grateful yet; namely, grooms rejected at the altar for all the world to see, or a loveless marriage that runs on mutual suspicion, infidelity and terrorsoaked nights. Perhaps I should call my brother… Three hours later, the shock has numbed down. I have neither called my brother nor stormed to Naserian’s place. Instead, as suggested by Google Almighty (having immersed myself on a few articles on handling rejection… what kills you doesn’t make you stronger), I write a letter to myself, which I will later burn and flush the ashes down the kitchen sink. Supposedly, this is therapeutic. Dear future self on this conspicuous (I just couldn’t flow with ‘auspicious’ to mark my hurt) occasion commemorating your breakup. I imagine that you are now wiser to the fickle ways of the world. On a day like this, several years ago, you were unfortunate in that your heart was broken. On that day, long, long ago, you felt like the world had ended. Heavy of heart, you eventually went outside after running through a whole can of peanut butter, a big bag of crisps and two litres of soda. But when you ventured outside, what did you see? The remains of a glowing meteor that had obliterated everything and left you as the lucky

survivor? Nah. Birds still sung, children’s laughter rang out, the sun shone and your nosy neighbours chatted away. In short, life continued. It is true that your heart bled and that you took a long time to heal. Eventually, though, you did heal, wound and scar, and you moved on as you had youth on your side. Through that experience, you came to terms with the vagaries of this thing called life. That, when all was said and done, you had many blessings to be thankful for. Friends, family, the gift of life and health, letting loose and running in the rain as you reminisced on your childhood… ******* I wake up violently, gasping for breath. The loud knocking on my door continues unabated. I put on a shirt and moves to open the door. It is my landlord. Could he borrow five grands as he has to attend to an emergency? I start to haggle with him, how he is yet to fix the leak on the roof, the peeling wall paint and a thousand and one other complaints to put him off this adventure of parting me with my money. However, he did not get to be a landlord by backing down easily. Suave, he deals with my complaints one at a time and in minutiae. He promises heaven (and a bit of hell, for comparison) and invites me to accompany him to the rũracio (a traditional dowry negotiations ceremony) of his second daughter. He says that he has reserved the youngest daughter for me and we chuckle heartily. Still a bit disoriented, I retreat into the house to fish the money from my wallet. I have just had a premonition of my greatest novel ever being rejected and I am in no mood for a lengthy snub. In any case, end month is near and this loan to my landlord will have to be part of the rent. I will also have to think of an excuse to wiggle out of his invitation.




A marriage of inconvenience 52





eople who break up at the altar, saying ‘No’ to the priest’s ‘Do you take…’ for a life cherished forever more, are they brave or foolish? Are they brave in saying ‘no’ when they realise their heart just was not in the marriage or they were heading to a lifetime of disillusionment, perhaps cruelty? Are they foolish for wasting other people’s time and money- time spent in endless pre-wedding and wedding planning committees? Money spent in hiring cars and venues and which could have been channelled in paying the school fees for a bright but needy kid? Perhaps, this is a question we should have posed to one Bernard Mwaroki. 34 years old, a permanent house built on a plot of land he had bought near his father’s compound and an old model Toyota Corolla saloon car, Mwaroki had potential. Still, his parents were pretty unimpressed in this potential that fellow villagers saw in their one and only son. They needed to see and hold and tell stories and send their grandchildren to the shop for snuff and things. They needed assurances that their names would live on long after them. Naturally, this entailed nagging their son to marry. Bernard Mwaroki, he had been to the big city to study at the big university. B.A. Economics (honours), earning his father bragging rights at the local shopping centre when he ventured out for the weekend tipple. Further, he had been lucky to land his first job – a junior clerk at the Ministry of Agriculture – shortly after clearing campus. He had affirmative action to thank for this since his ethnic group was considered a minority and marginalised community in the sharing of the national cake. In a country where employment was scarce and the government was the main employer, it is just as well that he came from a minority community. Thing is, the minister, as the public face of the



