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Miracle of the Storymoja Hay

By Chika Unigwe
When an individual or a group of individuals start to dream, they set loose some jawdropping miracles. I am speaking from experience for I have recently been witness to the miracle of the Storymoja Hay festival in Nairobi.

From the 30th of July to the 4th of August, Nairobi, Kenya played hostess (the dreamers were mostly women) to several international writers including Vikram Seth, Hanif Kureishi and Lee Siegel. Now, literary festivals with established writers are not new, but what is impressive is how this was achieved on a shoestring budget and a diet of dreams by the Storymoja team.

All the visiting writers were housed in local writers’ homes except for the Nigerian contigent of Tolu Ogunlesi, Bibi Bakare and Toni Kan who were generously housed by the Nigerian High Commission. I stayed at my friend’s, the Ugandan writer, Monica Arc de Nyeko.

Funds were sourced from various bodies to fly in writers; I was granted a fund by the Flemish Literary Board; the American Embassy funded Siegel Lee who was incidentally already in the country on a personal visit ; the trio from Nigeria were flown in, thanks to frequent flier miles donated by a friend of a friend of one of the organizers; a French writer was flown in from Mombassa ; and Hay UK paid for our meals.

Muthoni Garland and her team of dreamers knocked on doors, they begged until they were given and the result was a successful first outing of what is likely to become one of the foremost litfests on the African continent.

And what a fun time we had away from the Impala Place where all the events held: we danced to a live band’s rendition of Femi Kuti’s Bang Bang Bang at Pizza Garden; bumped into Vikram Seth at a gay club; bargained for wonderful Kenyan art at the Masai market; and ate plates of nyamachoma. What more could one possibly ask for?

*Chika Unigwe is an Afro-Belgian writer of Nigerian origin. She is the author of fiction, poetry, articles and educational material. Her second novel, On Black Sisters’ Street, was published in Dutch in 2008 (as Fata Morgana) and in English in 2009.

Writers honour Otiono

The inaugural Delta Literary Forum (DLF) had Otino as guest writer. the series as David Diai, coordinator of the Series wrote, which will hold Quarterly. the next one will be in October 2009. The regular DLF reading sessions will however hold every month and the next is billed for August 27, 2009.

The Delta Literary Forum (DLF), is a new literary association formed specifically with the objective of opening up the literary space in Delta state, enhancing the advancement of literacy and the literary culture and giving literature and the literati a visible place as important stake holders in the cultural and democratic development of the state.

But at the Otiono event on Thursday 30th July 2009, Diala said its guests will be of Delta State extraction. The Otiono event held at the Lander Brothers Anchorage, Asaba, with support from the Delta state Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Ministry of Information, thanks to Mofe-Damijo and Oma Djeba who were in attendance.

Richard Mofe-Damijo spoke on “Literature and Tourism Development in Delta State : Writers as Cultural Ambassadors”, noting that writers and indeed members of the literary arts have always been recognized as important cultural ambassadors especially given their symbolic recognition and roles as the personifications and embodiments of their ethnic and cultural ethos. Djabah in “The Literati as stakeholders in the advancement of Democratic culture in Delta State ”, pointed out the relevance of the media as a crucial constituent of Literature, considering its strategic place in the dissemination of information.


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