By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted 27 September 2019)
It’s bountiful weekend for books, authors and fascinating conversations about literature. What might be even more exciting, once you get over being ‘star-struck’ in the presence of some of the most brilliant African writers from around the region and the Diaspora, is the way they each is bound to answer the proverbial question: what’s involved in your process of writing. They all undoubtedly have different, yet inspirational ways to respond.
It’s only Thursday night. The weekend technically hasn’t quite begun. But the bookishness actually began on Wednesday when the Nairobi International Book Fair got underway at Sarit Centre in Westlands. With the theme of this year’s, the 22nd annual Book Fair being ‘Read. Apply. Freedom’, it will have lots of competition for book-lovers’ attention this weekend. That’s because not only will the African Writers Conference get underway from Friday through Sunday, featuring authors from Cameroon, Mauritius, Canada and Nigeria as well as from Kenya.
Over at the Kenya National Theatre, the Macondo Literary Festival will also kick off the same day and run straight through Sunday night. With the festival’s title derived from the fictional village where most of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s award-winning novel, ‘Hundred Years of Solitude’, takes place, it won’t be a surprise that the weekend will be filled with both Kenyan and Lusaphone writers taking part. The English-writing continguent will include Dr Peter Kimani who will open the Festival as well as Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, Novuyo Rosa Thuma, Abubakar Adam Abraham and Dr. Mshai Mwangola-Githongo.
Meanwhile, the other events that opened the weekend early took place at the Goethe Institute where on Wednesday night, poetess, playwright and actor Sitawa Namwalie partnered with pianist, singer and lyricist Athieno Owuor to create a beautiful blend of words and delicious sounds.
Then on Thursday, Artistic Encounters featured Aleya Kassam moderating a fascinating conversation between Texas-based Zimbabwean writer Novuyo Rosa Tshuma and Kenyan poet, playwright and actor Anne Moraa. Both doing readings from their latest writings, Tshuma from ‘House of Stone’ and Moraa from her latest essay published in the online magazine, Catapult.
But just as Sitawa and Athieno were asked the evening before about their process of writing, so Novuyo and Moraa were asked the same question. All came out with different responses, but none of them left any doubt that it is difficult being a writer. “Have no expectations about getting rich by being a writer,” said Tshuma.
Sitawa’s response also included a bit of advice to her audience which was to write daily, preserve and ideally establish a disciplined routine so you produce so many words every day. Debunking the notion that writing is all about inspiration, she insisted that one improves as a writer by consistently writing, and by reading of course.
One expects that all the writers this weekend will have insights to share. So all aspiring word-smiths need to attend any or all of the festivities. And while it obviously won’t be possible to attend all the events, be advised that the places to be this weekend are either Kenya National Theatre or Sarit Centre or both.