For the last three semesters, the cantabile Shamba Boy (humour column) has been one of the most read articles of The 3rd Eye publications. Meet the author, Maalim Salat, as he tells Jay K more about this eye catching column that has attracted readership within campus and at times a rebuke from some of his tribesmen.
Jay: Who is Maalim Salat?
MS: Maalim Salat is a young man aged 23, born in Garissa, brought up and educated in Nairobi. He is a social and goal oriented guy who does not discriminate friends on grounds of religion or tribe. In short, a Wahome Mutahi in the making (smiles).
Jay: When did you start writing?
MS: I started writing jokes and funny anecdotes when I was in standard seven. In 2007 I was appointed the first editor of SMACDAT, a Starehe Muslim Association Publication, but the Shamba Boy series is the first continuous writing that I ever did. In 2009 I wrote the best selling Kiswahili-Kisomali translation book- it is a popular book among the Somali adults who try to learn Swahili language for the first time. Writing has been, is, and will be my religion.
Jay: (I like your spirit.) How is campus writing?
MS: Campus writing is a training ground for young writers and also a way of the latter to express their feelings.
Jay: Why did you decide to start writing this column?
Ms: I decided to start writing the Shamba Boy column because I felt that there was a need to express the students’ feelings in a humorous way. If you read any of my articles, you will find that behind the ushamba lies a grievances of a Moi University student. For example I wrote about the reasons why the Shamba Boy will die soon because he was a student at the School of Human Resource Development, in that article the Shamba Boy highlighted the problems the students at that school faces.
In another one, I wrote about when the Shamba Boy dreamt that he died and was to be tortured in a ‘hell with a difference’ and how the torture paraphernalia were not available in that hell. The story represented the constant blackouts in Hostel J and H, and also the lack of seats at LT4. Every Shamba Boy article represents us as the Moi University students but in a humorous way.
Jay: Now because you write from a Somali’s village boy perspective, how do they take it?
MS: Well, not all of them take it personal. However, there are few of them who miss the point and think that I am insulting them in my articles simply because I use the first person narrative but that is not the case.
Jay: Do your readers understand that your work is an artist’s mere fiction?
MS: From the comments, compliments and criticism I receive after the article is published, I conclude that most of the readers understand my work as fiction but occasionally some friends call me Shamba Boy and others say that what I write is what I do. Those who do not understand the connotative meaning of my articles, I encourage them to re-read them from The 3rd Eye blog and understand.
Jay: What would you like your readers to understand?
MS: That the Shamba Boy is a humour column that entertains while at the same time airs their grievances. I do not target any community: my articles are neutral and I am not a Shamba Boy. I am following the footsteps of my role model, the late Wahome Mutahi, who used his humour column – Whispers, as a voice for the common Kenyan at a time when Kenyans could only whisper their grievances against the government. Like I do, he also used the first person narrative.
Jay: What is in store for your audience?
MS: There is much more. My character, the Shamba Boy is now in third year. It will be over by next semester. After that, there will be a Mama’s Boy series, the same as the Shamba Boy but the character will be from a rich background.
Jay: (That’s awesome) Parting shot to campus writers?
MS: Let there be no fear in their hearts as they write. They are the voice of the students in Moi University. They may be intimidated but let them write the truth. Even Wangari Maathai and Wahome Mutahi were jailed and tortured but by the end they remain our heroes. God bless you all!
Jay: Thank you and keep going bro!