Novelist, short story writer and academic Pede Hollist and actor Hana Kefela kicked off Goethe-Institut Kenya’s Artistic Encounters 2018 on Friday May 11. The event featured a performance by Hana and a panel discussion moderated by James Murua.
The German Cultural Centre was filled with Nairobi residents who were there to see the beginning of the Artistic Encounters project for 2018. Artistic Encounters, curated by author and journalist Zukiswa Wanner, sees two artists of different genres meet and share their art with an audience. Started in 2017, it has featured artist Victor Ehikhamenor and poet Koleka Putuma, trumpeter Christine Kamau and poet Philipp Khabo Koepsell, novelist Lola Shoneyin and storyteller Maimouna Jallow, as well as author Angela Makholwa and actress Patricia Kihoro.
Starting the evening on Friday was Hana Kefela the actress who has already featured in shows like For Colored Girls, The Vagina Monologues and I Just Got Back which was part of The Goethe Institute’s Nairobi, Six and the City series. She was performing her interpretation of So The Path Does Not Die by Sierra Leone writer and academic Pede Hollist.
Her performance focused on the opening part of the book when its protagonist Finaba was a child in the village and her family has to flee to the city of Freetown when she is almost circumcised against her parents’ wishes. The stage which was well adorned, unlike in previous shows, allowed for the audience to visualise both the office she worked in as an adult as well as the village that was the site of her origin story. Audience members responded favourably to Hana’s portrayal of the subject especially where she shows the cutting ceremony.
The wonderful performance gave way to a moderated discussion by the book’s author Pede Hollist who had come in all the way from Freetown, Sierra Leone, performer Hana led by book blogger and podcaster James Murua. The discussion focused a bit on the topic on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting which was what the audience had seen being portrayed by the performance. There were also questions handled by both performer and writer on topics like technique of both writing and performance. The audience was especially interested to note that the writer wrote on women’s inner lives yet he was a man which elicited both curiosity and admiration.
Hollist, a Fulbright scholar currently living in his home town of Freetown, amused the audience when he recounted the experience of being a Caine Prize shortlistee and the dynamics at the UK event.
With the discussion over, the evening would be wrapped up and the audience would get the chance to get their books signed by the newest author star in town.