Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Story Moja Hay Festival

Friday 1st October 2010

On Fridays I attend British Councils Creative Enterprise Programme and since the Council is one of the major/global partners of the Story Moja Hay Festival we are reliably informed that there is no class in the afternoon (Hooray!). We are to prepare ourselves to attend the festival. In particular, we are to attend the British Council lecture series on creative industries.

After lunch we walk to Nairobi Railways ground the venue of the festival and by 1500 hrs and we are sitted in the British Council Marquee where a creative enterprise panel made up of environmental entrepreneur Andy Middleton, novelist Tiffany Murray, Julie Grigg and moderated by Anita Sethi (Journalist) is almost winding up its discussion.
However, I manage to get a few insights from the debate. Especially, how successful the UK has been in its venture of creating jobs by encouraging young people to venture into the creative industry. Andy Middleton encourages the people to be creative and try to learn as from many people as possible i.e. ‘If you steal from many people, its called research’
Thereafter, a discussion between the audience and the panel ensues and Andy passes his notebook for contacts so as to continue the discussion.

I take a walk around the tents and discover that there are few people than I had anticipated. This could be attributed to the fact that perhaps guys are still at work. However, going by what we know is that the most Kenyan’s are not into books and by the same breath the pubs would be full come 1701hrs. That explains why poetry is so doing so well of late. This is because the poets have discovered where to find people and bar owners have reciprocated because the patrons enjoy the pieces!

At 1600hrs I head back to the British Council Marquee where Benjamin Zephaniah is to perform some of his works and talk to Anita Sethi the journalist. I had been informed by a friend to look out for Benjamin Zephaniah and boy did he bring the house down…Oops tent!

Benjamin Zephaniah
Benjamin Zephaniah serenaded us with some of his poems for about ¾ of an hour. Some of his poems we got to hear are; black consciousness poems white-comedy, Love poem I love my mother and a get real poem wrong radio station (video ), Man to man (about macho man) and one of his commissioned poem London. The latter poem London he informed us that he had been commissioned by the London metropolitan. However, he had moved out of the city after writing it!
Thereafter, he sat down for a conversation with Anita Sethi. It is in these conversations I got to know he had rejected his OBE from the queen and had convinced another recipient to return their OBE on live television.
Benjamin also got political at times. Knowing this is where the US president Obama has his roots. He noted that the British should also be proud of Bob the Builder for the ‘Yes we can!’ phrase used during the US elections. Talking of US he did point out that he missed President George W. Bush and shared some of his favorite quotes from the 42nd president of US such as ‘the French do not have the word Entrepreneur’ and ‘English is our language, it was the language of Jesus’.
He also talked about the Iron lady (Margaret Thatcher) times. How it was offensive to talk about black coffee so as not to offend the blacks within the British society under the banner of ‘race relations’. While, at the same time the conservative government maintained deals will the apartheid regime in South Africa!
To crown it all Benjamin talked partly about his experiences growing up, his turning point and encouraged the young lad’s presents not to despair in life. Asked what kept him such a strong performer on stage. His reply was ‘I don’t eat meat, I run and I do not have a girlfriend’

At 1800hrs I was pretty much done with the first day of the festival.

Some of Benjamin's Poetry;

Saturday 2nd October 2010

I made my way to the venue of Story Moja Hay festival (Railway grounds) for the second day this event was going down. I arrived at 1145hrs just in time to catch the British High Commissioner, Rob Macaire leading a discussion on Muslim in Kenya and Muslim in the UK.
The High Commissioner had an eminent panel made up of Ahmednasir Abdullahi former Law Society of Kenya (LSK) chair and Hassan Ole Naado, CEO of Kenya Muslim Youth Alliance.
The High Commissioner began by giving a brief background of who he is. Pointing out that he is a professional diplomat who has served his country in Romania, US and his last posting was India. The High Commissioner’s last posting was, India which has a very large Muslim minority. Therefore, from this background one can say he is well versed with the topic at hand. Mind you, he also has considerable experience of working at the Middle East complex political situation so he is no push over (I respect those guys who have put their fingers on the line for the never unending problems of this region).
The High Commissioner with his eminent panel

