When my mother was young, she loved going to the movies. Her and her siblings would pay a few cents to squeeze into a crowded little room in Thika and watch something (usually a kung fu movie) on a tiny television. This was the 1970s and what they considered to be part of the movie watching experience would largely be unrecognisable today. For one, there was always a story teller in the room and he would talk throughout the movie. His job was to explain what was going on in case the crowd didn’t speak English. What he actually did was create his own story. He gave the characters Kikuyu names and took extreme liberties with his interpretation of what was going on.
And it wasn’t just him talking, the entire thing was interactive. People would ask questions:
“Huyo ni nani sasa?” Who is that now?
And he would say something like,
“Huyo….heee….Huyo ni brother wa Njoroge! Ni mbaya! Ngoja uone…NGOJA UONE!” Him…heee….That’s Njoroge’s brother. He’s a tough one. Wait and see…YOU WAIT AND SEE!”
And they loved it. You see, the film itself was only part of the experience. The storyteller’s wild additions and sound effects, the crowd asking questions, the cheering and the gasping were all part of going to the movies for them. It was a triple threat. Movie plus oral narration plus crowd participation. It was their 3D.
I’ve always loved hearing about this because it tells me that people want to hear their own stories. The storyteller was important because he took a foreign story and made it theirs. Chen Zhen became Kanuri and a fight with a guard based on Japanese-Chinese tensions became about police corruption. It was silly, it was funny, it was crazy and it was now theirs.
The Will This Be A Problem Anthology is about telling our stories, our way and on our terms. It is a space for Kenyans, and Africans in general, to tell the story as they please. A space with none of the rules for what Africans are supposed to write about. A space for our stories, as diverse and sometimes as ordinary as they may be.
For our first issue we decided to go with Fantasy, one of my favourite genres. I have always wanted to read fantasy that’s from home and there’s honestly never enough of it. So we got a group of writers together and we created some.
In these pages you will find witchdoctors and sarcastic teenagers. Future time lines and corporate magic. Things lurking in the dark and others hiding within tunnels. You will meet gods and devils alike. You will find out what’s in the mirror and what arrows can do.
Amid all of these short stories, you will find poems and even a sequel to a story that is in this very anthology. Rules and barriers are not really our area. We hope they aren’t yours either.