Author Interview: Wanuri Kahiu

I’m delighted to welcome to the blog Wanuri Kahiu to talk about her first picture book and the inspiration behind it. The Wooden Camel is a beautiful story full of hope, written by Wanuri, illustrated by Manuela Adreani and published by Lantana. Wanuri is an internationally renowned filmmaker having won awards including five African movie Academy Awards, Best Narrative Feature at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, Best Short Film at the Cannes Independent Film Festival and the ‘Citta di Venezia 2010’ award in Venice, Italy. She is one of the TED Fellows of 2017.  She currently lives with her partner and two children in Nairobi.

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Thank you for joining us today!  Can you tell us about the inspiration for writing The Wooden Camel? I am fascinated by Lake Turkana and I have been for a while. It is the largest permanent desert lake in the world and is under threat of extinction. so the people who have lived and based their culture and tradition around the lake will soon be pushed elsewhere. I write to draw attention to the region and the people.

The theme of family comes through strongly in the narrative; Etabo’s relationships with his father and siblings are beautifully reflected. Was this inspired by your own family relationships and feelings about the idea of family in general? I have a daughter and a son who are my most precious gifts and my husband has two other children. His relationship with them is truly exceptional to watch and I wanted to honour him. I also wanted to represent the creativity and kindness of the sister and her love for her brother as witnessed in the relationship between my daughter and her three brothers.
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Etabo calls on the Sky God to help him keep his dream alive. How important do you think faith and belief is for people in achieving their dreams? Dreaming is unachievable without belief. We must believe in ourselves and in the universe that our dreams will be delivered and that whatever dreams we have are valid and that they are sufficient. And when dreams come true there is always an element of magic, of some unexplainable spirit like Akuj the Sky God.
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The illustrations for the story are stunning. How did you work with the illustrator to achieve this? It must have been amazing seeing your words and come to life.
Working with Manuela was a dream. I had never worked with an illustrator before and watching her bring words to life was extraordinary. Sometimes she took the lead and I would rewrite the scene to add to her writing rather than the other way around. Her attention to detail in the clothes and the background and the world have made it the most pleasurable reading experience.
Do you have plans for any more children’s books and if so are you able to share with us what you’re working on? Yes. More books and more YA books to come. Too soon to talk about but I thank Lantana Publishing for taking a chance on an unknown writer and giving me the confidence to believe that I am capable of publishing and that my dreams are enough.
I can’t wait to read your next book and wish you every success with your writing; thank you for taking the time to share your experience with us!
Find out more at www.wanurikahiu.com.  Read my review of The Wooden Camel.
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