In December 2019, the seasoned playwright and film producer Alex Ikawa conducted a week-long writers residency at Aramesh. His approach was iterative and decidedly practical, with short, densely packed writing assignments interspersed with one-on-one writing clinics. There were three adults and three school students from Kwale. This workshop turned out to be intense but playful, and was interspersed with daily yoga and meditation. One exercise was to make stone talk. This resulted in extraordinarily varied pieces. A valuable lesson learned was to ensure that young students not compare their writing with that of their peers.
Then Alex met with the theatre group Msenangu and made a short, silent movie based on a story they developed. When he showed them the edited movie, they burst out laughing, and self-represented so quickly, thanked all concerned. They return to rehearse at Aramesh from time to time. Watch the video: http://arameshisland.com/2020/01/06/local-actors-club/
The adults in the retreat had previous experience in writing. Narissa Allibhai writes a blog : nomadgirltales.com, that covers travel, spirituality and social causes. Faith Karimi is a well-published children’s book author. Rafique has completed a memoir and is currently writing an historical novel based in 8th Century Basra. At the end of the workshop, Faith Karimi commissioned fellow-participant Salim, a student in form 2, to write a piece on how he saved the life of a drowning boy, for publication. Rafique has restructured his entire novel storyline. Narissa is re-reading Emily Dickinson, whose poetry has greatly enriched her blog.
The lessons learned:
- Despite the astonishing productivity of the meeting, time could have been better managed.
- The community outreach, while decisive and roundly applauded, could have been discussed when negotiating with the teacher.
- The community outreach was quite a separate activity. Could it have been better integrated in light of the fact that the community participants worked in Swahili, while the writers’ workshop participants worked in English?
- What kind of follow-up would be effective, given that the teacher was a guest and has a demanding job based in Nairobi?
Aramesh Writers Workshop
Assignment: “Make stone talk.”
Submission by Rafique Keshavjee
The aged and worn stone stood quietly facing the far, blue ocean, remembering happier days. When it was higher and mightier, but then cracked and broke with heavy, sad thuds onto the sand.
“How proud I stood, how wary humans were as they climbed my spiky, craggy sides to get a view or smoke ganja to try to understand me and enjoy the views I offered.”
Tiktok, tiktok, groan, crack, thud. A big piece of my belly, proudly sticking out, falls onto a poor fisherman hacking at a dying turtle. His friends run out just in time, but he is too busy preparing the meal to hear the fatal crack. They lose their friend and miss the feast. They can’t drag the body out, and are too squeamish to hack off the uncrushed parts —how can they have a funeral with only parts of a body?
My victim’s soul rushes at me in rage. “Why me?” He screams, “and why couldn’t you wait just ten seconds?!”
“Me, wait? What is time?” I reply to, or rather, through him, “You are nothing to me. I have seen countless of you come and go. I know not want of food, nor hope for good or fear of evil. I am formed already and will remain so, until water, much more patient than any of you, claims me. She comes either from clouds, with gentle determination, causing crack and crash from my belly, or from the blue ocean, egged by the moon to smash at my caves and promontories, to snatch bits of me, over eons and eons. I thus give over to the ocean, me young and proud, the Ocean old and patient, the Queen of Time.