Written by Priscilla Githaiga
Friday the 1st to Sunday the 3rd October 2010, saw the Railways club grounds, Nairobi on steam. The Storymoja Hay Festival was on with over 90 events in 3 days celebrating ideas, books, local and international authors, artists, thinkers and also idlers who obviously got a buffet treat for time well spent.
I got to meet the Kenyan writer, John Kiriamiti during the session “The popular Art of Crime” featuring John Kiriamiti (Kenya), Lars Rambe (Sweden) and Kjeill O.Dahi (Norway) This reminded me of my teenage years when I read ‘my life with a criminal’ and it had seemed too real and fascinating and it was a dream come true to meet the legend at the festival. And all I could say is “what a legend, what a writer!”
‘Writers are led to the pen and paper by an inner drive that once it strikes no one can stop it It flows in reality only when written down no matter the environment.’ Expressed John Kiriamiti.
John Kiriamiti wrote his first novel ‘My life in crime’ in Prison and it had to be smuggled out to reach the hands of Ngugi Wa Thiong’o. Through that the book finally saw the light. The writers explained that most of their writing was influenced by the environment they were exposed to at a particular time and once the ideas got into their minds the pen and the paper becomes their friends and the drive to write it down is too strong to be stopped.
The story telling spectacular…The last time I ever enjoyed a story or listened to one was at the age of 6.It was a horrific story about giants who followed a young girl after going to the river un accompanied by an elderly person. My aunt had narrated the story looking deep into my eyes and this was to warn me of ever going to the neighbouring dam. My aunt had explained the way the giant had later chopped off the girl’s tongue after opting not to listen to her mother’s advice. The story had then left me with horrific images of all sorts moving in my head and got not a glimpse of sleep that night. It taught me a lesson though .After two decades, I had always wondered if my mature brain would ever listen and perhaps enjoy a story or even appreciate a storyteller. The Story Moja Hay festival unwrapped it all over again.
Yes, stories can be captivating and hilarious, the ‘Story telling spectacular’ starring Kenyan storytellers (Eric Omondi, Oluoch Madiang’) and UK storytellers (Katrice Horsley and Cat Weatherill) did it again. And who said the whites cannot tell fascinating stories? ‘Once upon a time……’ It caught me by surprise as Katrice Horsley told a story which moved me. She easily multi-transformed into nearly assuming the characters in the story, she moved the audience with questions relating to the story. Her facial expressions and stage movements told it all. And by the end of the story it was written in the mind never to be forgotten. It is for sure a story I will recite to my kids in years to come.
Watching Oluoch Madiang’ and Eric Omondi tell their fascinating stories reminded me of an earlier session of the story telling competition that had left me livid and almost rioting when my favourite storyteller didn’t win let alone make it into fourth position. It had left me with doubts about the judges but these were quickly dispelled as I watched the 2010 champion of the storytelling competition tell his winning story. It was then that I fully appreciated and understood that in as much as there is a Story in mind… the most captivating of it all is the STORYTELLER.