Kistrech International Poetry Festival in Kenya is currently the most popular and largest literary event in Africa. Started in 2013, its aim is to bring local and international poets together on one platform every year. It promotes poetry and cultural exchange between local and foreign artists. Spoken-word, rap, song, poetry reading, oral poetry, music instrument-playing, & performances are featured. Students and upcoming poets, especially those from Africa, get an opportunity to learn from visiting poets. Established poets also get a chance to learn and get raw materials for their poetry writing. Literature students in Kenyan Universities have been advantaged as they get to learn of writers and literary works from other continents that they didn’t know existed. Academic papers on poetry and related genres that are presented alongside the festival activities benefit the post-graduate students.
Rural Town of Kisii
Held in the small rural town of Kisii in Western Kenya, the event is aimed at providing the visiting poets with an experience they will not forget. The rural town is occupied largely by Abagusii people whose tradition and culture is comprised of oral poetry and dance. Kisii University, situated in the heart of Kisii town, provides a conducive atmosphere for the festival and enables visiting poets to interact with students and lecturers of literature, culture, history, theatre and music. The event is not only held at Kisii University but is taken to Kenyatta University and University of Nairobi as well.
Kistrech International Poetry festival gets support from art agencies and embassies around the world. These art agencies include Dutch Foundation for Literature who funds Dutch poets. NORLA (Norwegian Literature Abroad) whofunds Norwegian poets. Danish Arts Foundation who supports Danish poets. Canada Council for the Arts and Artsnb.ca supports Canadian poets to the festival. Israel Embassy-Nairobi supports the Israeli poets and also gives a ‘small’ support to the festival. Ministry of Education and Culture of Cyprus supports poets from Cyprus. Goethe Institut-Nairobi funds poetsfrom Germany.Kisii Universityin Kenya provides transport and venue. In trouble are the poets from African countries that don’t seem to have any funding for their participation -- any support for them out there?
The event has become a poetour festival, and thus an annual destination for every poet from around the world. Foreign poets who participate get an opportunity to go site-seeing. They visit the village and learn how Africans live, share in their indigenous foods and local brew, watch African oral poetry and experience the tradition and culture of the people. Poets also visit Maasai Mara Game Reserve to quench their thirst of the enthusiasm to ever see the Big Five. They also visit Tabaka Soapstone Mine in which they view soapstone carvings and its artistic expression, and buy some to take home assouvenirs. A visit to Lake Victoria and boat-riding is one of those activities that, not only provide an opportunity to sight-see, but also create an interaction space among local and foreign artists. Visits to colleges and Universities in Kenya create space for meeting other poets and upcoming student-artists, and therefore expand the experiences and knowledge of our visiting poets.