Authors to showcase works at Nyrobi Book Fest

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The curtains came down on the Nairobi International Book Fair last weekend and already, book lovers are gearing up for the next high-profile book event, which will take place at the Alliance Francaise from 13 to 15 of this month.

The Nyrobi Book Fest, for that is its name, is an initiative of mostly self-published authors, who, for the longest time, found themselves locked out of mainstream publishing circles.

The Nyrobi Book Fest, now in its third year, is a platform where these authors will showcase what they have produced in the preceding year, in an intimate atmosphere, with their fans.

“The event is not just about book exhibitions and launches, we will also feature discussions and spoken word performances,” says Dennis Mucheru, the Principal Librarian at Alliance Francaise. “We shall also foreign exhibitors cum authors.”

He said the headline act will be the discussion between John Kiriamiti, author of the best-selling book, My Life in Crime. “Kiriamiti will be in conversation with award-winning author, Makena Onjerika and Mbugua Ngunjiri, a literary journalist and founder of Maisha Yetu,” he adds.

Makena won the 2018 edition of the Caine Prize for African Writing, joining other Kenyan writers like Binyavanga Wainaina, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, and Okwiri Oduor in that list of honour.

Another key highlight will be the discussion between Msanii Kimani wa Wanjiru and Victor Ndula, the Nation Media editorial cartoonist and Celeste Wamiru, the first female editorial cartoonist in East Africa.

The discussion will feature art students in the audience.

Book launches

Msanii runs the Reveal Comics Conversations, a monthly discussion forum with cartoonists and comic artists at the Alliance Francaise Library.

John Sibi Okumu will also have a session with Remy Ngamije, a Rwandan-born writer and photographer. Ngamije, the founder of Doek, a literary magazine, will be launching his debut book, The Eternal Audience of One, during the Festival.

Other foreign exhibitors include Ssali Publishing House from South Africa and Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, Uganda’s first wildlife veterinarian, who recently launched her memoirs, Walking with Gorillas, at the venue two weeks ago.

Ngartia, a poet and storyteller, will dramatise an encounter between the dreaded crime-buster of the 70s and 80s, Patrick Shaw and Dansoi Gachui, a robber, which ended in the latter being killed.

Mucheru says that the idea of Nyrobi Book Fest came about after Mbogi ya Ma-writers came to a conclusion.

“Mbogi was a project that started during the Covid period. Different writers would be recorded on video, while in conversation with John Sibi Okumu and then aired on YouTube,” he says, adding that when the project ended, self-published writers, requested to use the Alliance Francaise to a book festival of their own.

The argument was that these self-published authors found themselves shut out of book fairs organised by mainstream publishers on account that they could not afford to hire the stands.

Free stands

“The beauty of the Nyrobi Book Fest is that we do not charge for the stands. It is absolutely free,” adds Mucheru.

Charles Courdent, the director of Alliance Francaise in Nairobi says that the concept of Nyrobi Book Fest follows a rich tradition of such literary events in France called Salon Du Livre.

“We are happy to be associated with the growth of literary arts in Kenya,” says Courdent.

“This shows our commitment to developing up-and-coming authors as well as other artists to achieve their full potential. We also strive to connect them with opportunities abroad.”

“Over the last four years, the Alliance Française has taken a strong lead in promoting new writing by young self-published/published writers through our weekly book launches in the Multimedia Library,” says Harsita Waters, the head of Cultural Affairs at Alliance Francaise.

“The Nyrobi Book Fest aims to connect publishers, distributors, authors, illustrators, artists, innovators, and readers, over one weekend, and spread interest in the culture of reading and writing, as well as encourage sharing of new trends and ideas.”

Representation

Nuria Bookstore, which is causing a quiet revolution in Kenyan literary circles with its commitment and support of self-published authors, will be one the major corporate stands during the festival.

Abdillahi Bulle of Nuria assured self-published authors under his stable that they will be well represented throughout the three days of the festival.

“This is being part of Nuria’s commitment to putting nascent writing talent on the world literary map. Blood only makes you related; Loyalty makes you family,” says Bulle.

Other corporate stands include Prestige Bookshop, Writers Space Africa and Mystery Publishers, among others.

Some of the authors who will have individual stands include, Silas Nyanchwani, Alex Nderitu, Munira Hussein and Phibbian Muthama, among others.

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