Hargeysa International Book Fair 2015: Day 4 is getting hot in here

Maimouna Jallow, Nanjala Nyabola, Chuma Nwokolo and Okey Ndibe
Maimouna Jallow, Nanjala Nyabola, Chuma Nwokolo and Okey Ndibe

As the delegates from around the world get even more acclimatised to the land and people of Somaliland the festival gets better and better. August 4th was the fourth day of the festival and we were now firmly in the second half of activities.

There were panels galore with moderators who would grill panelists about their opinions. Unlike in the previous days, a lot of these panels were “meet the author” events where the audience would get to know the way writers thought. One of the coolest of the events had to be of Nigerian author and advocate for good governance Chuma Nwokolo moderated by Ciku Kimeria. The man is extremely popular in this town, and any town he goes and having been here before, the audience responded to him with the delight that is reserved for an old friend who has been missed. He explained how his work was focused on indifference and despair that happens when there is bad governance. He also explained that he was now focusing on getting the “bribe code” which he supports and is expected to become law in Nigeria in the next four years.

South African author Jonny Steinberg was another author that the festival delegates interacted with as his book A Man of Good Hope being very topical. It tells the tale of a Somali immigrant who travels to South Africa overland over a long period. Steinberg told us the challenges he had in doing this project including the interview subject asking for cash from him and eventually having a fall out. This was a very good lesson for those who might want to write biographies especially where the subject might turn “rogue” on you midway through the process.

Also presenting her work was Kenyan writer Ciku Kimeria now no longer as moderator but in the hot seat in conversation with Nimo Jirdeh. The writer of Of Goats and Poisoned Oranges (my review) spoke about her journey first as a writer who would write stories for her family to the self-published book she is now famous for. It was an enlightening discussion and anyone keen to self-publish was well-schooled. I know I was.

The other session of interest for those speaking English at the event was a presentation of a project being run by Kenyan- based Togolese national Maimouna Jallow moderated by BBC Africa’s Mary Harper. The project called Folk Tales From East Africa catalogues stories from East Africa before they disappear. She showed us a video she made on her trip to Zanzibar documenting some of the stories which explained the project in-depth. Her presentation elicited much excitement and if the many questions from the audience are any indication, this was a popular topic. Maimouna stated that unlike in West Africa, in her research it appeared that an integral part of the British colonial project was to erase local culture. She said she had observed that, while West Africans retained some of their foods and dressing, for instance, East Africans were Westernised in this way as well as their stories and this was why she chose to document some of the folk tales still remaining before they are lost. Jallow then finished with a story of the legendary Abunuwasi. Please click the video to hear the presentation.

The evening was spent enjoying Somali Tea (made with Kericho Tea ☺) at a local café watching a traffic jam that would not be out of place in gridlocked Nairobi. Somaliland is really a happening place.

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