Celebrating East African Writing!
Written by James Murua (See James’ Website)
Kenya’s major literary event was upon us yet again happening at the Nairobi Railway Club from 1-3 October. Last year had gotten quite a few rave reviews and this one promised no less. I was taking part running a few sessions namely: Facebook hook ups, a chat with John Kiriamiti writer of note and judging the twitter competition for #tobeafrican.
I attended two days of the festival which is two more than some of y’all and it was lovely. The Railways club had several tents set up with several stands dotting the whole place. The way the place was set up was with many tents set up for people to make their presentation with projector and laptop as well as the usual plastic chairs that we all love sitting on at weddings. A popular tent seemed to be the one of the US Embassy which had several sessions where people could know more about why they free you from going to their country. Also in there were several other tents including others one for Africog, Tandaa the government ICT guys, Kenyabuzz, the British Council who had shipped in a few guys from that isle to our North, Kwani, Storymoja the event hosts and several others.
There were 90 events in three days on show here so you really cannot expect one human being to have a review of even one third of them seeing as I only went for two days. My session on Friday morning never happened as there was a break down in communication between event organisers and writer John Kiriamiti, whom I had met earlier in the year. In stead I sat in on a story telling session with some students who had to tell stories with a “diversity” theme and possibly win a chance of flying to the US “freeze free.” Not too many people followed the rules and cutting the chaff from the wheat was not to difficult.
Eventually I headed to the Tandaa tent where I was running a session on “Facebook hook ups: Is technology changing the fabric of society.” I was running the session with recently crowned King of Facebook Stephen “Syoks” Musyoka and I have to say that Syoks blew them away especially when he told us about how we are using technology not well. Like the concept of the “Facebook Funga” which is basically: Monday; Friend request Tuesday: Inbox Wednesday: commenting on photos Thursday:… you get the drift.
With that session run through I also had a quick listen to Aly Khan Satchu who runs Rich.co.ke and is the brains behind Mindspeak the series of events where we meet successful people like Caroline Mutoko, Sicily Kariuki, Martha Karua and more. His session was about the opportunity that we currently have with the access we all have as young people. Anyone we were looking for is closer than we at any one time in history. He also reminded us that with the technology world changing quite rapidly and Kenya being at the centre of it all the list of richest Kenya families will be changing. Lucky you young pals.
Another session I attended was one by Jane Bussman. She is a comedy writer who re
cently unleashed “My worst date ever“ a book about the struggle in Northern Uganda by fomented by Joseph Kony. I missed her act but attended the question and answer session on Sunday where people could chat with the hilarious writer flanked by Andrea Bohnstedt who runs Ratio Magazine and is also a columnist with The Star newspaper and Betty Muragori who is also known in certain circles as Sitawa Namwale the poet who penned “Cut off my tongue.” That Bussman lass is funny. And she clearly cares about what is happening in Northern Uganda with kids being kidnapped and made to be solders and sex slaves. And in the midst of it all she seems to come out with comedy nuggets. When I grow up I want to be just like her. Only that I don’t want to have to be forced with the trauma of war. And squat loos. For those who missed the show (me included) it will be happening soon in Nairobi. Watch this space.
In another session was to be a bunch of poet/writers Tony Mochama (Chelski shindwo! Riswaaa!!!) Njeri Wangari (author of “Mines and Minefields” and blogger of Kenyanpoet.blogspot.com) and Benjamin Zephaniah doing a session on the poetry and how it can change the world. If Barack Obama fails to change America he will rue missing this event. Also in the house was Njoki Ndungu doing yet another event the new constitution and what it means. Oyunga Pala and Chris Hart were running a brunch on hooking up with Mr. Right. So many things happening in that little space at the Railway club.
Away from the many sessions, the whole place was a bustle of activity with people from all walks of life milling around. From the list of people I know there was among others Sandra Mushi who I last run into about four year ago at a writers event organised by our friends from Kwani. Since then she has started a blog Sandra’s Den and even published her book “The Rhythm Of My Rhyme” which you can buy at most stores. Well in. Also from that part of my life was a lass who I knew as Annette but who uses the name Litivini Majanja. She has also started her blog and the novel she had been trying to have published by Eva Kasaya on her life as a house help is out. She looked rather relaxed considering that whenever I met her at these literary type gigs she was one of the organisers and was running around like a G4S guard recently gotten his big payday and he had to make it to the nearest border. In there was also Potash who has since wound up his black campaign and his latest assault to our sensibilities is coming very soon.
Also in the house were so many of the news friends I have met from the twitterverse like @Wamathai, @erickongweno (Nakuru’s finest), @Lolocococomoco, @Soul_fool, @savvykenya, @swabrah, @adamkiboi,@bintim (Man Useless fan), @fivefoottall, @edwinbaru, @maikwambo(who has recently launched Kenya’s first portal dedicated to a sport not run by its association… Rugby360.net… Y’all should check it out)… I can write these twitter names all day so let’s just say the twitterverse was very well represented. Talking about the twitter verse there was a #tobeafrican competition where people would tweet and hope to win a prize and I just happened to be one of the judges (busy me). This session happened on Sunday morning hosted at the Tandaa ICT board tent and quite ably manned or rather personned by @kaburo The session was run by @marcusolang who has a sense of humour to compete with best of them all and runs this hilarious blog. He was running it alongside Kevin who used to be a respected poet called “Nemesis” until “Man Njoro” came along and that was the last we heard of the name Nemesis. The session was actually quite fun and we learnt more about the Twitter and then we chose the winners of the competition and they included;
People’s award: @savvykenya
Panel award: @Woozie_m
Celebrity award: @Soul_fool
I can’t wait for Storymoja 2011 where things will be happening. For those who can’t wait until October next year there is hope for you. Our friends from Storymoja are organising to have over twenty thousand people reading at one time breaking the current world record of 15,000. We can do it people! Watch out of more details at they come.
:: More images from the event – courtesy of The Daily Standard