|Creative explosions at the 2015 Storymoja Festival|
“Only two percent of schools in Kenya have libraries. Additionally, twenty-five percent of children in public schools in Kenya cannot read simple sentences like ‘I love to read and I like this book’. Yes, children are going to school but are they really learning? This is why we said that through YETU Start a Library Campaign, we are going to get storybooks in children’s hands because we know the building blocks of literacy is storybooks and words,” said Muthoni Garland, the C.E.O of Storymoja. She was speaking during the first press conference of the 2015 Storymoja Festival on Thursday. This year’s festival, which ran from September 16 to September 20 had a great line-up of creative artists and entrepreneurs including the current Festival Patron Auma Obama.
The first three days were buzzing with sessions for school children. It was incredibly difficult to choose which one to attend since some of them were happening at the same time. Our first session to attend was the ‘Spoken word for life skills’ by UK spoken-word educator and award-winning Raymond Antrobus. Here, he demonstrated the power of spoken word, shared a number of writing and performance tips and engaged the children. “I learnt that to write poetry, you have to be calm and not rush into it,” said Sakishi Maria, a Year Six pupil at Oshwal Academy in Nairobi.
We also attended the ‘Managing stress as a student’ session at the Magic tent. This one, facilitated by Lekoko Ole Sululu (Tanzania) and Dr. Taya Pergola (U.S.A), sought to share some practical tips on staying calm and focused. Some of these included walking and indulging in nature, breathing deeply, comfortably sitting quietly a few minutes a day and asking some focus-evoking questions such as ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What is my purpose?’. Ole Sululu informed those in attendance that in his Maasai culture, meditation-walking has always existed. “We walk around repeatedly saying ‘Ashe Engai’-meaning ‘Thank you God’ or ‘Ashe Naleng’ meaning ‘Thank you very much’. We believe that even if you don’t talk, your feet will talk for you’ he explained.
Catherine Adhiambo, a Class Eight pupil at Mama Fatuma Primary School in Nairobi, said that she learnt about relaxing to relieve stress .”At the moment, the teacher’s strike is putting us under a lot of stress and I’ve learnt that being with friends or people you are open with is very important,” she added.
Just before lunch on Wednesday, we found our way to the Storymoja Read Aloud. The first one was led by Holy Dave, a musician and reading ambassador. The story being read was an excerpt from ‘Shani’s Choice’ by Shaleen Kehsavjee-an incredible story that left us in suspense. The children wanted Holy Dave to perform (which he did) and autograph their numerous books. You should have seen them lining up to get the autograph! Even the BINGWA Magazine team had to sign a number of books too.
On Thursday, the second read-aloud was facilitated by Sauti Sol-Africa’s best band, who also performed their hit-song ‘Sura Yako’. How the Kenyan children reacted to them-mobbing them with lots of love, was an emotional experience.
It was great seeing the artwork the children had come up with at the various tents, as well as theń‘Telling stories through art’ comic sessions facilitated by cartoonists Daniel Muli and Chief Nyamweya of the ‘Roba vs The Poachers’ comic. Meeting Magic Man Johnny Rodrigues was very exciting as well. We also got to learn about Sickle Cell through the 10003 Warrior Project and Chela, ‘The Girl in the pink boots’ who is the face of the Start A Library Campaign. The PoeTricks session led by Ugandan Beverley Nambozo was phenomenal, just like Muthoni Garland’s storytelling and Botswana’s Donald Molosi’s solo-act on Uganda’s legendary musician Philly Lutaaya.