ministry, and his permanent secretary (the senior most technocrat and whose team actually did the major planning and policy work), were often at loggerheads (often times, as a result of the minister’s pet projects in the form of unsustainable but populist programmes). They came from the two largest communities in the country and who were always jostling for power and prestige. Pairing the two, the minister and the permanent secretary, had been a political compromise. However, this unfortunate pairing occasioned a sort of arms race between the two, with each stocking the ministry with his tribe’s people. Of course, having to comply with the government’s quotas on marginalised and minority tribes; which loophole had seen Mwaroki land a job at the ministry. A rather shrewd Mwaroki had quickly learnt the ropes, playing the tribes against each other. He had ganged up with tribe A to get the tender to procure suppliers for the agricultural show and ganged up with tribe B to supply farming implements to the city’s schools for their agricultural lessons. Of course, as junior clerks, theirs was small change as the proper eating happened at senior cadre. Some context on Bernard Mwaroki’s marriage. Now, the two tribes that dominated the political landscape that was Palito nation were the Degu and the Baju. Mostly, the Degu were in power, with the Baju breaking the monotony once in the cycle. Rather good at mobilisation and stoking emotion, most of the marginalised and minority’s communities identified with the Baju’s party- The Alliance for Super Health and Food (TAFASH). Meanwhile, the Degu’s party identified as the Workers’ Alliance for Health and Low-Coast Food and Accessories (WAHALA). These parties, originally known as the Free Citizens Party (FCP) and the Independence Peace Party (IPP), had

recently rebranded to capture the spirit of the times. The spirit of the times was that these three years had seen floods, then drought and famine, ravage Palito nation. These calamities were attended by skyrocketing inflation, most pronounced on food prices. As such, this year’s elections featured food as a major campaign issue. As a matter of fact, there had been numerous violent ‘Food is Health’ demonstrations, with supermarkets experiencing vandalism and break-ins in which food items were stolen but cash registers and electronics left intact. ‘Peculiar Palitos’, the newspapers branded this phenomenon. In contrast, though, at the coast, farmers could not get a market for their produce- coconuts and rice. Naturally, the opposition party blamed the government for both. In defence of the government, a progressive chap, working for the Ministry of Agriculture, had advised the Prime Minister (on Twitter, no less) to champion for the cheap rice as an alternate staple. Hence the misnomer ‘Low-Coast’ to kill two birds with one stone. In addition, the Prime Minister had made a very public reshuffle in his cabinet and which saw a coast-based politician appointed as the new Minister of Agriculture. Having tasted the sweet fruits of being a government worker, Bernard Mwaroki had contrived to rise past the lowly station of a junior clerk in a nondescript department in the Ministry of Agriculture. If he played his cards well, he could end up as someone important at the national stage. These occasional dreams of his, which he had never shared with another soul (friends and family were dream killers, he had bitterly learnt), these dreams that he was Joseph of the many colours coat… no, the presidency was too lofty an ambition. Indeed, Bernard Mwaroki was the progressive chap of the ‘Low-

Coast’ infamy that drew much laughter and derision at the opposition’s party massive public rallies. On its part, the party in power adopted it as one of their slogans; a slogan well received and much more popular than the party’s official slogan. By dint of this did Mwaroki’s name come to the attention of the party’s top brass. He reasoned that, if he played his cards right, he might just find residence at the August House with the coming elections. ‘Smart and Ambition. Everytime. Anyday.’ His mantra. Of those impressed by Mwaroki’s slogan was the Deputy Prime Minister’s daughter, Thashelin. 45 years old or thereabout, she was poised to inherit the leadership mantle from her father of their small party that anchored the government’s major party. Her grooming entailed being made the Minister of Domestic Happenings as she was rather adept at propaganda. And that’s how they met. The phone rings. It’s a Friday afternoon, everyone revved up for the weekend. A slight hesitation as nobody wants to pick up the phone. The phone keeps on ringing, shrilly, irritatingly. Eventually, someone has to pick it up. That someone is Bernard Mwaroki. The voice is strangely familiar, yet it will take the caller to identify herself before it crystallises in his mind. Am I talking to Mr. Bernard Mwaroki? Bernard Mwaroki speaking. That evening, they met at the Grand Vizier Hotel, a splendid eatery that specialised in Turkish cuisine. The rendezvous being rather at short notice, Mwaroki had had to recycle the suit he had worn that day, though he had freshly shaved and had a change of shirt and undergarments. On her part, Thashelin appeared clad in a long, flowing dira dress with exquisite Persian patterns and one that matched with the hotel’s theme. They sat at the corner table which had been reserved for the Minister of Domestic Happenings. "The Grand Vizier must be

