The Kenya Museum Society organized a performance by Storymoja at the renovated Louis Leaky Memorial Hall Auditorium on 11th November 2009. The performances were readings from Muthoni Garland’s book “Halfway between Nairobi and Dundori” and dramatized reading from Al Kag’s book “Living Memories”
Outside the hall, guests were served tea, wine and bitings as they networked and caught up. The museum was selling some of the finest books published by Storymoja especially the ones whose readings were being performed that evening..
The performance began by an introduction and welcome speech by Catherine Nyakio Mukuha, the Kenya Museum Society Coordinator who handed the rest of the program to Lillian Amimo Olembo, Creative Development Manager at Storymoja and master of ceremony for the evening.
Lillian welcomed the guests and introduced the evening’s activities. She then invited Muthoni Garland on stage to read excerpts from her book “Halfway between Nairobi and Dundori”.
Muthoni started off by introducing the place she grew up in, Dundori. “Where people enter a bus and greet everybody and the furthest they dare travel is to nearby Nakuru.” She said, much to the laughter of the audience. She then proceeded to reading the book which had the audience listening in rapt silence. Of course there was an abrupt interruption to this silence as she read out hilarious excerpts from the story. Like when she talked about Murage’s wife, Wanjeri, who behaved like a shy virgin when Murage wanted to sleep with her.
The book is about Wanjeri and her unemployed husband Murage who stay in Naivasha and live in unequal circumstances compared to their professional qualifications. Naivasha is where Wanjeri prefers to be and Dundori is where Murage prefers to be, therefore their physical location is in resonance with their dissatisfaction in their lives. The book is about Kenyan love and marriage, about society being pulled apart because of change in circumstances. It is raw and outright funny.
There was applause after the reading which led to question time. A lady seated at the front asked Muthoni, “why the story?”
Muthoni answered that she really didn’t have an exact answer, but went on to explain that she writes about this and that, getting inspiration from her surroundings. “I have however always wanted to write a book about marriage and circumstances that cause a strain in a marriage.” She said thoughtfully. She also suspects the story must have been prompted by the jokes she is always cracking with people from Dundori where she grew up.
Then we moved on to the next session in the programme where Amimo welcomed the cast of living memories.
It was a great dramatized version of the book of stories told to Al Kags by elders who lived through the state of emergency and the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya’s history.
The cast included Al Kags, the author, Muthoni Garland, Lorna Irungu, Joshua Muraya and David Ohingo. The stories in this book are voices of ordinary Kenyans reliving what they went through long ago as the country fought for its independence.
It started out with Ole Muya’s story of his encounter with a dead body in the 50’s and the profound effect it had on him, till today. The story is told by his brother, played by Kags, and daughters, played Muthoni and Lorna. Ole Muya’s story continues with more dead bodies he encountered during the Mau Mau struggle and how it impacted on him to join the struggle against colonialists. Ole Muya also wonders how we had a repeat of the same bloodshed in 2007 and not against a common enemy but against each other.
There were other scenes of Wacera who was raped by a home guard and later that night she scolded him with hot water, and how she was heavily beaten for “injuring” a servant of the queen. Well, Wacera healed from her bruises and went to the forest to prepare for her sweet revenge.
The tales were quite interesting because they are told from different point of views and ethnicity. We have a Kisii who encountered the home guards while working as a cook in Nakuru and after his experience decided to join the Mau Mau, he unknowingly met Dedan Kimathi in the forest and only learnt this later in prison. And the Luo who lost his father and brothers to colonialists and ended up working at the Tree Tops hotel. While he was there he had a rare encounter to serve Queen Elizabeth and got his mili-second revenge on the imperial majesty.
The book also recounts other crimes that are not recorded with importance like rape on women during that terrifying time. Violence over women was not considered important some would argue just like today. It was mind blowing to hear how a parent prepared her daughter for rape since it was better than being murdered. Apart from rape there was general sexual abuse, for instance a Pokomo woman comes to Nairobi and ends up being a prostitute for twelve years until she met with the late Tom Mboya and her life took a positive turn.
The stories are not just about injustice but of resilience. One guy was imprisoned for 13 years for the simple reason of using the toilet. You know when you have to go, you have to go! Well going cost him thirteen years worth of freedom but according to Kags that man is always smiling and laughing and bears no grudge. Kags said during the interview, he kept recounting his story laughing and enjoying every minute of it. He will not let his past deter him from enjoying his future.
The performance ended with the narrator asking us why we not only dishonor those who died for our freedom, we also dishonor those living with the scars. Why did we decide to kill each other December 2007 when blood had already been poured to unite us?
The cast hopes to do more performances in the future and if you want to read the most mind blowing true stories by Kenyans or Kenyans of our time, you have to get Al Kag’s Living Memories, it is a must-read!