Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Jukwaani! Which is a project organised by Goethe-Institut (German's) and Alliance Française (French) was here with us again for the second time. This festival which incorporates spoken word,  poetry, mashairi, story telling, hip hop and other forms of performance art took place towards the end of September. September 24-26 to be precise.

I attended the opening ceremony on Friday 24th at Goethe Institut albeit late but in time for the panel discussion on Swahili poetry. This session was titled; 'USHAIRI WA KISWAHILI: JANA NA LEO ‘Swahili Poetry: Past and Present’ and was chaired by Prof. Kimani Njogu, a Swahili linguist and founder of Twaweza Communications. The panelist assisting him interrogate Swahili Poetry: Past and Present were; 
  • Prof. Rocha Chimerah (Pwani University, Kilifi) ‘The classical poetry of Muyaka wa Haji’
  • Prof. Ahmed Nabhany (RISSEA, Mombasa) ‘The different types of Swahili poetry’
  • Dr. Edwin Masinde (Kenyatta University) ‘Wrestling with the past: Debate about Swahili Poetry and its form’
  • Prof. Clara Momanyi (Catholic University) ‘The poetry of Shaaban Robert’
This session also featured poetic performances by Nuhu Bakari (Nation Media) and Amira Said (RISSEA).  Nuhu Bakari kicked off the session with a poem 'Utamu wa Kiswahili ni watu kukitumia' i.e. The beauty of Kiswahili is by people using it

Thereafter, the Swahili scholars got to do what they love most, talking about Swahili in Swahili. 

Prof. Rocha  gave us abit of history into the life of Muyaka and the impact that he had on swahili poetry. Muyaka is credited with moving swahili poetry from the mosque to the market place.

Prof. Ahmed who is at the Research Institute of Swahili Studies of Eastern Africa gave a rundown of the different types of Swahili Poetry and discarded the myth that all swahili poetry is known as Mashairi.
Prof. Clara Momanyi talked in length about the poetry of Shaabani Robert. In there she picked some wisdom from Shaabani Robert  for the ladies on how to keep their guys! She also talked about the poet himself and the research she was conducting on him.

Amira Said closed the session with her poetic piece in praise of the organisers of the event.

Thereafter, Prof. Kimani Njogu entertained some few questions and insights from the audience so that the discourse was not a one sided affair.  What I noted from this session is that Kiswahili is now the 1st official language followed by English according to the new constitution. (Perhaps, I should start blogging in Swahili!).
Also, the Swahili linguist were in good moods since they had been pushing for this for a long time. I believe Twaweza communication was in the forefront of pushing for this when views were been collected on the new constitution

Official opening  followed this session at around half past six. The Ambassador of France, Mrs. Elisabeth Barbier (outgoing French envoy) and the Head of Press and Cultural Affairs at the German Embassy in Kenya (in her first public event. She was posted to the country recently. Mind you the lady already knew some Swahili) were there to open the festival. They encouraged us to embrace and use Kiswahili.
2010 Jukwaani! Poster
It would also be worthwhile to note Radio France International (RFI) has started to broadcast in Swahili.

Once the festival was officially opened we moved to Alliance Francaise  for the cocktail reception. Obviously, one has to enjoy how the French and Germans know to treat us. The cocktail was at the Alliance Francaise garden.

Mwana Mdogo wa Mfalme
After the cocktails, we went into the auditorium for play, Mwana Mdogo wa Mfalme (The little Prince). Translated from the famous work of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, 'The Little Prince' is a classic tale of equal appeal to children and adults and the A/F director noted it is very popular in France in her remarks before the play started. 
On one hand, Mwana Mdogo wa Mfalme (The little Prince) is the story of an airman's discovery in the desert of a  small boy from another planet- the little prince and his stories of intergalactic travel. while on the other hand it is a thought- provoking allegory of the human condition. mind you some of the scene's was customized into the Kenyan environment.

This play marked the end of the first day of the festival and a Friday well spent in Nairobi.

Jukwaani! is a joint initiative supported by the special fund for cultural projects established by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of both France and Germany created on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty sealing reconciliation and friendship between the two countries who were bitter rivals when there was chaos in Europe.

Jukwaani Website

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