A not so popular Kenyan journalist with multi-media skills and rich cross-cutting experience whose works have been published by various media outlets is yet to satisfy his longing for becoming one of the most revered authors of books.
Even after winning awards and recognition in photography and film production competitions, Joshua Nyang’au Araka whose journalism work has been published in the Daily Nation, NTV, The Standard, and the Scholar education newspaper is determined to become one of the best published literary works and biographies.
The father of three has already written five books within a period of less than three years, the last one awaiting launch sometime this May.
His first books ‘Peppered Path, and ‘Chronicles of the Idler’ are about life in a small village called Nyagenke in West Mugirango constituency, Nyamira county, where Araka, (aka ‘nyagenkean’) was born and brought up.
“My Twitter name is @thenyagenkean and I chose it to be a fictional setting for my writing after my village where I was born and brought up,” he says.
Those who have read his ‘Pepered Path’, ‘Chronicles of the Idler’ and ‘Korondo -Panic’ say that although the stories are fictitious, it is a reflection of the African culture that many remember with nostalgia.
While covid19 has caused myriad of challenges to many people, it is a blessing in disguise for Nyagenkean who says the moments of lockdown, working from home and curfew hours have given him quiet moments to work on his books.
The ‘Korondo-panic’ is a diary about Kenyan’s satirised during the epic COVID-19 pandemic, giving a clear picture of how people think, imagine and behave during the Covid 19 pandemic.
Consecutively, Araka has written two biographies of which one will be launched this month. They include ‘Beaten Odds’ which depicts the footprints of Uncertainty, Resilience, Adventure and Triumph of one Stephen Mabea who at one time oversaw the implementation of government policies and was at the forefront in streamlining teacher recruitment and actualisation of the school free milk programme, which were
President Daniel Moi’s flagship projects meant to enhance the success of the 8-4-4 system.
The other and latest biography titled ‘Undeterred’ is about a boy from a poor rural family who has ascended to the pinnacle of academia and is now the current Kisii University Vice Chancellor Professor John S. Akama.
‘Beaten odds’ explains how Mabea was born in a church compound in 1935 to newly converted Christian parents, and got rooted in Christianity in rural Kenya being among the first of his peers to get a formal education, with his imprints in elective politics remaining evident.
The ‘Undeterred’ on the other hand is a 500 page piece describing the struggles of schooling during the later days of colonialism and early days of independence, giving a picture of how life is full of challenges and how they can be confronted to achieve success like in the case of VC whose parents worked in a small tea factory in Kericho
before later buying land and settling in sotik.
According to Prof Akama, Araka is a committed journalist and scholar with a bright future whom he has known him for 12 years since he was a university student.
“I admire his story telling skills, especially the humorous way of passing important information of ordinary village life which everyone can associate with,” he says.
Prof Akama says he was compelled to ask Araka to co-author his biography after he read his satirical approach to the cultural, political and health issues which mesmerised him.
The VC however decries low readership in the country, a matter which has been made worse by the digital era saying people are not even taking advantage of the internet to read the free books available on the platform.
Describing readership in the country as below average, Prof Akama said people hardly read even materials available in their area of profession preferring to engage in social media platforms where tenets of proper language are not adhered to.
He expresses optimism the new education curriculum will help develop creative skills to learners including a reading culture from their very early age.
Araka’s class seven daughter Hezel Araka says her dad is a role model worth emulating. She hopes that the books will sell to enable the dad pay their fees comfortably and make him popular.
According to Araka, it all started with satirical postings on his Facebook account when his friends challenged him to write books, triggering him to write the first one in 2018, which he says he had to publish himself because he could not afford to pay a publisher.
“I decided to save money and managed Sh300,000 by the end of December 2018 when I sent the book for publishing and which attracted publishers to look for me and publish my second book,’ he says.
He cites various advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing including having self-control over the returns, and having the manuscript improved and being networked by the publishers.
He says the cost of publishing is quite high in the country and that’s why his books have to cost between Sh500 and Sh 800.
Araka says Journalism can, at times, make one lazy because they are under instructions all day but writing books gives one an upper hand to make extra cash and contribute to scholarly works besides keeping ones’ mind active.
Araka, is 37 years old and the first born in a family of five. He attended Nyagachi primary school before he joined Esani day and boarding secondary school because he could not afford to enroll at Cardinal Otunga boys’ high school in the county, where he had been admitted.
Araka recalls how at Esani, he started realising his forte in writing when his outstanding compositions were picked out among the rest.
He later joined Laikipia University to pursue English literature as per his parents wish but later joined Mount Kenya University for a journalism course.
He graduated from the Kenyatta University in the year 2007, joined the Standard Newspaper where he wrote tourism and entertainment features for the Sunday Standard, and then later joined the NTV as a videographer in Kisii County.
Araka is currently working with the Kisii County government since the year 2017 as county communication officer from where he has been able to author his books.
He says the covid-19 has posed various challenges as much as it has enabled him accomplish much especially after completing three books within one year, 2020.
He argues that due to the economic crunch many people are not able to buy books and those who want to read would rather borrow from the few who buy.
By Jane Naitore and Clinton Nyamumbo