Anjellah Owino


Kaloleni in Nairobi has a rich cultural, political and sports history. It is a place where Tom Mboya lived. A place where Barack Obama Sr. would hang out. Other politicians like Milton Obote, Argwings Kodhek and Jaramogi Oginga addressed people during the fight for independence. It was also where the first parliament of Kenya was situated.

It hosts Kaloleni Social Hall (McMillan Memorial Library). A great heritage site. It was built in the 1940s.

In June, this library was renovated.

The project was facilitated by Book Bunk, led by its co-founders Wanjiru Koinange and Angela Wachuka. Wanjiru is a published author. Her debut novel, “Havoc of Choice”, was released about a month ago and it is available at Text Book Centre. Angela Wachuka is a literary producer. Both women are passionate about rebuilding public libraries. They are currently working on the three McMillan Memorial Libraries, the other two are in Makadara and Banda Street.

Nafsi caught up with Wanjiru a while ago to share more about these projects and what they mean to the community.

The old library. Photo by @kenyan_library for @thebookbunk/ courtesy

How is your personal relationship with libraries?

Wanjiru I used to study in the school library. It was when I went to pursue my masters abroad that made me recognize public spaces can be beautiful. 

I want to spend my life writing books. I have worked in the arts industry all my life. Wachuka is a publisher and is passionate about African children buying African books. We want better for our libraries.

How was the journey like to come to the completion of the Kaloleni library?

Wanjiru It has been a learning process. First it was a discovery for both Wachuka and I that McMillan Memorial has a branch in Kaloleni. We had no clue. It was obviosuly not part of the plan. Then we found out that all the three buildings were neglected. We have been slow and deliberate about renovating them. On March 3 this year, we hired 28 Kaloleni residents to help rebuild this one library. This is only the beginning.

Photo by @kenyan_library for @thebookbunk/ courtesy

The library is appealing. Why was this important?

Wanjiru It is the heart of why we are doing this. As Kenyans, our relationship with public spaces is broken. Public spaces are seen as, for a lack of a better word, ugly. We hoped Kenyans would see that we deserve nice things. Nice things can be found in Kaloleni. We designed this library as if it were in Westlands or London. We wanted the space to be what the community desired for themselves. 

We recycled the furniture. In fact anything we had in the library was cleaned up. The building was paid for from what Wachuka and I raised from our networks. We received support from Duabi Cares, International Publishers Association and National Bank.

What views were you receiving from the Kaloleni community during this process?

Wanjiru When the renovation began, there was a lot of speculation in the air because the place had been targeted by land grabbers before. When the actual construction started, there were concerns whether the land was going to be grabbed. It shows how traumatic land grabbing is in these communities. 

The area chief is such an ally, we do not make any move without involving him. We were able to build trust with the community through him. Many people serving in the government have been getting such a bad rep. I hope to see more people like Chief Jacob. 

The Kaloleni Library is going to remain public. The people will use the space. 

In what ways do you hope the library will impact the community?

Wanjiru We spend a lot of time inviting people to the library to ask them about what they want. The library is going to be used socially. It is not about books only. We can have sessions with tax lawyers, for instance. It is a space where people can access art that can change their economic reality. It is about teaching people money-generating skills. We will use the space for alternative learning, employ gardeners and cleaners and pay them full time. 

What lessons from this are you employing in the Makadara Library renovation?

Wanjiru We are in the final stages of planning. We really want to see libraries as spaces that can solve all of our problems. The approach and template will be the same in all libraries. Makadara is a much bigger library. Fun fact, it is listed as a museum. What we can do is to expand the space to invite more users.  

Refurbished library. Photo by @kenyan_library for @thebookbunk

What kinds of books will be stocked at the libraries?

Wanjiru Mostly books by African writers. We are going to prioritise children’s books in terms of collection. I would like anyone who wants to read African children’s books to find them in the library. We are also going to have other genres of books such as classicals.

We have been thinking a lot about who is using this library. Why are they using it? The Kaloleni library is next to a children’s school. Makadara Library is mostly visited by teens and college students therefore the collection of books is going to reflect that. The main branch along Banda Street is going to be used by everybody thus a diverse collection. 

We are curious as to when the Kaloleni library is going to be opened, all Covid guidelines observed.

Wanjiru I don’t think the library is going to be opened before school reopens. That also gives us more time to do finishing touches.  

Fierceness in animals is a defining characteristic of Lennox Ogada’s work.

He combines movement, shape and realistic details to tell stories about animals to show similarity in traits with human beings. He also seeks to capture distinction between them in some of the pieces he created in the past few months.

