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On my last day in Kenya, I joined members of Zamaleo the organisation behind the Sigana Fest) for a session at Nakuru Library, some three hours drive from Nairobi, with wonderful views of the Rift Valley before descended into the fertile plain in which the town lies. (Photos of Kenya always focus on the dry plains and wild animals, but the hills around Nairobi are lush and green and we passed great fields of wheat and corn along the way.)
Under the highly motivated leadership of the Head Librarian, Mrs Purity Mutuku, the Nakuru Library has set up its own storytelling programme and consequently almost 300 kids (aged 6 – 15) were packed into the spacious Junior section eagerly awaiting our arrival. They were thoroughly attentive and participative throughout our 2-hour session. Wangari told Chico Rico, the tale of a chicken which ends up being chased by a dog, cow, goat, and cat, with lots of woofing, mooing, maa-ing and miaowing throughout!
John and I improvised a tandem telling of the two brothers who fall out over a cow, and stop talking to each other. The younger one tells a passing carpenter he wants him to build a wall to shut out his brother – but instead, the carpenter builds what the brothers need (a bridge) – enabling the two brothers to become friends again. It was lovely to read the kids comments afterwards: Purity gets 30 of the kids to write/draw their reflections on the stories they’ve heard. I like the cartoon of the brothers arguing over the cow (in Swahili!)
The Festival, now in its 7th year, runs on a shoestring. I hope they are to attract some sponsors for their future work – both Seung-ah and I shared ideas for workshops for a variety of professionals (librarians, teachers, tour guides, health care workers, counsellers etc) as well as approaches to organisational telling. The day I left, I learned that the Manager of a major shopping centre in Nairobi had contacted Zamaleo about hosting some performances, after her daughter came home and enthused no end about the Sigana performance her primary school had brought her to see! I am confident more doors will continue to open.