a precursor to heaven.” Thought Mwaroki as he sampled his dinner comprising of güllaç, iskender kebab, dolma, köfte and downed by a glass of şalgam suyu. Consequently, this made him to be a most agreeable

By dint of this did Mwaroki’s name come to the attention of the party’s top brass. He reasoned that, if he played his cards right, he might just find residence at the August House with the coming elections. ‘Smart and Ambition. Everytime. Anyday.’ His mantra. conversationalist. On her part, Thashelin was impressed by her companion. He had potential to achieve much if guided, was her conclusion. Within a month, Bernard Mwaroki was a junior official at Thashelin’s party, meaning that he could be nominated to parliament soon if the current government returned to power, which, in all likelihood, was a given. Further, Bernard and Thashelin were much an item, with their cosy pictures in wide circulation in what was Palito’s gutter press; composed mostly of faceless and irresponsible online blogs that promised ‘shocking news’ every which way with their headlines. In due course, Bernard Mwaroki had bought an apartment in one of those posh suburbs that informed the city’s who-is-who. His

relationship with Thashelin had made such swift progress that there was talk of nuptials between the two, hence the reason he was back home. His mission? To gauge the political mood in his village and decide whether to offer himself up for election as an MP or wait for the promised nomination. Privately, he preferred election rather than the less prestigious nomination; plus, the small matter of political promises having a rather short halflife. Secondly, to float the idea of marriage to Thashelin without raising his parents’ hackles. “Son, are you OK?” His father’s voice halted the meandering of thoughts in his head. He had been doing mental calculations for or against the marriage. For: Marriage would give him the respectability he needed to vie for public office; how can you purport to manage a public office if you cannot even manage a home? Second: Grandchildren to comfort his parents in their old age (would be they willing to embrace his adopted kids?). Third: Access to business and political connections and wealth courtesy of his wife’s side of the family. As to what he thought would be his parents’ opposition to the marriage, it boiled down to Thashelin’s age. Then tribe, though this was a nominal opposition in the grand scheme of things considering that she came from pedigree. So, in response to his father’s concern, he went around and around- beating all the clumps that made up the bush. Eventually, though, he had to man up. He had found a suitable girl to marry. Silence at the table. Mother and father giving each other dark looks. Who was the girl? Did they know her family? Really, a token question (for the record), but one which had to be asked, nonetheless. Thashelin. Thashelin Shigada, the Deputy Prime Minister’s daughter and who was also the country’s Minister of Domestic Happenings. More silence, this time PROSE MAGAZINE | JUNE - JULY 2017


