Shailja Patel is an acclaimed Kenyan playwright, performance artist, and political activist. She is a third-generation East African of Indian Gujarati heritage, born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. Patel lived in England and the United States while attending college.
In 2006, Patel debuted Migritude, a ninety minute spoken word that depicts the exceptional journeys of migrant women from East Asia and India. Migritude’s live performances have been seen in the United States, Sweden, Britain, Italy, and South Africa. The theatrical performance became the basis of her book by the same title. Migritude instantly became a Seattle Times and Amazon Bestseller. The book unfolds with intimate excerpts of Patel’s life and skillfully weaves together its main themes: migration, colonization, and liberation.
The prominent writer has also created two poetry collections: Dreaming in Gujurati and Shillings Love, published by Fyre Press in 2000 and 2002 respectively. Patel’s collections have been featured in several anthologies and journals, including Women’s Lives: Multicultural Perspectives and Bullets and Butterflies: A Queer Slam Anthology. In addition, the poems have been nationally broadcasted on Pacifica Radio and the National Radio Project.
The African Women’s Development Fund featured Patel on its list of Fifty Inspirational African Feminists. Patel has been honored with the Sundance Theatre Fellowship, the Voice of our Nations Poetry Award, and the Fanny Eddy Poetry Award from IRN-Africa. She received the Outwrite Poet Award by the New York Lesbian and Gay Center. And Elle India Magazine listed her on its New Guard Power List. She is also a recipient of a Serpent Source Foundation For Women Artists Grant.
Patel is a co-founder of Kenyans for Peace, Truth, and Justice, an organization that lobbies for equitable democracy in Kenya. She is a passionate yoga instructor, seasoned accountant, and political economist and regularly guest speaks on college campuses. Currently, Patel lives between Berkeley, California and Nairobi, Kenya.