- Category: TOW 2004
Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, presently executive director of the Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF), was born in Nairobi , Kenya, over 30 years ago. She holds a BA degree in Linguistics, English and History from Jomo Kenyatta University and an MA (TV/Video Development) degree from the University of Reading in Britain.
In 2003 Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor beat a field of 120 African writers to clinch the prestigious Caine Book Prize for African short story writing withWeight of Whispers. On receiving her prize Owuor, the second Kenyan to receive the Caine Prize, said the award “has given me the right to write”. The great strength of Weight of Whispers, narrated by an aristocratic Rwandan refugee in the aftermath of the 1994 massacres, lies in the subtle and suggestive way it dramatises the plight of the refugee and also successfully incorporates so many large issues. Previous Caine Prize-winner Binyavanga Wainaina comments: “The Weight of Whispers has the density of a novel, the narrative tension of a thriller, and the insights expected of a far more experienced writer. She has an unerring eye for character, lavish language and an imagination that will offer you possibilities you did not think possible.”
The first born in a family of eight, Yvonne says that she draws her inspiration to write from her family who are writers, artists, caricaturists and painters. She also draws inspiration from the people around her and singles out Kenya with its self-irony, its spaces and multiple layers. Her Catholicism is also another area of spiritual expression and inspiration with its wealth of culture, ritual, writers, thinkers, liturgy and story all providing energy sources for her. Yvonne is concerned about increasing Africa 's works of art at the global mart. She feels that “where there are no government cultural policies, especially where culture and expression is relegated to the periphery of national growth, we are at the risk of losing our stories. This goes beyond identity loss, because as long as we have no recognition of the need to archive tales of being, we will forever look to others to tell us who we are and how to be.”
Weight of Whispers, www.kwani.org 2003