It was a special time on Thursday evening with five African books reimagined by respected performers at the Goethe Nairobi. The performers were Mumbi Kaigwa, Patricia Kihoro, Aleya Kassim, Raya Wambui, and Maimouna Jallow and they performed Marjorie Oludhe-Macgoye’s Coming to Birth, Zukiswa Wanner’s Maid In SA, Doreen Baingana’s Tropical Fish, Nadifa Mohamed’s The Orchid Of Lost Souls and Lola Shoneyin’s The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives.
There was a flurry of activity at the popular cultural centre which more often than not will have a full house. It was no different this time as Nairobians filled the hall to see what the ladies would bring to the stage.
It wasn’t the first time this kind of an event was being hosted in Kenya’s capital with the last such performance of five women doing African women writers’ justice on World Storytelling Day. At that time, the effort was to help raise funds for the Kevin Mwachiro Medical Fund (Facebook and Gofundme) and quite a bit was raised. The difference last Thursday was that one of the performers who was unavailable Sitawa Namwalie who had reimagined Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter was replaced by Aleya Kassim. And it wasn’t a medical fundraiser.
So what does “a novel reimagined” mean? The performer in question performs something from the book that will bring it to life for the audience. Mumbi Kaigwa read a favourite excerpt from the book of the recently departed doyen of Kenyan literature Marjorie Oludhe-Macgoye. Then there was Raya Wambui who performed from Somaliland’s finest novelist in English Nadifa Mohamed; hers was a portrayal of the happenings in The Orchid Of Lost Souls (Our review).
The crowd favourites seemed to be Aleya, Maimouna and Patricia. Aleya was on song as she told us about life in Entebbe as imagined by Doreen Baingana. Maimouna gave another memorable rendition of The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives while Patricia gave a hilarious interpretation of Maid In SA South African accent inclusive.
At the end of the day, everyone present had a pretty decent time and I wouldn’t be surprised to see another full house for African books being reimagined at the Goethe in Nairobi.
Please find images of the performances from the event courtesy of the Goethe Nairobi. All images were taken by Vivien Barth.