In Summary
  • The storytelling show dubbed ‘55 Questions for Kenya’ sought to bring to life the untold history of Kenya through storytelling.
  • Despite attaining self-governance the atrocities of old continue to haunt us depicted by the storytelling show.
  • In future we will require every attendee to come with an elderly person… e would love to hear their views, their version of how they remember certain events.

During the just ended festivities, my mother trooped us to the village with one main agenda; to ensure we met our old relatives from her family’s side.

We visited homestead after homestead talking to my mother’s aunts and uncles as well as distant relatives who saw her grow and it was such a wonderful experience.

We listened to stories of my mother’s escapades (I am getting a lot of free passes this 2019 for sure!) and watched her squirm in her seat because old people have no filters—they tell it as it is.

I envied the unity that existed among extended family members and their communal way of doing things.

In one homestead, we met my mother’s other grandmother who was literally a fountain of tales--fond memories of when homes were filled with laughter and people “shortened the evening” round a fire sleeping way past midnight.

UNEXHAUSTED STORIES

I heard stories about night masses on Christmas Eve at the local Catholic Church, and late grandmothers who had a ruthless sense of humour.

When it was time to leave, I could sense a tinge of loneliness in their eyes.

“You should have spent the night,” one of the grandmothers said wistfully as she handed us a bunch of ripe bananas.

My mother explained that we had four more stops to make and we waved them goodbye. As we left, I was certain of one thing; we didn’t exhaust those stories. If anything, we only scratched the surface.

On December 20, 2018, a group of storytelling enthusiasts gathered at Lava Latte restaurant, Nairobi for a storytelling show dubbed 55 Questions for Kenya and sought to bring to life the untold history of Kenya through storytelling.

The show was based on the book Living Memories by Al Kags which features interviews with elderly Kenyans.

It was headlined by theatre-maker Ogutu Muraya and writer Muthoni Garland. The duo is also part of a group called Nyef Nyef storytellers.

Ogutu Muraya

Ogutu Muraya narates the story "Toilet Trainer." PHOTO| AUGUSTINE SANG| NATION MEDIA GROUP


Watching the performance was such an emotional roller coaster—take for instance Ogutu’s performance of the story “Toilet Training.” One moment the audience was doubling over at Hussein Warutere’s woes of trying to hold back the overpowering urge to use the toilet, the next moment they were blinking back tears when Warutere is slapped with a 13-year jail term for using a ‘Whites Only' toilet.

He gets roughed up first then is framed with attempting to plant a bomb in the loo!

Storytelling enthusiasts enjoy the ‘55 Questions for Kenya’ show.

Storytelling enthusiasts enjoy the ‘55 Questions for Kenya’ show. PHOTO| AUGUSTINE SANG| NATION MEDIA GROUP


Muthoni performed a powerful story called “Wairia”, narrating the horrifying ordeal of a young woman in the hands of the colonial home guards—a heart-wrenching story of the price that women have paid for us to be where we are today.

Muthoni Garland.

Muthoni performs during the storytelling show. PHOTO| AUGUSTINE SANG| NATION MEDIA GROUP

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