Pan Africanism panel: John Dumelo, Kwame Dawes, Ama K. Abebrese, Nii Ayikwei Parkes moderated by Sena Tsikata at Storymoja Ghana

Pan Africanism panel: John Dumelo, Kwame Dawes, Ama K. Abebrese, Nii Ayikwei Parkes moderated by Sena Tsikata at Storymoja Ghana

The Storymoja Ghana Festival 2016 was hosted at the W.E.B. Dubois Centre in Accra, Ghana from 21-25 September 2015.

We were there when the Storymoja Festival was born in Nairobi, Kenya in 2007 when we had a little event called the Nyama choma festival. Knowing our love for all things nyama choma (roast meat in Swahili) and beer in Kenya, Storymoja Publishers’ idea was to trick us into coming for fun times and convincing us that we could read a book too. At that time, the events were hosted at Ngong Road’s Impala Grounds.

The festival in years took on the identity of a book festival staring first as the Storymoja Festival, changing to the Storymoja Hay festival and reverting back to Storymoja Festival. It also moved a few times. From Impala Grounds, it went to the Railway Grounds and then to the National Museum all within Nairobi.

Last year it made a leap of faith and moved to the more spacious Nairobi Arboretum; that move didn’t go down well with many who had gotten used to the museum which was central for all. The festival wasn’t just suffering from people not showing up large numbers like in previous years. It was suffering from a serious lack of support from the Kenyan establishment – government and corporations.

“It would take corporate support, especially advertising, for us to attract at least 20,000 festival goers,” said festival founder Muthoni Garland when she spoke to Publishing Perspectives.

In 2016, the festival would be on the road again. It wouldn’t be moving to another venue in Nairobi but to another city; Accra in Ghana to the West of the continent. The relationship between Storymoja and Ghana is a bittersweet one. It started well enough when guests of the 2013 edition were introduced guest from the West African country. It became horrible when one of the Ghanaian guests, legendary poet Kofi Awoonor was gunned down at the Westgate Mall which was attacked by terrorists.

In the next year, there was a memorial lecture for the slain legend which was given by Kwame Dawes of the African Poetry Book Fund. The lecture would be given by Afetsi Awoonor the son of departed poet in 2015.

In 2015, the festival moved to Ghana. There would be many activities happening at various venues in Accra including the W.E.B. Dubois Centre and the Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City. The main activities would be hosted at the former venue. These were exhibitions, food stands, book signings, an art gallery, a children’s corner and more.

The event was kicked off on September 21st with a dinner hosted by Storymoja Patron Auma Obama at the Kempinski which featured the 3rd Kofi Awoonor Memorial Lecture given by Prof Lade Worsonu dubbed “Enlarge the Reign”.

With the events well and truly happening, the events which were eighteen in total with many guests featured. Some of the highlight events were a panel Discussing Pan Africanism- ‘The Role of Arts and Culture in Encouraging and Strengthening the Bonds Solidarity between People of African Descent.’ This event featured Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Sena Tsikata, Ama K. Abebrese, Dr. Neal Hall and John Dumelo

Also featuring was the Storytelling “pimpinaa” which featured Grace Omaboe and Maimouna Jallow and was targeted at younger residents of Ghana.

Also featuring were names that have started to become very familiar to some readers of this blog like Chuma Nwokolo who was who was in a panel entitled “tackling the beast called corruption” alongside Fiona J Kemigisa.

The final evening saw performances galore. The most memorable was the “Nigeria Explodes on Stage” which was a live performance by Maimouna Jallow based on Lola Shoneyin modern classic The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives.  There were also other performances of spoken word, music, dance and read aloud in what the organisers called the Storymoja Stirup.

Please check out the below videos and images of the events in Accra, Ghana. All images are courtesy of the Storymoja Ghana Facebook page and Grin Studios.

Students at Storymoja Ghana

Students at Storymoja Ghana

Nii Ayikwei Parkes at Storymoja Ghana

Nii Ayikwei Parkes at Storymoja Ghana

Maimouna Jallow at Storymoja Ghana

Maimouna Jallow at Storymoja Ghana. Photo/Grin Studios

Grace Omaboe runs the Storytelling pimpinaa

Grace Omaboe runs the Storytelling pimpinaa

Dr Auma Obama

Dr Auma Obama