Moraa Gitaa

Writer in Residence
Period of Stay: 
January – May 2023
Novelist, Peace Studies-Conflict Resolution Researcher, Kenya - PEN Kenya and Creative Writers' Association of Kenya (CWAK)
Project Title: 
Pebbles, Pigeons, Prodigals - A Novel
Project Abstract: 

On Yusra and Yasin’s 12th birthday their father—Imam of the neighbourhood masjid—is assassinated in Pwani si Kenya (The Coast is not part of Kenya) separatist protests. The sociopolitical-metaphorical fiction centers Yusra a young Swahili-Baluchi girl from Mombasa Island who—after her father is assassinated and dies in her arms—on a meditation of grief, journey of witness, memory and protest, is drawn from her Mji wa Kale (Swahili Old Town) home to Al Shabaab jihadists online. When Yusra’s twin brother becomes a victim of enforced disappearance, she—groomed/radicalized—becomes a jihadi bride and elopes to Somalia with a Shabaab commando. After 2 years of self-exile Yusra returns to Mombasa; her experiences portray how intersections of the war on terror/secession politics, counter-terrorism agent’s extralegal/extrajudicial actions, citizenship politics, existential threats and search for identity by the marginalized, play into the psychology of children and women of Mombasa where they are boxed into spaces whose periphery is vigilance and surveillance in the form of silence, terror, and a culture of fear. The novel follows Yusra from 12 years-old to 24. With ethos of forgiveness and echoes of freedom, focusing redemption of the self, family, pasts both personal and collective, the literary novel draws on the unsolved assassinations of 22 Muslim clerics/scholars which happened in Mombasa—the author’s hometown—between 2012-18.