Recap of Storymoja Festival 2017, held amid fistfights in Uganda and protests in Kenya
Asked by KUTV about the situation in Uganda, Daniella Nambozo, from the country’s sister festival Babishai, said, “We are only clinging on to hope.”
The same could be said of Kenya, where a protracted presidential race is fanning ethnicity and choking the economy.
Founded by Muthoni Garland to celebrate creativity, Storymoja Festival has evolved from a reading fiesta in 2007 to a one-stop shop for all things art and literature.
Artistes and writers came from around the continent and overseas for its 10th anniversary. Uniformed schoolkids dominated the audience from Wednesday to Friday, while adults and expats streamed in over the weekend.
The venue, Nairobi National Museum, was a five-minute drive from the city. Those who took a taxi missed the “thrill” of a matatu ride, with its loud music and constant attempts to crash into anything that’s moving.
An enticing array of sessions welcomed one to the festival, making you wish you could be in more than one place at the same time.
Depending on your destination, your path branched off to a large auditorium, stumbled on an intimate hall, headed straight to a paved courtyard, sloped down to a four-tier amphitheatre or meandered to a tented garden.
You could jog your creative juices to Chuma Nwokolo’s instructions, or debate why prizes matter with Lizzy Attree.
You could think up ways to fight piracy with Kinyanjui Kombani, or visit the bookstand and buy original copies from Magunga Williams.
You could lie on cushions and watch Philippa Namutebi perform The (Un)Spoken, or sit on edge and listen to Rasna Warah explain UNsilenced.
You could get up and dance to Joanne Ball-Burgess’s choreography, or roll on the floor laughing at Mike Kudakwashe’s stand-up comedy.
You could sit and nod solemnly at the tributes to Kofi Awoonor and Wangari Maathai, or get lost in soul-searching on the festival theme of “Black Peace”.
You could sneak into the women-only talk on gender issues and get enlightened by Mumbi, or try to keep a straight face as Rev Timothy Njoya discusses The Divinity of the Clitoris.
Whatever the case, you could count on one thing: an escape from the troubles in the political arena, at least for the five days Storymoja was in town.
Because a whole decade after post-election violence killed over 1,000 people in Kenya and starved landlocked Uganda of supplies, the region is once again playing with fire.
By award-winning poet Tom Jalio (http://bit.ly/JalioTales)