Today was the first day of a 3 day event that is the Jukwaani Festival, as I had mentioned in detail in an earlier post, this weekend is going to be one where Performance Literature will be showcased in all its forms.
And what better way to do so than with what was passed in the just promulgated Constitution as the 1st Kenyan Official Language, Kiswahili. Contrary to what most might think, English is the 2nd official Kenyan language according to the new Constitution.
Prof. Kimani wa Njogu was the chair in the ‘Ushairi wa Kiswahili: Jana na Leo‘(Poetry in Kiswahili: yesterday and today) session that sought to explore how Swahili poetry has evolved over time. This was the very first session that ushered in the festival.
In the discussion panel were some of the greats in Kiswahili in East Africa; Prof. Rocha Chimerah, Prof. Ahmed Nabhany, Dr. Edwin Masinde and Prof. Clara Momanyi. There were also two poets, Nuhu Bakari (NMG) and Amira Said.
The event started slightly late as the session needed a sizeable crowd in order to start. It finally did with some opening remarks from Yohannes, the Goethe Institut Director.
To start off the session was Nuhu’s poem ‘Utamu wa Kiswahili ni watu kukitumia‘( The beauty of Kiswahili is by people using it)
It was quite a fascinating talk that delved on various topics such as;
The Classical Poetry of Muyaka wa Haji
– This was explored by Prof Rocha who gave us abit of history into the life of Muyaka and the impact that he had on swahili poetry. He(Muyaka) is credited with moving swahili poetry from the mosque to the market place making it accessible to many.
Prof. Ahmed who is at the Research Institute of Swahili Studies of Eastern Africa gave a rundown of the different types of Swahili Poetry and discarded the myth that all swahili poetry is known as Mashairi.
After a lively Q & A session that saw the audience complain about the lack of use of swahili beyond learning institutions, lack of pride in speaking the language and the influence of Sheng on the advancement of Swahili in Kenya, Amira Said closed the session with her poetic piece in praise of the organisers of the event.
This was soon followed by the official opening by Ambassador of France, Mrs. Elisabeth Barbier and the Head of Press and Cultural Affairs at the German Embassy in Kenya who encouraged the audience to embrace and use Kiswahili. I must say that they had really brushed up on their knowledge of Swahili as they awed the crowd with the ease at which they greeted them and wished them a happy festival.
The event was quite well attended with the Goethe Institut auditorium almost full, a good indication of the interest Nairobians have in performances as well as discussions on literary matters.
The cocktail reception was at the Alliance Francaise garden. We walked over for some bitings and refreshments. I got a glimpse of David Makali of Sound Africa who was also in attendance as well as Tabu Osusa of Ketebul Productions. I did also meet some followers of my blog who seemed to know me very well but I didn’t, I hope to see them at the upcoming performances.
After the cocktails, we went into the Alliance Francaise auditorium for play, Mwana Mdogo wa Mfalme( The little Prince). Translated from the famous work of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, ‘The Little Prince’ is a classic tale of equal appeal to children and adults. On one hand, it is the story of an airman’s discovery in the desert of a small boy from another planet- the little prince and his stories of intergalactic travel, while on the other hand it is a thought- provoking allegory of the human condition.
The play marked the end of the first day of the festival.
More tomorrow in a day that will be packed with Poetry, Urban Music and a Hip Hop battle competition. Don’t miss it starting from 2pm.
Enjoy some of the photos from the first day.