This was a few years back – and it was the first festival that plunged me into the writing world. Muthoni Garland was the first festival organizer who decided to take a chance on me and my novice self – including giving me a panel with Kenyan literary greats. I was humbled and still look back at that opportunity with so much gratitude.
Still lots to be be written about that time at Storymoja but my top memories are below:
Attack of the Shidaz; I loved watching Muthoni Garland’s play at the festival. The performers were excellent and made her writing come to life. I really admired how they were able to engage the audience and have us become part of the performance.
The authors’ room at the venue: I loved this space. Friendships were made and cemented in this room. This is where I got to meet the likes of Harriet Anena (“A nation in labor”), James Murua (“Nairobiliving” “JamesMurua.com”), Beverly Nambozo, Alex Nderitu (When the Whirlwind Passes), Ndiritu Wahome, Kinyanjui Kombani, Juliet Barnes, amongst others. The friendships I made in this space have led to lots of other interesting opportunities (interviews, referrals, festival invites, drink-ups etc.)
Uliza Kiatu, H_art the band: This is not even my own memory, but one from my mother and my sister. They keep speaking about how they heard some heart-tugging guitar chords being played, turned around and found H_art the band playing their amazing hit “Uliza kiatu” right next to them on the grounds. These are the types of things that happen at Storymoja – you never know what amazing performance could be starting right next to you.
Wole Soyinka keynote address: You have never seen a full parking lot until you have seen the parking lot on the morning of Wole Soyinka’s keynote address. Seeing the legend in person would have been enough of a memory to take to my after-life even if all he did was just stand there and smile. Seeing him in person and hearing him touch on topics that are so dear to my heart – him reflecting on the Westgate terror attack that took place during the previous year’s Storymoja, hearing him pay homage to all who died during the attack – including the great Ghanian poet Kofi Awoonor and hearing him talk about issues that really spoke to my soul were almost too much to take. To date, my favourite non-fiction work of Soyinka’s is still “Climate of Fear” from the Reith lectures. It was an honor to see him echo sentiments from this timely piece in person.
Seeing Vuyelwa Maluleke – an amazing South African performance poet in person. It was the night of the gala – all the VIPs and VIIPs were gathered there. I am not actually quite sure how I managed to get into the gala. All I know is that the moment I fell in love with poetry (and began to see it as something other than the never-ending torture it had been in high school) was somewhere between seeing Vuyelwa perform at the gala and meeting all these other amazing African poets who brought poetry to life. She performed “Big girl” and I fell in love. Since then I have become obsessed with her other poems including “Hair” and “Big school.”