He stands up, introducing himself and the story at the same time, with a trademark voice that makes the kids’ eyes widen with excitement and anticipation. His name is Joshua Muraya; the story is In the Land of the Kitchen.
“I want to tell you a story about the land of the kitchen, a land where the utensils lived in peace and harmony… until one day, one day tragedy struck…”
The story guides the children through a sequence of events that can lead to conflict in any community. The narrator performs the story in a humorous and dramatic way that keeps the kids engaged and waiting for the next scene.
After the narration, the Storymoja crew facilitates a discussion with the children who are between 6 and 15 years of age. Juliet Maruru, an editorial intern at Storymoja, who is also studying towards a degree in Education, finds the discussion both challenging and enjoyable. Children are honest, and will consider all options available, with gentle guidance.
The peace workshop held at Kabete Junior Academy, is part of the Kwani Litfest held this August. The purpose of the peace workshop, which Storymoja also runs at other children’s forums, is to reinforce communication and conflict solving skills in the young. The story guides the kids in identifying possible conflict causing actions such as stereotyping, mean jokes and insults.
Simiyu Barasa, a writer and film maker, helps the kids to identify stereotypes. He is working on a project meant to highlight and pursue the importance of storytelling as part of education.
It is clear that the children are enthusiastic and interested. Some of them have been to other peace workshops and readily recognise the story and the narrator. Most of the adults are just watching, but a few of them are interested enough to join in. One adult points out that stereotypes are also present in his homeland in the UK, and explains how bad it feels to be the subject of negative stereotyping.
Also at the event, Dipesh Pabari launches the Swahili version of an anthology he edited entitled The Unlikely Burden. He awards the kids who participate with copies of the book. It contains among others Stanley Gazemba’s story about the treatment of animals, which is also the title of the book.
As the session closes, the children reaffirm Storymoja’s belief that reading is cool, and that the peace workshops are important. Sylvia from Utawala Academy assures us that she will read more and keep peace in her community no matter how difficult that is.