The rain is falling over Nairobi. The Matatu keeps on stopping to pick more passengers and as it seems, the rains are just a few paces behind the matatu chasing us towards Westlands, one of Nairobi’s main entertainment hub. I subconsciously keep on Slamming on the invisible accelerator when the unmindful driver slackens the speed. Finally I make it to my stop before the rain drops could overtake the bus, breaking several traffic laws, I cross the busy Waiyaki Way to the Michael Joseph Center, but barely had I made it to the security check before torrents of furious rain tore at the ground.
I strode into the artistically modeled Michael Joseph auditorium. Walking down the towering wooden aisle, I felt like a sinner walking down into the artistic shrine for ‘creativity-ritual-cleansing’, a moment of silent meditation. Blue hue permeated the room shimmering with the incandescent gold, the music elevated the spirits making those gathered around speak in one voice like a congregation of evangelists casting out demons during an evangelical call for repentance.
Ink Overflow is a periodic assembly of art that brings together cool music, spoken word and visual art. Most often the art is masterfully hung on the walls to parade what is likely to be the ritual of the gods communing with human beings through poetry and song. On this particular evening of April 8, Ivan had taken the liberty of inviting Jonathan Fraser and Mitei to showcase raw spirituality through their art. He had also invited a caricature artist to on spot make magnificent drawings of the willing fans.
The poetry show began with four pieces, Ivan, with his pleading tone spoke of love and let his heart bleed out serenading beauty, imagining romance in the glow of the evening sun, the warm nights and the nostalgia that clouds the lonely nights. As his pieces died down, the Nairobi based Mice Band took to the stage and amused the Audience with lovely rendition of the classics from RnB to reggae.
The evening love would grow darker as Glady Mwende, narrated her Dark love story. She felt small, alone and vulnerable, letting the spirit of her desire control every twitch of her muscle and the grace of her steps. The audience mesmerized by her open vulnerability swallowed hard before showering her with love.
The first two poets seemed to have been preparing the audience for an incoming storm. Shingai Kagunda is characteristically bodacious, this evening she was dressed in defiance and if air was brimstone, then fire was what she let out. Her evening’s performance, accompanied with guitar grooves, was titled conversations. The conversation begun with the stereotypical internet search giant Google, she condemned Google for silently propagating racism- a quick search on the internet for the most beautiful hair, eyes, babies, and faces brings the top images of Caucasians! Therefore, in a world struggling to bring equality then Google is a big letdown. The second conversation concerned the contribution of African women in civilization. She dug deep into history, excavated various African queens from Amanirenas- a Nubian Queen/kandake who defeated the Romans to Nana Yaa Asentewa- a famous West African queen who led an army of 5000 Ashantis, against the British. After she had placed her bets for women, she glorified them and deified them into goddesses of change who significantly epitomized the beauty and courage of Africa.
Conversations placed Shingai at the top of the table as one of the best poets in Kenya. Her well packaged pieces that evoke discussion and introspection, her fight for equality and condemnation of the pervasive ‘sexualization’ of the female places her on the top of those who rightfully recognize women as equal contributors to societal development.
Bensoul of H_Art the Band would bring the curtains to a close with perfectly rendered numbers. His Swahili songs; Agenda, Milele, Heaven and Ntala Nawe were a delight to the audience who found a chance to sing along. And when the guitar riffs died, the warmth of the songs descended down to the fans who warmly embraced each other, drank in the love and laughed heartily as groups took selfies posing in different locations of the artistic shrine.