So having done what diplomats do, he let the other members of the panel introduced themselves. Starting with, Mr. Ahmednasir Abdullahi who is a lawyer by profession. He practices in the city under Ahmednasir Abdikadir & Co. Advocates and pens down opinions for the Nation newspapers. The other member of the panel was Hassan Ole Naado who is the CEO of Kenya Muslim Youth Alliance.

So the High Commissioner kicked off the debate with his own account of ‘Muslims in Britain’.  According to the High Commissioner Britain has a high proportion of Muslim legislators unlike any other European Country.

So how have Muslim population changed the UK society?
Muslims have changed the Britain in many ways. Among this are;
  1. Food
  2. Academia
Muslim Statistics have also had an impact on;
  1. Unemployment
  2. Isolation
  3. Education
The above three issues being major issues in the UK political landscape.
So this has necessitated the UK government to begin interactions with the Muslim community in the UK so that they can find solutions to;
·        development of extremism and
·        terrorism
The High commissioner finished his account of ‘Muslims in the UK’ by pointing out that he does not buy the ‘clash of civilization’ theory.
The ‘Clash of Civilizations’ is a theory, which was proposed by political scientist Samuel P. Huntington after the end of the cold war. In his theory he argued that with the end of Cold War, Civilizations were bound to clash based on their cultures and religions i.e. Christians vs. Muslims.
Clash of Civilization?

Hassan Ole Naado began the Muslims in Kenya debate by pointing out that Muslims were among the first foreigners to settle on the Kenyan coast and brought with them civilization. He also posed why most Muslims live mainly in Majengo.
According to Hassan, the Muslims were late entrants into the civic society movements in Kenya. However, they have set up associations such as the Kenya Muslim Youth Alliance so as to put Muslim youth issues to the fray. 
Some of the major issues faced by the Muslim youths in Kenya are;
  • Intimidation from government security agencies
  • Foreign policies also affect the Muslim youths in Kenya e.g. Issue of Palestinian
  • Neighboring countries such as Sudan & Somalia provide a danger for Muslim youths
Hassan also pointed he does not buy the clash of civilization theory but stands at the point of ‘dialogue among civilizations’.

Mr. Ahmednasir Abdullahi began this discourse at hand by pointing out that in a BBC interview a former Prime Minister of Malaysia was asked if he was a ‘fundamentalist’. Well, his reply was that he is a fundamentalist of his religion NOT a fanatic.
Ahmednasir further pointed out that Muslims are normally contested on how they observe their religion. However, he pointed out that most liberal democracies especially in Europe allow Muslims to practice their faith.
He also noted that the standard system in UK is adorable unlike French, Spain or Belgium. Likewise, America was tolerant to Muslims before 9/11 and had proved a system for minorities to agitate their rights dating back from 1940’s when Jew’s Italian’s, Japanese and Chinese were discriminated.
Noting this, Ahmednasir emphasized on need to use appropriate venues for Muslims to ask for their rights.
Ahmednasir also alluded to the fact that good constitutions do not make good countries BUT it is the courts that make sure that a good constitution is implemented to the letter.

In the question and answer session the British High Commissioner alluded on the need not to confuse religious issues to political issues
The High Commissioner noted that the Somalia issues was a high priority issues of his government
Eminent audience
NB: For you bloggers out there it would be worthwhile for you to note that the High Commissioner does indeed blog. You can catch here: Rob Macaire blog
Also, Story Moja/Hay Festival British Council Marquee photo stream

In the afternoon (1400hrs-1530hrs) I attended the AfriCOG Marquee which was having a session on ‘whistle blowers’. This Panel was composed of Michela Wrong and Judy Kibinge. This session was moderated by Rasna Warah

M. Wrong
This seemed to have been the session everyone was waiting going by the numbers that were at AfriCOG Marquee. Everyone wanted to hear from Michela Wrong who got everything write on Kenya especially the corruption, corruption in high places!

