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Left Photo Credit: Paul Munene ; Right Photo Credit: Wambui Mwangi


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Short Bio

Note: Shailja is pronounced Shell-jah.


Shailja Patel is an award-winning poet, playwright, theatre artist, and creator of Migritude. She is author of Migritude I: When Saris Speak, and two collections of poetry: Dreaming In Gujurati, and Shilling Love. Her work has been translated into eight languages. She is 2009 Guest Writer at the Nordic Africa Institute. CNN describes Patel as an artist "who exemplifies globalization as a people-centered phenomenon of migration and exchange." The Gulf Today (United Arab Emirates) calls her "the poetic equivalent of Arundhati Roy."

Full Bio

Kenyan poet, playwright and theatre artist, Shailja Patel, performs at venues ranging from New York's Lincoln Center to Durban's Poetry Africa Festival. She has been described as an artist "who exemplifies globalization as a people-centered phenomenon of migration and exchange" (CNN), and "the poetic equivalent of Arundhati Roy" (The Gulf Today, UAE).


In 2006, Patel premiered her one-woman show Migritude I: When Saris Speak, in the San Francisco Bay Area. The show was chosen for the season premiere of KQED TV's Spark! Arts and Culture programme. It received a prolonged standing ovation at the 2007 World Social Forum in Nairobi, and Ford Foundation funding for a critically-acclaimed Kenya tour.

Migritude I: When Saris Speak was published in 2008, in a bilingual Italian-English edition, by Lietocolle, and launched at the Genoa International Poetry Festival. Patel opened and closed the first World Authors and Literary Translators Conference (WALTIC) in Stockholm, and featured at the Internazionale Festival and the AWID Global Forum in Capetown, in 2008.


Patel has spoken at over thirty colleges, universities, and conferences, including keynote student conference addresses at Yale and Brown. Her poems are included in the online exhibits of the International Museum of Women, the Museum of the African Diaspora, and the Asian Poets Collection of New York University. They have been translated into eight languages, and used in high schools, colleges, and workshops across the world. Patel is the 2009 African Guest Writer at the Nordic Africa Institute.


Awards include a Creation Fund Award from the National Performance Network, the inaugural Fanny-Ann Eddy Poetry Award from IRN-Africa, the Voices of Our Nations Poetry Award, an Innovative Talent Award from Indian American Women Empowered, and the Outwrite Poetry Prize of the New York Lesbian and Gay Centre.


Patel is an active member of Kenyans for Peace, Truth and Justice, which works towards a just and equitable democracy in Kenya.