BARUA YA BARAZA: Highlights of Africa Media Festival, British Council Grants, and Blankets & Wine From the Curator’s Desk

BARUA YA BARAZA: Highlights of Africa Media Festival, British Council Grants, and Blankets & Wine

 From the Curator’s Desk

Greetings, friends:

This week’s newsletter is continuing the tradition of inviting members of our community to write From The Curator’s Desk, and for this edition, I’m happy to hand it over to my editor and friend, Charles Onyango-Obbo. He’s a journalist, writer and curator of The Wall of Great Africans on Facebook, and this is an abridged version of the latest edition of his weekly column in the Daily Nation.

Please send your guest writing pitches for this section to if you’re interested in being our guest curator on the newsletter, and you have something of interest to share to our community — a trend you’ve noticed or something you’d like us to think about.


~ Christine

Last week, we were back for the Baraza Media Lab’s second Africa Media Festival, which was held in the open front yard of the National Museum and tents in its gardens.

The festival was revealing for the peek into the political, social and transition realities of Kenya, and Africa, that it offered. It gave a glimpse into what an Africa run by women, and people between 25 and 40, could look like. You could throw a hat at those of us who were over 50.

Notably absent was a male authority figure delivering a keynote homily and yammering on until half the room dozed off. The closest it came to holding court solo for an older figure on stage was a short speech by the Dutch Ambassador, Maarten Brouwer, who pressed all the correct buttons about human rights and the beauty of freedom of media.

The audience listened politely, then slated him ruthlessly on social media for alleged hypocrisy; talking about human rights while his country stood firmly behind Israel as it killed children and smashed everything in sight in Palestine in its war with Hamas. It offered an interesting peek into how younger people exercise and negotiate with power.

And Ethiopia’s Lilly Bekele-Piper had a ‘fireside’ chat on stage with my friend, teacher, writer, broadcaster and actor John Sibi-Okumu for her “Selam & Hello” podcast.

Sibi-Okumu was eloquent but extravagantly expansive in his remarks until a half-despairing Bekele-Piper threw her arms in the air and jokingly declared that she had failed to control him.

Also, mercifully, there were none of those time-consuming opening rituals, in which speakers acknowledge every VIP in the room, the organisers and, in case they miss a name, throw in the cliched catch-all phrase ‘all protocols observed’.

It was refreshing to see speakers plunging into business on stage without first buttering everyone up or commenting on the weather.

If the elders had been in charge, several important people would have been given ‘due respect’ and the opportunity to impart their wisdom for at least 30 minutes each.

There was a lot of radical anti-colonial, anti-imperialist, pan-Africanist talk. The language was different though. They hardly used words like imperialism but spoke critically of the “Western gaze”, and, instead of saying Africans should take back their power and societies, referred to “reclaiming spaces”. They were unapologetic about the necessity for “African narratives to be dominant”.

Outside, at one of the exhibition desks, copies of Debunk Quarterly, a freshly minted magazine of “non-fiction and reportage”, was on sale.

It’s a quieter and more reflective version of the late Binyavanga Wainaina & Co’s defunct Kwani? These young folks are clever and sensitive to the times, and the future of Africa might not be in the hands of delinquents as the older folks often claim.

And there were spoken word performances, and music, lots of it, on the last evening of the proceedings. Somebody like me — whose main music fare remains jazz by John Coltrane and Miles Davis, the haunting crooning of Nina Simone, and still plays Them Mushrooms in nostalgic moments — was hopelessly lost in the woods.

The atmosphere started getting heated when Coster Ojwang came on. He’s something, Ojwang; he had a stage band, and a beauty most musicians no longer have. Shame, I had never heard of him, proof that I am a caveman in these matters. Fellows jumped to their feet and were soon gyrating to his sounds.

But the MC had been talking up Okello Max, who, I was told, is a heartthrob. Truly tall, dark and handsome, Okello took to the stage in a bright red suit with gold-coloured buttons. Before long, the ladies were swooning at the edge of the stage.

By the time Okello closed, many of them were feeling so buoyant they would have stood as presidential candidates. Not how I imagined a night at the museum would go.

In the meantime, here’s:

What I’m Reading: I’m finishing Otto English’s subversive book “Fake History: Ten Great Lies and How They Shaped the World”. It’s shocking to discover how much world history is a giant gaslighting exercise.

What I’m Watching: The latest instalment on Netflix of the extreme obstacle game Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge. Proof that David slayed Goliath.

What I’m Listening to: South African jazz musician Moses Khumalo’s album “Mntungwa”. The song “Hymn for Taiwa” makes me mildly hyperventilate. Khumalo died at the tender age of 27. Just as well. Maybe he would have killed some of us if he’d lived longer.

My best,

Charles Onyango-Obbo

Contact information

Talk to us, we’d love to hear from you!


Copyright: © 2024 Baraza Media Lab. All Rights Reserved.


We currently have no openings but kindly check out and subscribe to our bi-monthly newsletter Barua Ya Baraza for vacancies and opportunities within the broader ecosystem