All photos courtesy of @lennox_artist

Some of his paintings capture a grizzly bear walking out of water after catching a fish, one is of a lioness fearlessly with two cubs, and the other is of a stretching leopard.  He related to seeing an animal stretching like he does in the morning. “We are just like a leopard, remembering to stretch, promoting its flexibility and move fluidly,” he said. He believes animals are gifted with an extension of the senses which we can access too, sometimes after losing that or never having attained it. The animals “are the bridge between us and the beauty of all that is natural, connecting us back to ourselves.”


Lennox is selling these works. It is a challenge since a lot of people have been keen on buying essentials in the last couple of months. Art, which has been considered a luxury item more than a necessity by many people in Kenya, has evidently decreased in sales during this pandemic. The focus of many people has not been buying paintings. What he can do now is showing people what he can do while hoping that those who are able and willing to invest in art can get to know about his work.

Lennox began painting when he was nine years old and he was then guided professionally by two artists, his father and uncle. Painting portraits, on shops and hanging boards became the first skills.  

Early this year, the fine artist from Malindi, was to supply his work to a lady in the United Kingdom to sell them. He saw that as an opportunity for his art to make its way into the market, one that is more established. As he was rooted in this idea which he put on hold right after the pandemic hit, the other thought of opening an art gallery rang in his mind. Hotels and restaurants had wanted artworks. Tourists were travelling back with pieces of art. Lennox wanted to grow this culture of investing in art. He plans to display art pieces of other artists in his region, and to make his name synonymous with preservation of and selling of art. This is after an unfortunate incident he recalls when he sold a painting at a cheap price only for the client to sell it to someone else for large amounts of money. 

“I have grown to understand the value of art. I am careful to put a worthy price on my work. I want to do the same for others,” he said.

Mukuru kwa Reuben area has more than 18 schools but only two of them have almost adequately equipped libraries, Claris Nadini tells us when we visited Mukuru Library last week. This is the reality of the experience of the young people living in the community.

It is for this reason that Claris founded Badili Zone Organization two years ago which aims to ensure that all students from the slums have access to quality education and opportunities. And a year later, she requested for a building from Hope Worldwide Kenya for library use.

The library has grown to become an inviting place for young people with school girls being a good number of those using it. Claris, also an acting librarian, has been teaching seven girls in grade 7 and 8 during this pandemic. This is a huge positive thing especially when unfortunate reports keep coming out of teenage pregnancies. Currently, more than 4,000 school girls have been impregnated in Kenya since schools closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Most young girls are occupied with housework now that they are staying at home as well. According to a 2016 report by UNICEF, girls spend 160 million more hours than boys doing household chores everyday. This limits their time to focus on their learning. The library gives these young girls in Mukuru a place to pay more atention on reading and studying.

Mukuru Library located off Mombasa road in Nairobi is a needed facility to the children. Some homes lack space to support learning while several schools use one book for an entire class.

Claris and Boniface Mutunga last week who took us through the library project. The library is divided into three sections. The first two sections have bookshelves and desks. The last section is an open room intended for teacher-student learning.

The library was built on a swamp. It floods whenever it rains. You could tell the stories of some of the tattered books standing on the shelves. It had rained, the rooms were flooded, the books soaked and dried. The rains interferes with the children’s learning too.

As part of their work, late last year, Badili Zone officially launched it where the students access learning materials, get mentored, access sanitary pads, and take part in activities that facilitate their personal growth and development.

The library needs electricity connection, school curriculum books, story books, furniture, computers, and floor renovation.

photo courtesy

While she is aware that how they are going to sustain the space is a concern, Claris, who grew up in Mukuru and understands the struggles of the community, cannot imagine asking the children to pay to access reading materials. That is out of the question. They rely on volunteers, and have been supported by Jomo Kenyatta Foundation, General Motors, and Hope Worldwide Kenya.

Badilisha Zone is run by eight young members, six of whom are university students. Their renovation budget is KSh300,000. Here is the link to the M-Changa account here is the link to the M-changa

“If a person or an organization is willing to donate materials such as books and furniture, that would also be helpful. The ultimate goal is to provide a place for the children to read,” said Claris.

The Alliance Francaise in Nairobi is resuming monthly exhibitions in its art gallery after four months. And “Wheels of Life” art exhibition by Evans Ngure sets this in motion.

The exhibition which opened on July 6 and ends on July 31, is a reflection of life experiences. Evans recycles brass wheels, brass wire, wine corks, drift wood, metal irons, kettles, side mirror casing, belt buckles and many other found materials. This he does to form shapes of animals as well as share his views on the present day-to-day life and the memories of his past.

photo courtesy of evans Ngure/ titled “Monkey Revolt”.

