The three day Storymoja Hay Festival began on the 31st July at the Impala Grounds off Ngong Road. I arrived expectantly at the respectable hour of 11 am… but by the time I had made my way past the registration desk, I had realized that I was by far one of the later arrivals! The Grounds were scattered with large, well-pinioned tents, and each of them was well visited. By noon, 2 hours into the Festival, the Grounds were heaving!
The first three tents I came to were filled with students from various primary and secondary schools in Nairobi. The first the Kwani tent, where the students were attempting to outdo each other in poetry. The next, and most popular tent, was the Theaters tent; it was so full that some attendants and fans had to content themselves with standing outside of it, and yet, they looked quite happy as long as they could hear the engaging stories that authors were narrating. The Home Library was the next tent, and seemed to be a haven for primary school pupils, also happily listening to narrations.
I ended up at the Can Do tent, where Tolu Ogunlesi was facilitating a discussion on blogs and social networking, to the fascination of a large crowd of high school students.
Wandering by the other tents, a little later, including the Savanis and Books First tents, I realized that my bookshelf needed serious upgrading. On display were new local publications such as Billy Kahora’s ‘The true story of David Munyakei-Goldenberg whistleblower’, and Wasee Wasee-99 Mchongoano’s for your dissing pleasure (Storymoja/Storyhippo.)
It was so cold, I decided that I could use a nice hot cup of coffee. The Windsor and Dass restaurants were here to take care of that. Both restaurants served hot beverages, as well as a variety of cuisines including Ethiopian, Chinese, Swahili dishes.
Coffee in hand, I checked my programme and was drawn to a proposed discussion on Sexuality by Valentine and Gitau Njoroge, at the Camara Laye tent. I was not disappointed in choosing this as my next stop. It seems that when who don’t know each other begin discussing sexual matters, there’s always a bit of tension –but in such an atmosphere of openness as there was in that tent, all were ready and eager to air their views, ask questions and generally participate in the discussion, unafraid of being judged.
As I walked past the main stage that was to be used for performances by Matoya, followed by a fashion show, later that evening, my eye was caught by a well secured tent tucked in a corner of the Grounds. It turned out to be kids’ corner where kids were simply enjoying… well, being kids! All the usual activites of face painting, drawing, moulding, and bouncing castles were on offer to the happy tots, among others.
My eyes drifted again to a selection of strange sculptures in tent to my right. It was the Junk Art tent, and brimmed with pieces of art made from junk; some of which appeared priceless! I realized only then what it was that I had been tripping over, occasionally, during my explorations –pieces of Junk Art strewn about the Grounds!
Loud laughter could be heard coming from yet another tent. Peeking in inquisitively, I found that I had just walked into a well-attended ongoing discussion on dating, being hosted by now well-known Dr Chris Hart. It was an all ladies affair, the topic being “How to find the right man.”
There is no mistaking the importance of the Storymoja Festival. The exchanges and flow of information, stories, ideas and contemporary culture are of extreme value to Kenyans, and not only those working in the Publishing industry. I very much look forward to the next Storymoja Festival, expected to take place next year.