What does China’s creeping return to Eastern Africa, by way of the seas, portend for intimate and personal histories of a people whose far and deep life stories are embedded in these waters? What future might the ‘Swahili Seas’ imagine for themselves in an ongoing (yet subtle) confrontation with the tremendous weight of China’s ambitions that encompasses a mutually remembered past? Yvonne Owuor’s forthcoming novel, The Dragonfly Sea (to be published in early 2019), is a micro-story of the vast Western Indian Ocean (Swahili Seas) narratives and focuses on a young woman’s coming-of-age on Pate Island, Lamu Archipelago, Kenya, a mostly ‘unnoticed’ space, yet one of tremendous import to significant ‘Indian’ Ocean happenings, including and in particular, China’s East African return. The lecture is a creative exploration of the themes in The Dragonfly Sea which also highlights aspects of the intimacies that bind a small, time-warped Kenyan Island with a giant China that has stepped out with quiet but potent force into the world.
Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor is a writer from Nairobi, Kenya. She studied English and History at Kenyatta University, earned a Master of Arts degree at the University of Reading, UK and later received an MPhil (Creative Writing) from the University of Queensland, Brisbane. Her story “The Weight of Whispers” won her the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2003. Her debut novel, Dust, published in 2014 was the winner of the 2015 Jomo Kenyatta Literature prize. Her second book, The Dragonfly Sea (Knopf) will be available from March 2019. She is at present at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, working on her third novel with the working title The Long Decay.