One of the rewards of upcycling, the technique of recycling found objects and repurposed to create new artworks, is that it preserves the environment. Objects that would otherwise be considered trash are assembled together to become a treasure.

Evans explored this concept too in the messages in some of his artworks such as “Monkey Revolt” through which he speaks against human encroachment into wild habitats. This has been a huge concern.

photo courtesy of Evans Ngure/ price: KSH. 14,000

Some of his other works are functional as seen above. This lantern has a bulb inside and it is connected to a socket to produce electricity.

“Functional art is a great way to share my work at an affordable cost while creating something which can be used at home,” Evans explains.

If you would like to go to visit the gallery, in person visits are allowed. Measures such as sanitizing, wearing of masks and physical distancing are practiced.

Here are a number of the pieces of this exhibition.

photo courtesy of Evans Ngure
photo courtesy of Evans Ngure
photo courtesy of Evans Ngure
photo courtesy of Evans Ngure/ price: KSH. 40,000
photo courtesy of Evans Ngure
photo courtesy of Evans Ngure
photo courtesy of Evans Ngure

The renovation of McMillan Memorial Library’s Kaloleni Branch is complete.

Book Bunk has been working on restoring Kenya’s second oldest library McMillan Memorial Library on Banda Street, Kaloleni and Makadara in Nairobi.

Libraries are seen as signficant public spaces for public art and memory, conservation of heritage materials, information exchange, creative economy, production of knowledge and imagination, cultural leadership and shared experiences.

The modernization and renovation of libraries which includes digital archiving of materials, providing internet access to visitors and equipping libraries with the needed reading materials will also likely attract more people into these spaces which have mostly been occupied by researchers and students.

Book Bunk was established in 2017 by Wanjiru Koinange and Angela Wachuka with the main aim of restoring libraries in Kenya.

The organization engaged the community to share what they want for these spaces. And to execute this, 28 Kaloleni residents were hired for the construction of the library. The team announced on their social pages that they began working on the architectural restoration of the library on March 3.

Book Bunk mentioned that the project was supported by Dubai Cares, International Publishers Association (IPA) and National Bank. 

Here are some of the photos of the restored Kaloleni library. We hope that you pay it a visit.

By @kenyan_library and Book Bunk
By @kenyan_library and Book Bunk
By @kenyan_library and Book Bunk
By @kenyan_library and Book Bunk
By @kenyan_library and Book Bunk

A home is a safe haven- or we hope it is for everyone.

All the same, we could do with our own private spaces within a home. A mini sanctuary, ‘cocoon’, a ‘cabin’ as we call it here. A private space to retreat to. A space to recharge. A small space to just be in silence, reflect, meditate, rest, pursue a hobby, or just to daydream, you know.

This reminds me of a colleague who explained to me about how introverts sharing living spaces with others could become drained of energy in the past weeks of staying at home. He said that there may be little time and space for them to be alone to restore energy. And they still need to stay at home to be safe.

A research has it too that every person within a household needs to have their own personal spaces. And even when living alone, having a small space you can retreat to inside your home is certainly good for the soul.

It is greatly advised for introverts and highly sensitive people to cater to the need of alone time. This is because people with these qualities become overstimulated by a lot of things; noise, bright lights, busy schedules, very often. As a result, there is a need for a plenty of downtime. A quiet time is a well-wrapped gift.

You do not have to go above and beyond in getting a private space. A little ‘cabin’ can be on the bed, in a room, a balcony with a good view, at the back of your house, at the window, at a home office, and so on.

Each one of us deeply knows how we want a private space to be. We offer tips you can pick to create your own little ‘cabin’ as you wish it to be.

Keep it tidy and organized

A cluttered space can easily lead to a cluttered mind.

Studies have revealed that people with cluttered homes have higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Besides, the idea behind having a space of your own is to help recharge your body and mind. A neat space is a good start.

Create a space where you can definitely enjoy the time spent in it. A space you would want to go back to again and again.

Absorb yourself in rejuvenating hobbies

Photo courtesy of Caroline Abok, who is into gardening

Mindfulness colouring and painting, writing, taking a nap, journaling, reading, gardening, exercising, listening to music are some of the hobbies to pursue in your little ‘cottage’. Engage in activities meant to build you is a powerful way of showing love to yourself.

Make it a phone-free zone

We agree that phones are convenient tools for communication. They can cause distractions too.

We could go on a social media detox for the time we intend to spend alone. Clicking on news updates is not really spending time alone. If we really have to stay with the phone, we suggest going online when what we seek contributes to idea of enjoying personal company.

But a phone-free zone is much better, we think.

