In January 2014, the inaugural Creatives Academy, a writer’s workshop, organized by Kenyan writers and her department was birthed. It is here that I became acquainted with her. Dr. Wandia Njoya is the head of department of Language and performing Arts at Daystar University. She is a down to earth lady who relates to her students as peers.
She heads a department providing courses designed to make one think critically about life. I have been part of some of her classes either as a visitor or a student. One of the classes is Introduction to the francophone world. I thought it was a strictly Francois affair when I heard about it. The first time I visited the class, I was awed to find them sampling foods from the Francophone countries.
During mt last semester at Daystar, I picked the class just to fill my extra hours before graduating. Otherwise, I would have left the gates of enlightenment without the knowledge gleaned from this class. We were just four students discussing Francophone African history and sharing meals occasionally from different countries. About us being just four students in a class, Dr. Wandia has severally said that students are shying away from history, while that is what gives people an identity.
This lady has a way of thinking against the grain and questioning what many people would ordinarily accept. Her blog, she describes herself as an African, Woman and Teacher. She writes opinion pieces that make you think twice about things. An example is Obama’s GES: A not so new beginning. While almost everyone was exited about Obama’s homecoming, she took the lonely path to question the sudden interest in Kenya.
“She is too emotional”, one student at Daystar Nairobi said. I had a chance to work with her as an intern in Creatives Academy and would describe her as brutally honest, as opposed to emotional. She does not shy away from pointing out mediocrity. That made me grow professionally and hurt my feelings in equal measure. It’s one quality of a good mentor and it made me grow as a writer and professionally in general.
Wandia once spoke in chapel at Daystar University about style, and dressing. She shared her metamorphosis over the years in defining her style. She even showed us pictures of herself having dreadlocks, short dyed hair, different haircuts and cornrows. She shared of her struggle to define her style, before finally settling on what felt right for her. “My style icons are Fatoumata Diawara, India Arie, Michelle Obama and Suzanna Owiyo. I don’t dress the way they do, but if I had a little more money and a lot more time, I would,” she said.
Daktari, as many call her, is a breast cancer survivor, I first learned that from her Facebook post. Then I had a chat with her about it. “Most of the church folk harassed me with prayers for healing, others brought their advice on healthy eating it was so overwhelming,” she said. “All I wanted was to be left alone to process the condition that I had been diagnosed with”, She added. This was six years ago. I could relate with her story, because when some Christians hear you have a ‘terminal’ condition, they offer their advice, prayers and say you don’t possess enough faith when you choose to stick to your doctor’s instructions. Something I have experienced over the years.
“I am someone who does not shy away from being checked, so when my doctor suggested it, I readily accepted,” she said. “I am lucky to have been diagnosed early, because it was an aggressive strain of cancer,” she added. She is now cancer free because of early diagnosis and treatment. She had to cut her dreadlocks during her therapy and decided to be creative with short hair.
One of the projects she has spearheaded in her work as the HOD for the Languages and Performing Arts is Ajenda Africa. She says that’s what kept her going in the faith as a single woman.”Curtis Reed’s first Soul of Sex workshop found me skeptical that love was indeed for me,” she says. This is a Pan African movement that addresses Africa holistically. It must be the reason behind some of the courses that she has introduced in the department, like Love, Sex and Poetry class. She also contributes to the pan African conversations through the Ajenda Africa blog.
She took her free spirit a notch higher when she walked down the aisle with a custom made gown, designed from African print and blue denim. She got married to Chris Lymo on July 30, 2015 in a colorful, African themed wedding at Mavuno Hill City. She surprised the congregation at her wedding when she and her lady friends danced to Sauti Sol’s Sura yako.
Chris Lymo, author of the book and blog- My side of the Street, was part of the inaugural Creatives Academy, a writers’ workshop that was held at Daystar University. This is where he met the love of his life, as he shares in this post.
“I look forward to writing together and making people’s lives better,” she said during the wedding. They share a common passion of touching lives positively. Chris is an addiction counselor, who helps others out of alcoholism. He has a story of a past struggle with alcohol, and triumph over the struggle which he documented in his book.
Dr. Wandia loves flowers. This is evident in her social media posts and her blog. Her favorite quote on all these platforms seems to be smell the flowers. Her favorite ones seem to be calla lilies. Her blog Love and Revolution has lilies as the cover photo. She even carried a bouquet of yellow calla lilies down the aisle.
I suspected that she might be related to Dr. Reverend Timothy Njoya, because of her surname. This was confirmed by her Facebook status.
“Wandia has mentored many students and often beams with pride at their success. It was no wonder, her wedding was flooded by students and alumni of Daystar University. Thank you daktari for your tough love and efforts at improving our lives.
2 thoughts on “Wandia Njoya, a mentor who loves to ‘smell the flowers’.”
Clarifying – and trusting it is very encouraging to other faculty members. May they walk the same path of mentoring, of thinking “against the grain,” to be truly creative.
Very true Donald K. Smith.