Established in 2003, Kwani Trust is a Kenyan based literary network dedicated to developing quality creative writing and committed to the growth of the creative industry through the publishing and distribution of contemporary African writing, offering training opportunities, producing literary events and establishing and maintaining global literary networks. Our vision is to create a society that uses its stories to see itself more coherently.
What they do
Publish and distribution creative stories: Originally, a community of artists and writers sharing work on an online platform, Kwani Trust has developed into an institution that develops the literary arts and publishes several fiction and non-fiction titles outside its flagship literary magazine. It has also developed an in-house sales team that markets and distributes these publications both locally and internationally;
Offer training opportunities for literary artists: Kwani Trust has developed an internationally recognized literary festival that provides different levels of training for writers. They also run different workshops for fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Through our international networks they have also managed to garner overseas scholarships for writers and artists;
Facilitate and produce literary events: Kwani Trust runs the biennial Kwani? Litfest in Nairobi and Lamu, to which they bring several international writers, academics and students to share ideas and exchange work with the local literary and artistic community. The Trust also runs several local literary events such as book launches, monthly readings and poetry performances, in addition to our monthly Open Mic and Sunday Salon Nairobi events, which are poetry and prose readings, respectively;
Establish and maintain global literary networks: Through its writers, friends and partners, Kwani Trust has become a regular invitee to fixtures on the international literary calendar and circuit. Also, many international academic institutions have placed writers and works appearing in the Kwani? journal on their literary curricula and syllabi ensuring that Kenyan literature is also read elsewhere. Kwani Trust also works with International and continental arts bodies and literary institutions such as the Sundance Institute, The Summer Literary Seminars Programme, The Chinua Achebe Centre at Bard College, Chimurenga,The Kenya Film Commission, The GoDown Arts Centre, Storymoja Publishers and others, as a regional representative and partner to pursue common goals;
Creating a growing well-governed arts organization model that remains flexible and creative: In spite of existing general institutional models and general corporate and NGO creative systems and structures, the lack of whole Creative Arts institution models in the region has meant that Kwani Trust adapts and learns as it establishes itself. This has become a major challenge as they remain committed to the development of corporate institutional values and standards even as they stay as flexible and creative as possible. To ensure this, they currently have a full-time staff of 5 people. They also outsource writers, journalists, photographers, cartoonists, designers, editors and spoken word performers to work and add capacity to ongoing activities. These resources are drawn from our extensive database of contemporary artists. They also administer different projects and activities for individuals and secondary institutions.
Why they do it
The absence of general infrastructure to promote the literary arts including technological know-how, legal frameworks and a coherent socio-cultural policy. Successful societies are based on underlying and self-defining texts and narratives that serve as an impetus for their objectives and well-being. The creation of these texts and narratives requires a general infrastructure and an enabling environment;
Lack of effective distribution networks for literary and creative products: Beyond a creative-enhancing atmosphere and community, societies need to develop economic structures and products for artistic sustainability. The key to this is distributive systems;
Lack of theoretical knowledge and understanding of concepts underpinning creative industries and cultural enterprises such as artistic and literary institutions, and how to turn these into profitable enterprises. The general trajectory of most social advancement comes from research that leads to information and a subsequent development of knowledge. Developing knowledge and creative industries requires the same approach. Research, the identification of problem areas and theory has to be in place before the latter is achieved;
Lack of funding and related support systems for writers and the literary sector in East Africa - There is a general lack of economic support for artists, art-related ideas and even institutions;
Expansion of physical and intellectual spaces for creative interactions and conversations.
Where is Kwani Trust