Kenyan Poet Shailja Patel to speak on Race

Visiting poet to speak on violence in Kenya

‘Writers have important role to play to eradicate racism’

Kenyan poet Shailja Patel says writers have a vital role to play in eradiating racism in Africa.

Patel will deliver a special update on post-election violence in Kenya during the Time of the Writer festival in Durban this week.

“The voices of contemporary writers are absolutely central to the political discourse, the economic discourse and the cultural discourse that’s happening in the continent, and I’m very excited about being a part of that,” said Patel, a prominent activist of Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice.

Selected as one of eight poets to take part in the Poetry Africa showcase of the World Social Forum in Nairobi last year, she said her goal was to awaken herself and others to the probabilities and complexities of truth, freedom and justice.

She said dialogue on race, ethnicity and gender was important to avoid violent conflicts.

“If there isn’t a space to look at people’s attitudes about race and the deeply entrenched conditioned beliefs that people have about race, then we’re never going to have the kind of equality and genuinely diverse society that we envisioned for every country in Africa.”

She will update festival visitors on the violent protests that erupted in December after the announcement that President Mwai Kibabki had been re-elected.

“Leading up to the election, there had been a huge amount of hope and optimism and tremendous work was done to ensure a democratic and peaceful transition.

“Kenyans did vote for change. It was a mass, peaceful movement for a change of government and a change of the small group that has held on to power since independence.

“To see all of that suddenly subverted was heartbreaking, and then, following on that, the violence that unrolled across the country was devastating.” More…

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