Celebrating Muthoni Likimani

Friday July 5 2013

By Okwiri Oduor

On June 29, literary enthusiasts gathered at the Paa ya Paa Arts Centre in Nairobi to celebrate the life and literary works of Muthoni Likimani.

The event was organised by professor and author Elizabeth Orchardson-Mazrui, and it drew dignitaries from as far away as South Africa and Canada. Kenya’s Chief Justice Willy Mutunga was the guest of honour.

Explaining her desire to honour the veteran writer, Ms Orchardson-Mazrui described the intellect, personality, and wealth of information that is to be found in Likimani. She also decried the neglect of elderly writers and artists are treated.

“Everything nowadays is all about the young,” she said. “But what of us, the elders? Today, I saw it fitting to honour Muthoni Likimani, someone that I admire very much.”

Likimani expressed her deepest gratitude to the Chief Justice for the role he played in the publication of her work.

“In Kenya, publishers can keep your book for four years,” she said. “All that publishers ever think about is who will buy your book. They are more interested in publishing school texts. I must say that if Willy Mutunga had not helped me, my book [Passbook Number F.47927: Women and Mau Mau in Kenya] might never have been published. He was at the Ford Foundation back then, and he received my work very well.”

Likimani read an excerpt from her autobiography Fighting Without Ceasing. The excerpt detailed an amusing doomsday prophesy, one she retells vividly.

Mutunga recounted a doomsday tale of his own from his schooldays, and talked of the historical significance of Likimani’s work.

Likimani launched her autobiography to accompaniment of tinkling champagne glasses. Afterwards, excerpts from Muthoni Likimani’s works were read out by some of Kenya’s most prolific writers.