Name: Lydia Limbe
Artistic Discipline: Creative Writer
I have always been a writer, though it took me many years to accept this. Right from the time when I was in Primary School, when we used to write compositions every week in Standard 6, 7 and 8. My compositions were a constant feature on the ‘Tell-a-Tale’ corner, which were handwritten, on foolscaps, 5-6 pages of them.
10 years later, I find myself in the newsroom, writing feature stories for the Standard Newspaper on various topics. Business, Environment, Health, as well as Travel and Lifestyle. I even did sports features. The only topics I did not write on is Politics and Entertainment. As a journalist, the photos I took while on duty were always published alongside the text.
Because I was running away from my writing, I went into communications, and ran a boutique PR company for 5 years. I ran away because it had been drummed into us that writing does not pay well. (In a way, it does not, right. Lol!) While I did exceptionally well in the business, what kept tugging at my heart was to write. So I went back into journalism – the only writing I knew then.
For five years I wrote feature stories for national and international media. These were stories based on real life, and at some point started questioning: if I could write a composition, which is purely from imagination, can’t I also write fiction?
I realized it was not as easy as it sounded. I went online to look for something, anything that could teach me the craft of creative writing in whichever form. I bumped into the University of Iowa online courses, and took several on How Writers Write Fiction and How Writers Write Poetry. I am currently enrolled in the same programme, but on Play writing.
From these courses, I have come up with a Poetry collection, as well as several short stories. I even joined a peer group of writers whom we met online from the course, where we swap our work regularly for critique and share writing tips and resource materials.
Along the way, I became a Kundalini Yoga Teacher. This year-long training led me to deeply understand the human body and what affects us physically, emotionally and spiritually. I became interested in holistic health. In the process, I started adopting a yogic lifestyle, and found myself making different food and environmental choices.
I ran way from writing again and went into conservation communications, which widened and deepened my understanding on how connected we all are and why it is important to take care of not only our bodies but also of the environment we live in.
Unfortunately, the conservation approach that is widely used in Kenya and Africa is foreign, whose main approach is to separate and fence wildlife from people. This has created even more problems within the rural pastoral communities, though on the flipside, this presents great potential and opportunity to creating sustainable solutions that foster peaceful co-existence.
I started questioning if there’s indigenous knowledge on wildlife and plants, and if so, can we reconnect ourselves back to this knowledge?
As Ben Okri says,
“To poison a nation, poison its stories. A demoralised nation tells demoralised stories to itself. Beware of the story-tellers who are not fully conscious of the importance of their gifts, and who are irresponsible in the application of their art: they could unwittingly help along the psychic destruction of their people.”
I am acutely aware of the negative effect the stories we have told ourselves have on us, and I want to unearth and reconnect Kenyans to our indigenous knowledge on wildlife and plants.
I am at the turning point in my writing art, transitioning from journalistic writing to different forms of creative writing with a focus on the environmental.
The next three months is to identify sources of this information, whether African Scholars or community elders, and figure out how to package the stories in a way that can inspire pride in Kenyans and spur them into environmentally sustainable action.
To see Afro-fierce Africans, who are strongly and confidently rooted in their indigenous stories.
To unearth and reconnect Africans to their indigenous knowledge on wildlife and plants through creative literature.
Sample Continuous Pros-Poem
I remembered her at 3.00 am. *Irene. Recovering alcoholic and drug addict.
I sat across the table from her, pen on the ready. She’d been tittering around the issue.
I was patient. It had taken her weeks to face me.
She broke down. She told me she can’t do this. I just held her hand, not knowing what to say or do to make it all right. She said she can trust me to protect her identity, and to use her story to point out that addiction is a real problem.
I gave her my word. She started…
The brokenness. From trying to break away from this chain of addiction. Her friends and family having lost patience with her for failing so many times. How much she prayed that this ‘fix’ was her last.
That she will zone out and all this emotional pain will finally leave her body, mind and spirit.
The disrepair. The fatigue. The resignation. The hopelessness. The disappointment.
The anger. The bitterness. The burden of it all. Simply put, she hated the life she lived.
I didn’t say I understood because I did not. I could only empathize.
It was 3.00am at five stories high, feet dangling from the balcony when I remembered her.
It was 3.00am – a very peaceful warm night when I remembered her.
It was 3.00am – with no more sound in the air except for the occasional dog and a passing vehicle when I remembered her.
It was 3.00am. Feeling like I have reached my perfunctory end, that I remembered her. This time, I understood
Publication – Features
18 Months Plan
– Find sources of these indigenous information
– Creatively write these stories
– Find suitable platforms to tell these stories
– Begin to create a culture of reading and appreciating the power of these stories as part of who we are
– To find courses and mentors who can help me horn my creative writing craft