An artist impression of a fan giving Biko Zulu her heart
An artist impression of a fan giving Biko Zulu her heart

The Storymoja Festival happening at the National Museums of Kenya that started on Wednesday has been what can only been described as pacing itself.

The first two days of the festival, Wednesday and Thursday, started slowly with master classes galore. With some of the coolest people on the planet there to teach you how to be cool there, you can find no better place to learn their craft at being cool.

Some of the sessions that this blogger was able to attend was the secrets of creative non-fiction run by Jackson Biko more popularly known as Biko Zulu. The writer who is one of the most highly regarded non-fiction players in Nairobi right now had a large audience of rabid fanatics hanging onto his every word enthusiastic participants at the courtyard. The man gave his insights into the writing game and I was given more energy (I’m trying to say alinipa motisha in English :-() to continue in my own creative non-fiction endevours. We learnt why he won’t be writing any books any time soon – he doesn’t want to toil for three years only for people to PDF his work like they did with our Miguna Miguna leading him to have to sue.

Also doing a session at the same time was Keguro Macharia, Ladan Osman and Matthew Shenoda. Keguro is well known on this blog for his work on Jalada but he is a professor and everything. Also in there was Ladan Osman who announced her coming on twitter and many in the poetry game were dancing for joy.

This is because the Somali-American poet and teacher whose poetry is centered on her Somali and Muslim heritage, and has been published in a number of prominent literary magazines winning the annual Sillerman First Book Prize for her collection The Kitchen Dweller’s Testimony this year. Last on the panel was Matthew Shenoda whose poems and writings have appeared in a variety of newspapers, journals, radio programs and anthologies. He has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize and his work has been supported by the California Arts Council and the Lannan Foundation among others. It was a serious panel there and the audience reflected the importance of it. In there I spotted Clifton Gachagua who is highly respected in the poetry game, Njeri Wangari who first was introduced to the world as Kenyanpoet but is doing more blogging as Afromum. And then there is Beverly Nambozo who is the founder of what used to be the Beverly Nambozo poetry prize which is now known as the BN Poetry Award. She has a brilliant anthology out now you want to check out.

This is just for you to see what Beast in X-men looks like
This is just for you to see what Beast in X-men looks like

I am not the exactly the best person to give opinions on poetry (I’m a prose man) but the discussions were coming fast and thick in there with Ladan looking as good as she does in her picture and the two guys with their beards – Keguro especially reminded me of that genius mutant in X-Men called Beast seeing as he was so brilliant and so… well… hairy. This is Kwame Dawes chilling out Mathew Shenoda at Storymoja.

I wasn’t the only one having a ball. Aleya Kassam who is one of my favourite Nairobians has been doing sessions at the

Koko Riko tent (for the non Swahili speakers koko riko is the sound the rooster makes in the morning when it is waking you up and you are hangover. In Swahili we say koko riko koo! to your cock-a-doodle doo!) as one of the Nyef Nyef night runners. Here is her highlight for Wednesday,

“The highlight of my day today Storymoja Hay Festival was being mobbed by teens after my storytelling session, them thrusting arms and papers in my face demanding an autograph. Oh how glorious. This demands a hashtag ‪#‎StorytellersAreRockstarsToo – Ogutu Muraya Mara Menzies Storyteller Wangari Grace – thank you for initiating me, inspiring me and welcoming me into this wonderful storytelling world. Big hugs.”

Neno Kali (left) is having way too much fun. It all ends when you get married bro.
Neno Kali (left) is having way too much fun. It all ends when you get married bro.

Then there is our Neno Kali who is still in the throes of being engaged and is in that Mistik Natural band (check them perform here)who has been doing sessions with school kids and looking very pleased with himself.

I also got to meet some cool people from all over the place – the Ugandan girls…

Today the big events will be on the cards. The gala will happening in the evening and there will be many sessions happening. Some of them highlights for me will be

11:00am to 11:45am Imagine the world – Prajwal Parajuly and Angella Emurwon

12pm – 12:45pm – Imagine the world with BN Poetry winners Saka Aliyu, Dorothy Ayebazibwe and Moses Kyeyune, Agbonkhianmen Suleiman and Saba El Lazim.

2-5pm – Guerilla Marketing for writers: How to promote your work

7pm to late – Storymoja Festival gala

I’m sure I’ll be checking out more events but this looks like the main day for me.

See you there.