After the two poets, Clint Smith and Pages Matam, launch into their powerful poem, ‘Flash’, reciting the opening line together, “Sometimes I stalk myself on Facebook,” followed by a short stanza, such that each poet recites only a single line, the poem begins. The function of the opening stanzas have the feeling of only existing to interrupt the permanence of silence, the moment a room falls silent in anticipation of the performance and so the sentences work as a way to ensure that the entire audience takes a breath at the same time, that nobody is left behind. It is when Smith begins the next stanza that things get interesting. Smith says, “Then I come across images from the year I spent living in South Africa, a place where I fell in love with photography but struggled with the fine line between capturing my own experience and exploiting someone else’s suffering.”
by Leah Kanda
Joseph Murumbi, Kenya’s first foreign minister and second Vice-President, became interested in Alan Donovan’s jewelry collection during an exhibition held in Nairobi in 1971. Murumbi wanted to buy a Nimba fertility mask from the Baga of Guinea for his collection, but it had already been sold to someone else. The Asian trader who had bought it however agreed to take his money back and Murumbi bought it. This mask would later become the logo for the African Heritage business that they, Murumbi and Donovan, set up together.
In 1977, a fire burnt down the whole of the African Heritage. Most of the collections were destroyed, but some were salvaged and those not too badly destroyed were restored. African Heritage then moved to a building on Kenyatta Avenue until the building that had been destroyed was restored.
The current African Heritage House was built by Donovan between 1989 and 1994. It is inspired by the traditional mud-brick architecture of Western Africa, in particular, the Great Mosque of Djenne in Mali and it’s situated in Mlolongo on the edge of the Nairobi National Park. After facing dangers of getting demolished to pave way for the new Standard Gauge Railway, it was gazetted as a monument by the Culture and Sports Cabinet Secretary, Hassan Wario, in January 2016. This was after petitions to save Africa’s richest collection of art, jewellery, fabric and books.
by Leah Kanda
They are popularly christened Inama Bookstores (Inama, Swahili for bend because of how one bends when making a selection of books from the concrete pavements where the books are usually displayed) These recurring points that sell second-hand (mitumba) books are found in along almost every corner of the street in the CBD. They are difficult to miss even to a newcomer in the city. Their existence is necessitated by the constant need to satiate the demands of the Nairobian reader who cannot afford to buy new books from the traditional bookshops. They have revolutionised the way the Kenyan reader can now access and read books.
For as little as Kshs. 100 (1 USD) one can get up to five books on these streets. With better luck, you are able to find a large selection of books from your favourite authors. Kenyan writer Mehul Gohil chronicles his adventurous hunt for books around the streets of Nairobi.