It is festival week and four days of running up and down steps to tents through the beating heat of the National Museum. Lovely how a space can become something different when it is filled with people and words.
On the Thursday and Friday, we have parties of schoolchildren – some are from private schools, bold and excited with shoes that shine, and others have been sponsored, more reserved with looser shoelaces. But they all want to read out their poems and stretch fingertips to be noticed, hoping for the chance to stand and fill their voices.
At the launch party that night, I squeeze into my friend’s dress and dance barefoot. The courtyard is lit with colour and everyone’s faces look different. I think of those words a guy once said to me at bango in Mnarani and I hope they stay true.
Millie gives me her son to hold; Sankara’s forehead is hot against my cheek and that evening, on the matatu home, I get off early and walk back the half mile or so. It is nice not to be thinking and looking only at the plant sellers and the scratched earth.
There are three poets on stage and I manage to sit for an hour and listen – Imtiaz in blue peacock silk with eyelids licked in gold kohl, Lola with her wedge heels and braids and red framed glasses, and Sitawa, in her usual black with her shaved head and silver chunks of jewellery. Walking past is the Massai elder, ninety years old and blind, led by a staff carried by the translator’s son. Earlier he told stories and held my hands to his face.
The sun is on my back and I feel a message on my phone vibrate in the pocket of my dress.