2008 Kwani? LitFest - Telling Truths: Writers in Conflict ? Our Role, Our Imperative, Our Impact

The theme of the 2008 Festival followed on from our focus on documenting the Post-Election Violence and was held from 1st to 15th August 2008. Split into three modules, the first half of the festival (1st to 10th August) took place in Nairobi and included the breakout conference, Revisioning Kenya, on 8th August. The third half was held in Lamu Island from 10th to 15th August.

2008. Festival Structure

1.Book launches, reading and signings: The festival saw the launch of the anthology Mercernaries, Missionaries and Misfits compiled by Rasna Warah, the Swahili version of The Unlikely Burden, an anthology of children's stories, and a young people's book on Tom Mboya written by John Sibi Okumu. It showcased a special edition Kwanini? entitled After the Vote, a compilation of a series of essays written by Concerned Kenyan Writers, and gave sneak previews for Kwani? 05 and a series of new titles

Invited authors also read from their books including Aminatta Forna's 'Ancestor Stones' and 'The Devil that Danced on the Water', Antony Altbeker's 'The Dirty Work of Democracy' and Ishmael Beah's 'A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier'. Readings took place at a variety of venues including the WESCO centre in Kangemi, Acapulco and Nu Metro Westlands, Nakumatt Lifestyle, Tamambo, Kifaru Gardens, the National Theatre and the American ambassador's residence

2.Public Lectures : A public discussion that took place at the University of Nairobi's ED11 Hall was entitled Making Sense of Violence - Unpacking Kenya's Crisis. The event examined the effect of words in the form of sms messages, leaflets, blogs, and journalism on Kenya's violence. A group of seven writers, academics and civil society activists presented the words that most affected them during the post election violence. Moderated by Irungu Houghton, the debate moved to audience participation and examined differing reactions to text on situations in conflict. The discussion took place on the 10th Anniversary of the American Embassy in Nairobi bombings and was followed by the premier of Wanuri Kahiu's film, From A Whisper which is a fictional examination of the impact of the bomb blast on Kenyans' lives.

3.Symposium - As a special event for 2008, the Kwani? Litfest conceived and executed a breakout event entitled Revisioning Kenya. Heavily inspired by the relationship that developed between Concerned Kenyan Writers and Concerned Citizens for Peace, it took the premise that civil society has the capability of finding solutions and innovative ways around problems even as governments fail. With this in mind, the symposium asked 15 visionaries from fields as diverse as innovation, city planning, youth politics, poetry, NGO media activity, peacemaking and science to take 11 minutes to outline their passion and workable solutions for Kenyan problems. The event was filmed by Slum TV.

4.Craft Workshops - A weeklong series of practical hands-on writing workshops took place, fusing local and international students, with local and international writers - particularly those experienced in living through, and writing about conflict in its various guises. An option to theme the work in the workshops with topics such as Telling Truths, Living with Differences, and Role of the Diaspora allowed for thorough exploration and exposition of some of the sensitive issues now at the surface. The creative writing workshops were taught by a variety of pan Africa faculty including Aminatta Forna, Kalundi Serumaga, Binyavanga Wainaina, David Kaiza, Andia Kisia, Billy Kahora and Parselelo Kantai.

5.Film Screenings : A screening in Kibera was opened by former Sierra Leonean Child soldier Ishmael Beah and Kenyan documentary filmmaker Mohinder Dhillon. Film Aid provided a huge inflatable screen at the Kamakunji ground in Kibera for the screening, and a series of short films including Hot Suns' award winning production Kibera Kid, an adaptation of Caine Prize winner Yvonne's Owour's short story the Knife grinder's Tale, and Mohinder Dhillon's documentary Kenyan Runners was shown. In Lamu, Ravneet Sippy Chadha's award winning film Subira about a young girl searching for personal freedom was screened in a small public screening

6.Manuscript Doctors and Publishing Meetings : Random House's Ellah Allfrey ( now Deputy Editor at Granta) read a series of synopses and a single chapter of a variety of manuscripts to assess their viability for publishing in an overseas market. This provided unprecedented access for young writers to meet and discuss their work with a seasoned editor and to receive advice. Ms Allfrey is building an Africa list and is dedicated to finding new talent and affording it a greater audience. She was able to earmark potential new writers and to advise more experienced writes on the direction of their writing

7.Lamu Literary Residencies : Offering a relaxing ambience and a tranquil environment, a 5 day island sojourn gave the writers an opportunity to have one on one interactions with the faculty members and a chance to workshop each other's work, or write at their own pace and convenience at a tranquil and picturesque location.   

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