Lola Shoneyin: We need a Hay Festival in Nigeria!
‘A handful of Nigerian authors and I have been thinking about the possibility of bringing Hay to Nigeria so for me it was uplifting to see what was possible on African soil. Like Nigeria, Kenya has had its share of terrorist threats which inevitably dampen enthusiasm for arts-related outings.
I’ve always believed that the first sign of a successful event is synergy – it was hard to tell who was a volunteer, who was working for Storymoja and who was with Hay. Everyone was visible and very helpful, like they’d rehearsed the entire thing.
Having just left my teaching job, I looked forward to interacting with pupils. I talked to them about poetry and took a workshop where they all had to write a poem about their most loved/ hated feared animal, modelled after Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s The Eagle.
It’s important to mingle with other authors, more so when the authors are from different backgrounds. I took full advantage of this at Storymoja Hay. Precious Williams and I had several in-depth conversations about motherhood and daughterhood. We went to most events together and cheered on Jekwu Anyaegbuna when he declared, “I am an African writer. Please, call me an African writer. It’s a fantastic identity. I love it!”
I also enjoyed meeting Michael Logan and forcing him to get up and shake his booty at the “Party with the Stars” event. One evening, over far too much wine, we had a very insightful, intellectual discussion about fanciable Hollywood stars.
Although I’m leaving Kenya today, and saying goodbye to new friends like Muthoni Garland and Lauri Kubuitsile, Storymoja Hay will stay with me. I’m heading to literary festival number four (in the last two weeks) with delightful memories of Nairobi where the people are warm and welcoming and the vibe, totally genuine.’