Friday, September 21, 2012

Back from Nairobi

I'm back from the Storymoja Hay Festival. It was fabulous! As is usually the case, I mostly forgot to take photos. I'm not a natural photographer, the taking of photos distracts me from my experience. I don't like taking photos or having them taken of me. But I did take a few when I remembered and here they are. 

This is from a session with Nigerian Lola Shoneyin, the author of The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives. If you haven't read this hilarious book you must. What I loved about this session was that the women interviewing Lola were from a book club in Nairobi, a book club that reads only African writers (they buy ebooks on their Kindles since it is even hard in Nairobi to get copies of African writers' books, just like it is here in Botswana). And Lola, who is a former drama teacher, is very entertaining. It was one of my favourite events of the Festival.

One of the most interesting sessions I attended was an interview of Miguna Miguna the author of Peeling Back the Mask: A Quest for Justice in Kenya (photo above)  Miguna was a senior advisor to the prime minister of Kenya, Raila Odinga. Miguna joined Odinga’s team enthusiastically thinking that the Prime Minister was a new leaf for the country, the man to lead them to a more equitable and honest Kenya. But quite quickly he began to see the chinks in Odinga’s surface and though he attempted to advise the Prime Minister, his advice fell on deaf ears. He left his job (first suspended and then asked to come back, an offer he refused). The book is a memoir of his life and his time in this administration. It has met with a strong backlash in the Kenyan community. At at least one event for the book, stones were thrown at the author. In the event I attended, the auditorium was pulsing with emotion. It is indeed a book that has Kenyans polarised. Miguna makes the point that if the country is to go forward, it must do so with knowledge. Though many Kenyans believe that Odinga is the best they have, Miguna feels that Kenyans should not compromise, that they should demand what they deserve and that the book is a way to further transparency and democracy. I’ve yet to read the book but I was very impressed with the robust debate.
Above is a photo of a few of the children who attended my writing workshop. I taught them about point of view: first and third. I read a few passages from some of my books so they could hear what each of the points of view sounded like. We discussed why writers choose each one. Then I had a photo and I asked them to write a short story about the photo. They first wrote a story in first person and then in third. It was quite fun to hear them read their stories, I really enjoyed the workshop.

The photo above is from a session I was involved in where I read my picture book published by Vivlia Publishers, Lorato and Her Wire Car. After I read the story, Storymoja's fantastic storyteller, Wangari Grace told the kids a story.

I realise I don't have any photos of myself doing anything. But just to prove I actually did go to Nairobi here is a photo of Lola and I speaking to a group of school children.

Nairobi is wonderful. I was so impressed with the vibrancy of their literary community, jealous actually. I wish we had it in Botswana. The event was held at the newly renovated national museum, a beautiful venue.  I loved meeting many of the writers I'd only heard about before like Lola and Muthoni Garland (who I stayed with in her beautiful home), and Billy Kahora. I had so many great conversations with all sorts of people. I'm now thinking of new ways of seeing things and doing things. I think that really should be the purpose of such events, for both the people who attend and the people who are part of it, to open our minds and let knew winds blow through. In that way it was a success, my brain is very windy at the moment.


Joyful said...

I'm glad you enjoyed your trip to Nairobi and that you've returned home inspired. I'm also glad you've introduced me to some Kenyan writers. Have a wonderful weekend!

Sue Guiney said...

Sounds fabulous. I don't go to enough of these things, and I should. people so often come back on such writing highs.

Lauri said...

Thanks Sue and Joyful. You're right Sue it does open your mind up attending such events. But too, travelling, though I love it, takes from my writing. You take time to get ready before hand, time for recovery afterward (and nowadays recovery is taking longer and longer).

Miss Braceface said...

Dear Lauri,
I loved your sessions (On e-publishing and the other on the motivations of an African writer)...I was so pleased to meet you in person and even take a picture with you. Wish you the very best!

Lauri said...

Thanks Miss Braceface! And thanks for passing by the blog. :)

Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

Sounds like you had a great trip Lauri. The POV workshop for the youngster must have been very rewarding for you! :)


Anonymous said...

Thanks Laurie. It was a pleasure sharing the session with you.

Lauri said...

Hi Wangari! I actually learned a lot from you at that session about how to read to the very little ones. I guess I'd forgotten a bit. Thanks for that.