Late Arrivals, An Introduction to Place

Perhaps this should begin as a treatise on the unreachability of places we will never go, the inevitability, even when we do, keeping in mind that it was never the intention to go, of the heartbreak and nostalgia for these places began a long time ago, that there might be many ways to map a way out but it’s a long way there. But formalism will not be found in these pages. We wanted to work against systems, at the same time work with what has been said and written, the delusions and paranoia of it—this has come to mean different things in the recent history of creating in the here. But we feel this to be a ragtime jubilee, a celebration even in these strange times. Admittedly, we must concede that we know little about the critique of social spaces, we’re merely commenting on the very personal set against the background of multiple geographies. We asked ourselves: what are the archives, who do we read? And the answer to this somehow became—where is the archive, what is it?

The decision—if it is one—to look at the self, the world, and one’s place in it squarely, to step out of the mythology that we daily present to the world as our actual selves, is not an easy one, but for the writer it’s crucial. Carl Phillips. The Art of Daring: Risk, Restlessness, Imagination.

drr has been in conception for a long time, taking many forms and idealisms along the way, in the way of dreams and aspirations and delusions, but mostly a postponed project, an ongoing conversation that demands to be had. In July we launched a beta issue on our website as an experiment in capturing some of the places navigated by our friends—M. K. Angwenyi, Carey Baraka—who shared their work with us. On 17 August, 2019 we had the great pleasure of hosting Anita Kavochy, a visual artist with Maasai Mbili Arts collective, at First Ngobin Crescent, off Moi Drive together with other artists, writers, poets and journalists for a hangout with art and readings to a dope set by DJ Munk. This was an extension of this conversation that always leaves us with more questions. Questions like who are we, what are we working on, why. Neo Musangi, friend and poet shared a poem that night that asked, What was Nairobi meant to be? Remove the railway line, remove 1965 and 1963 and years built on love and tears. Who are we?

Here we are. Now. Again for the first time. Tunateremka teremka river road na Naijographia, where muthee asks: ulikuwa wapi?

And so the visibility of collective action remains something that remains critical. How do people collaborate, on what basis, and with objectives and tools? How are these collaborations nurtured and extended, both in space and time? What will be recognized as useful and salient. AbdouMaliq Simone. Spectral Selves: Practices in the Making of African Cities.

Hapa tu Moi Drive tukingoja Sir Owi atupeleke commercial. This part of life is work. Kama Ben na Ocholla building a nairobi that has no place for them we seek a place of dreams in this Nairobi.

In A Likely Story, published in the first issue of Kwani?, Andia Kisia writes “to be Kenyan is to refuse culpability and to plead for alms. Kenya is learning to make do. Other people’s clothes, other people’s ideas. To be Kenyan is always to dream of better things.” In our first call-out we asked writers to think beyond place as the duality between urbanism (whatever this crass word means especially in the Kenyan condition of the right-now) and the open landscapes of gicagi. Fiction and nonfiction. Knowing and not-knowing. Tearing down and building, as you build it. We asked for ideas and experiments writers have around place, in any form/genre, willing to take on whatever, unajua. Again, for the first time.

We are very grateful for all the work we have received through our open call and commissions to friends and colleagues. There’s a general orientation towards geography in this issue, also ideas of movement and transiency. Maybe all these can exist together? We are moving therefore we acknowledge time and space exist? Permanence? Temporality? Nothingness? Being?

In coming up with this issue we found it necessary to ask ourselves some difficult questions, such as the concept of editorial control. We invited colleagues to edit with and alongside us. We are grateful bethuel muthee agreed to be part of the project, not only because of his experience with Naijographia and Wanakuboeka and the work he has done with Maasai Mbili, who we have had the rare pleasure of hosting in Umo, but because he is brilliant. muthee walks.

muthee walks is to us then the treatise, the manifesto.

But as with much of the world, none of it exists until we arrive and cast our gaze about. Chris Abani. Lagos Noir.

The stories we read were wonderful. Praise is an easy thing, yes. Idza Luhumyo takes us through the Mombasa-Busia trip (familiar to most Kenyans, so familiar that it probably has taken a place in the psyche similar to all those memories that while being unattractive, remain useful), this Tawfiq and Tahmeed route. What Idza does is map this journey in such a brilliant way it shows us that those starlit nights were not just bustrips. It is no longer about passing through, there are new questions: what can all these places do for us? To us? Khadija Abdalla Bajaber stays in a single room, not without the same sense of (non)belonging. Frankline moves from Grahamstown to London. Angwenyi is having ice cream in New Haven. Munk dances with Sun Ra out there. Kali is lost to the cardinal points of a city, while Lorna Likiza revisits Eldoret. In this issue we also have Judyannet Muchiri, bethuel muthee, Morgan, Alexis Teyie and Angela Chilufya. A recurring question throughout; we ulikuwa wapi? We set out to make a magazine but ended up hanging out and asking questions and within these pages is our varied attempts of finding answers. We invite you to walk with us.

The Editors.

Pre-order a copy of the Place issue for Sh300. Free deliveries within Nairobi CBD. More details on where the drr Place issue can be found will follow. Send us an email at info@downriverroad.org. Or DM us on Twitter. Or call/text/WhatsApp: 0748588487. Or here:

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