Tuesday, January 18, 2011

2010 Kwani? Literature Festival

Kwani? Literature Festival 2010 was one of those capping events for me in the year 2010. This festival was held from December 12-17, 2010 in various venues in Nairobi.
The festivals theme was 'Tell Us What Happened' and comprised of lectures from literary giants Ngugi wa Thiongo (chief guest of the festival) and Mĩcere Gĩthae Mũgo both professors, conversations from writers from all over Africa, panel readings of some of the works of writers at the festival and literature workshops.

The theme ‘tell us what happened’ was an attempt by Kwani? To stir conversation and deep reflection as to what happened in the 80’s and 90’s now considered a literary temporal black hole in Kenya and East Africa in general.
However what stood out for me in this festival was the mixture that presented itself of both old and young literature practitioners. I doubt that it was pure coincidence given the fact that Ngugi senior and junior were in attendance and at one point were put into a lively debate by none other than John Sibi Okumu

Day I: Festival Opening
Day one of the festival took place at Kifaru Garden’s home of Kwani?
Some of the highlights for me apart from the impeccable Gardens were performances by Mshai Mwangola Githongo, performances by Ed Pavlic and a first glimpse of the prodigy Mukoma wa Ngugi aka Ngugi wa Thiongo’s son. They say an apple does not fall from the tree. In this case they were spot on!

I also heard a reading from Robert Serumaga and boy wasn’t he on fire. Now I know why he has President Museveni security apparatus has beef with him. This is because he call it as he see it.
The evening reading by the moon light, born fire and paraffin lit garden surely brought the best out of Binyavanga Wainaina. Reading from his ‘yet to be published’ up coming book as he put it. He left me in stitches with stories about self while growing up. Taking shots at powerful individuals in a funny way such as the Moi milk and talking of his rebellious youth days when he used to spot a meow meow hair style.
The evening ended with some music from Atemi Oyungu and a cameo by Eric Wainaina who was in the house…oops in the Garden!
Featured Writers at the festival.
Source: Kwani? 
Day 2:
Day two of the festival was held at Kenya National Museum amphitheatre aka Louis Leakey Auditorium and so were most of the events hence forth.
Having missed the first writers in conversation (Rebeka Njau & Binyavanga Wainaina) due to daily engagements at Kilimo I was in time for Western African Writers in conversation. Where Okey Ndibe had a time of his life trying to explain whether the Nigerians are up to taking over the universe given the implosion of Nigeria aka Nollywood in our TV sets!
The other writers in conversation were between Ngugi wa Thiongo and Mukoma wa Ngugi. Others may question the veracity of the methods used by John Sibi Okumu to get the job of facilitating the conversation between father and son but in the end of it we got to know why Ngugi wa Thiongo prefers to use mother tongue to write his works as opposed to English.

Day 3:
I managed only to catch the public lecture done by Micere Mugo at the University of Nairobi and unlike other Public Lectures this was unique. Am sure this is expected of a poet and playwright. Her public lecture had interludes of performances.

Day 4:
I missed this due to other engagements but day 4 was set aside for a Public Lecture by Ngugi wa Thiongo

Day 5:
This day had an array of activities but not to be missed was Philip Ochieng reflecting on politics and writing in the context of his iconic work ‘The Kenyatta Succession’.
Here I got a glimpse of the man behind the most loved column on Sunday Nation.

Day 6:
The festival ended with the launch of Kwani? 06

Useful Links:
  1. Kwani? Website
  2. Kwani? Lit Fest

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