prolonged. When he got back to talking, his father, as expected, raised the family concerns. That Thashelin Shigada, the Deputy Prime Minister’s daughter and Minister of Domestic Happenings, was an outsider. Well, it augured well for national integration, besides, in-laws were from God- went the age-old adage. Which point his father found hard to argue against, though you could tell this was a moot point, a charade really. As it were, it wouldn’t hurt to have the Deputy Prime Minister as a brother. What about children? It must be said that Mwaroki did put up a spirited fight. That children were a gift from God, whether adopted or borne to one. That they came with their own spoon and bowl served straight from God’s kitchen. That his sisters and brothers would have children borne of them thus assuring his parents of blood grandchildren. Said his father, Bernard Mwaroki was their firstborn, and the firstborn son at that. His father was a firstborn son too and, in his heyday, had started the Firstborn Sons United Church of Yahweh. The church had been promptly shut down for discriminatory practices, but you could tell the great importance he placed on firstborns as God’s anointed shepherds. As the firstborn, what example would he be setting for his younger siblings with his waywardness? His father. His mother- where would she hide her face? How could she continue as the chairlady of the Mothers’ Union? What would neighbours say? They said many things to dissuade Bernard Mwaroki, but he was as hard-headed as his father and he wouldn’t relent in his marriage quest. His father decided to rest the matter, for the moment at least. Now, Uncle Kenewa was a favourite among the cousins. Though a bit cursive when inebriated, he was an amiable and generous man. Candies for the cousins in their childhood, many a



first bicycle and driving lessons, many times over a godfather. He had gone to America to study, then worked for some time there before he was deported over some scandal or other. If there was someone to put sense in Mwaroki’s head, then Uncle Kenewa it was. Said Uncle Kenewa, he was going to the national park. Would Mwaroki care to join him? He could spare the day, he said. The mood at home was rather tense and he was glad for the momentary escape. All along, though, he knew Uncle Kenewa’s business was to dissuade him from this folly of an idea that was to wed Thashelin. Still, his uncle was a good sport and would not take rejection to heart as his parents had done. Ever the proper kinsman, Uncle Kenewa stopped at an eatery on their way to the park. Said he, looking at wild animals eating could cause untold sufferings to an empty belly. That it was good they be in communion with the lion and the leopard as the animals partook their meals. Really, though, it was to put Bernard Mwaroki in a receptive frame of mind for what he had to say. Now full, they proceeded with their journey. They did see some of the animals promised in the park’s brochure- leopards, a cheetah, a tortoise, gazelles, a serval, but no lion. That said, they did not do the usual complaining at the wardens’ reception on their way out as was the custom at animals promised but not delivered. Rather, their business had been to talk, and talk they did; with Uncle Kenewa doing most of the talking and Bernard Mwaroki doing most of the listening. The preliminary- that Bernard Mwaroki needed to drop this idea of marrying someone far older than himself and bringing dishonour to the family. As was to be expected, Mwaroki countered this with the same arguments he had with his father. Well, he was in love, there was no disputing that, said Uncle Kenewa.

And love was all that mattered in the end, Uncle Kenewa was philosophical. Still, they were talking about marriage, and a church wedding too, for which he would do well to get his family’s approval and blessings. After all, marriage was a communal affair. Then again, think of the villagers as your voters- a point which Mwaroki readily conceded. I have a way around your predicament… For all intents and purposes, Uncle Kenewa’s plan seemed failproof. That Sarah, 22, comely and coming from a good family, would be his bride and his first wife. That the two would have a low-key, villagers-only church wedding. Then, if he still felt strongly about Thashelin, they could have a traditional wedding at her home district. This way, his parents would have their own grandchildren yet he could still build a viable career in politics and in government. He had a few days to mull over this prospect. Hesitant at first, Bernard Mwaroki had gradually warmed to his uncle’s plan. Accordingly, plans were put in motion to have the said wedding take place in three months’ time. The girl’s parents were visited and after much haggling, agreed to give away their daughter. The banns were read at the local church, foodstuffs and venue procured, a high-ranking minister secured to officiate at the wedding, the services of a local but highly regarded seamstress sought… in short, villagers could count to a much-welcomed festival in three months’ time. The call came on the actual day of the marriage, as he was being driven to pick up Sarah, the young bride, from her parents’ house. It was an easy choice for him. The future for a wedding.



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Profile for Epsilon Publishers

Prose Magazine June - July 2017 Issue  

Prose is a bi-monthly publication of Epsilon Publishers. The magazine delves into industry trends and insights of publishing.

Prose Magazine June - July 2017 Issue  

Prose is a bi-monthly publication of Epsilon Publishers. The magazine delves into industry trends and insights of publishing.


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