The Moto Books and Arts Festival was hosted at the Village Market Mall in Nairobi, Kenya from April 21-24, 2022. The festival theme was Firing up African Literature.
The Moto Book and Arts Festival concept unveiled to the public in February, promised to bring together people in the publishing and writing as well as the arts community together. The event powered by HalfPriced Books in partnership with the Village Market Mall assured a platform for local and international authors, publishers, illustrators, booksellers, artists, and brands to showcase their work and share emerging literature trends.
The event ran for three days and gave residents of Nairobi what they had been missing out on for a long while. Moto for those not in the know means fire in Kiswahili and the event brought the heat to Nairobi’s literary space. Here is a snapshot;
Panels where writers and other personalities in the literary space chat about their work or a burning topic related to their work in a public setting are an important part of any festival. The Moto festival had three of these starting with the chat between Mshai Mwangola and Sitawa Namwalie on Safeguarding Cultural Legacies through African Literature. The other two panels, both moderated by lit blogger James Murua were a chat between Silas Nyanchwani (Sexorcised) and Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah (The Sex Lives of African Women) on their books. The last of the panels was “We Need New Names – The New Faces of Kenyan Literature” with Makena Maganjo (South B’s Finest) and Collins Sakwa Ongoma (The Campus Exile, Premium Tears).
One of the roles of a festival is to level up the people in their industry and the Moto Festival did this with three masterclasses to support those who write in Kenya. These were “How to Write a book” conducted by Muthoni Garland, “How to Publish a book” with Lucas Wafula, and “How to Generate Book Sales” with Nuria Books’ Abdullahi Bule.
There were a few events that kids attended and were excited by including storytelling & writing with African children conducted by Melissa Wakhu alongside John Namai and his team as well as the launch of the Tusome Hadithi Podcast. The podcast which is an initiative of Kenyan Poet (Njeri Wangari) and Lens Afrik Group has narration of stories for children by Caroline Mutoko, Eric Wainaina, Suzanna Owiyo, Dennis Ombachi, Chipukeezy, and Silayo.
There were opportunities for exhibitors to show their works to those who attended taken up by several people including Centonomy with Waceke Nduati, Nuria Books, Magdalene Mathews Ofori-Kuma, and several others.
The showcase event of the festival was the exclusive gala dinner hosted at the Trademark Hotel on Saturday, April 23. The evening was conducted by a famous emcee who sadly knew little about the writing and publishing industry and kept on with jokes that left readers rolling their eyes (Sample: I haven’t read since I was in school but at least now…). He must not be hired for these types of events going forward.
Apart from an inappropriate emcee (yes, he really got on our nerves), the event was a perfect example of what a gala dinner is supposed to be. It included a keynote from the Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah who had been flown in for the festival as well as addresses by festival founder Mercy Kibira, publisher John Mwazemba, writer Kinyanjui Kombani, Village Market’s Business Development Manager Dama Padwa and a representative of the Adopt-A-Library Initiative. There was also the launch of Teddy Warria’s book Son of the Nile.
Here are some videos from the festival