Rebeka Njau’s “Ripples in the Pool” launches in Nairobi

Rebeka Njau’s “Ripples in the Pool” launches in Nairobi

Rebeka Njau’s 1975 novel Ripples in the Pool, reissued this year by Bloomsbury Publishing, launched at the Alliance Française, Nairobi on Friday, June 14, 2024.

Rebeka Njau is Kenya’s first female playwright and a pioneer in the representation of African women in literature. She is famously one of the only two women, alongside Grace Ogot, who took part in the African Writers Conference held at Makerere University, Kampala Uganda in 1962.

Her debut novel, Ripples in the Pool was published by Transafrica Publishers in 1975 before the company went bankrupt. It got a new lease of life as the 203rd title in the Heinemann African Writers Series in 1978. The novel tells the story of Selina, a sex worker living in the city who is a modern, independent woman. She decides to marry a younger lover, Gikere, and they move to his village. Selina miscarries and Gikere’s mother, who had little respect for her already, calls her “an infertile witch”. Gikere responds by trying to assert authority in the relationship by beating Selina. As she becomes more isolated, Selina turns her sexual desires towards Gikere’s younger sister, Gaciru. She experiences a mental breakdown and tries to hang herself, before strangling Gaciru in her sleep. The novel ends with Selina as a “stray woman” wandering the countryside. It is considered the first Kenyan novel, and for many the first African novel, to both portray lesbian relationships and treat lesbianism sensitively. The novel got a new lease of life as it was reissued by Bloomsbury Publishing this year.

The 2024 edition launched at an event co-sponsored by the University of Nairobi Department of Literature and emceed by Chichi Seii at the Alliance Française on Friday. It included readings by Kevin Maina and Hana Njau-Okolo, dramatisation of excerpts from the book by the University of Nairobi Travelling Theatre directed by Dr Kimingichi Wabende and a scholarly analysis of the text by Dr Makau Kitata. There were also remarks by Prof Miriam Musonye and Prof Jennifer Muchiri. The question-and-answer session was conducted by Prof Joseph Muleka where fans could engage with the rarely-seen writer. It was a packed affair where many got to buy books and get them signed by the writer. Accompanying Mrs Njau were her son Morille and daughter Hana Njau-Okolo.

For those who wish to get copies in Nairobi, we recommend Prestige Bookshop or Soma Nami Books.

The photo used in this story is courtesy of our friends at Maisha Yetu on Facebook. Please follow them.

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