So both Michaela and Judy Kibinge were provided with opportune moments i.e. John Githogo (former PS Governance& Ethics) arriving in London and seeking a place to stay while for Judy it was the tenth anniversary of Transparency International (TI).
M. Wrong also pointed out that she came to Kenya about 3-4 times in an year to conduct her research on the book it is our turn to eat.

In the question and answer session, Lee B. the deputy chief of Staff US embassy in Kenya first pointed out that when he was posted to Kenya M. Wrong’s book was one of the books he read. He asked for Wrongs assessment of the country 2-3 years now that the country got itself a new constitution. M. Wrong who pointed out that she was an pessimist stuck to that!

In the evening session 1600-1800hrs I was all over the place. However, I cooled my heels by watching a play my moving home at the Kenya Buzz Marquee. Thereafter, I called it a day.

Sunday 3rd October 2010
On the third and final day of the Story Moja Hay festival I attended;

The British Council Marquee: Hay on Earth-Future Scenario’s. This discourse was lead by Andy Middleton and Anjali Saini.
Among the issues discussed here were getting the product right before taking it to the market as opposed to what happens i.e. the reverse!
Andy Middleton talked about innovations especially in tourism circles. A case in point is innovation in Wales’s camp sites.
Andy Middleton also talked on how technology platforms can be used to bring people together to make things cheaper. A good example is in the design of cars. Technology platforms have been used to design cars at a much lower price and the end product is far much better as opposed to current models.
Andy also talked of how they have created a club called Club 1. Club 1 goal is to plough 1% of all the revenues of a company or 2.5 working days to charity. Through such endeavors it is possible to change the way the planet looks like.

Anjali Saini talked of eco-tourism. She had been involved in a venture to rate tourist resorts in terms of how best they were eco-friendly. The resorts had not changed with the times BUT are now forced by operators from Europe to be rated so that they can conduct business with them. A classic case of change from the top as opposed from the bottom!
We the audience also participated in the thought provoking debate.

One of the resolutions of attending this discourse was to travel widely in my country.

In the Afternoon I visited the Tandaa ICT Board Tent where Al Kags and Jane Delorie lead a discussion on the Colour of philanthropy.

Al Kags took us through the procedure KCDF goes through in setting up a community project. This procedure involves;
  • A discussion with the community on the problems they have as opposed to implementing a project without getting the opinions of the community
  • Asking the community why they have not done the said project
  • Asking the community what it can contribute ‘if’ KCDF was to assist them to implement the project
  • Getting an expert to the community to enrich the discussion at the community level and to better inform the community
  • Getting the community to contribute to the project through fund raising, housing the experts during the implementation of the project. Thus, keeping to a bare minimum.
  • Getting to know how the community will look after a project once complete

Afterwards we had a though provoking discussion lead by Al Kags who fronted this question. How come not many Kenyan’s contribute to charity?

At 1600hrs I headed back to the British Council Marquee for ‘Verse of Fire’. This was a conversation with poets; Benjamin Zephaniah, Tony Mochama, Njeri Wangari and moderated by Kerugo Macharia.
This was a thought provoking session and we got to enjoy more poetry from the entire panelist who recited their works.

Thereafter, I got to attend the US Embassy Stage where I was able to catch some story telling extravaganza from Mshai Mwagola, Eric Omondi and Moses the winner of the Story telling competition.

Bottom Line:
Story Moja Hay Festival is a good thing we have and I hope Kenyan people will get to appreciate it. To quote the US Ambassador, 'this was a festival of the mind and soul'.
I had myself a good time and I look forward to next year’s festival.

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