Collect items that you like for the space

Photo by Elaine Howlin on Unsplash

Treat your private space with your favourite items. A sentimental gift, candles, good books, a mirror, a cozy blanket, handmade decorative objects, or anything that speaks to you. If you are outside the house, have a small garden or a plant to nurture.

Imagine collecting some of the objects you absolutely love for your sanctuary.

Go for a soothing scent

Burning scented candles, essential oils and incense, or making your own scent at home, can transform a simple space to an inviting ‘cabin’. A pleasant aroma helps in rejuvenating the mind and body too.  

Indulge in your guilty pleasure

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Favourite movie or TV series, a bar of chocolate, a delicious slice of cake, a smoothie, a cup of coffee, or anything that makes you happy can be done in your little sanctuary.

Establish a serene place

The mind submits to our actions and words. If say, we dedicate an area solely for work and nothing else, that is what our minds will identify the place to only be about.

Establish boundaries of how you want the place to feel and your mind will pick that up quickly. Also, the energy in the space will remain as you want it to be. Dim lights, warm blanket and a relaxed place can be some of the elements to go for.

What are some other really simple tips to creating your own ‘cabin’?

When he moved to Nairobi from Colombia three years ago, Javier Aranzales was a difficult name for many to pronounce. The professional ballet trainer and content creator was then given the nickname ‘Kamau’, which ended up to be his pseudonym. 

‘Kamau’ is now his brand, and one that his 100,000 followers know him as. The Harvard graduate has since learned to speak Swahili fluently, made parody videos of Kenyan songs shared on @afrobeatswithkamau on TikTok, and taught ballet to children in Mathare and Kibra.

He was born in Colombia, moved to Miami as refugees and worked in Seattle. He now lives in Nairobi.

‘Kamau’ tells us how his passion for Afro beats came about, the dance culture in Kenya and Colombia, his creative process, and more.

Photo courtesy of Javier ‘Kamau’ Aranzales

KAMAU The first time to come to Kenya, I was on a development program. I was also studying Swahili through it and I was teaching dance in Mathare. The organization which brought me here combines all of these things which I am passionate about.

NAFSI What has stood out for you when it comes to the art of dance in Kenya?

KAMAU The African dance is already established like the way salsa has been in Colombia. When I teach ballet in Spanish-speaking countries, it is going to be questioned. There is that stereotypical thinking that it is for the European elites. How can a Colombian, a refugee for that matter, a man, dance and teach ballet?

Ballet is still very much new where I come from. From my experience, ballet is embraced in the places I have taught in Kenya; Mathare and Kibra, and in several dance schools. I have seen many professional productions and children pursuing ballet. My main focus is on children from underprivileged backgrounds.

NAFSI How did your passion for Afro beats come about?

KAMAU It all started when I was in college. I became really close with many Africans, and particularly with Kenyans and Tanzanians. We formed friendships and exchanged cultures. When I studied the Swahili language, I fell in love with the East African music. And since no one around me was playing the music, I began promoting it. My first platform was Instagram.

NAFSI The College you referred to was actually Harvard University. Let us just get that out there. Now, how did TikTok happen?

KAMAU My little sister told me about it when it was initially called There were very few content creators from the African continent at the time. I shared content on Instagram for nearly a year and then received a message from TikTok who brought me on board as one of their content creators.

I can be the most authentic version of myself on TikTok. My experience has been organic too. The number of followers has grown very fast too. The numbers are important to me since it gives access to opportunities.

Now the challenge is to balance both Instagram and TikTok. My sister told me she thinks the content and strategies should be different in the two platforms.

Photo courtesy of Kamau

NAFSI It can get demanding to regularly share content and keeping your creative juice pumped up all through.

KAMAU I take it a day at a time. I do not plan my content in advance. My content is very short-term and when I say that, I mean tomorrow-kind-of short-term. I post three videos a day. I just want to have an overflow of content. I am part of the TikTok creative program. The managers send us trendy ideas.

NAFSI How do you earn money off content creation?

KAMAU Through marketing campaigns. I also do freelancing work on Upwork as a TikTok expert. I have just spoken to a producer in United Kingdom for a marketing campaign. This is my full-time career.

NAFSI Who are your favourite Kenyan musicians?

KAMAU I really like Nadia Mukami. I like her especially for her lyrics. I like Sauti Sol too. I did a Suzanna challenge on my platform.

NAFSI What has social distancing during this unfortunate pandemic taught you?

KAMAU Right now many people are online. It is the right time to post. I am taking advantage of that. I am staying at home. I thought I was an extrovert since I like being in the spotlight and creating content, and I am confident. But I enjoy working from home and being alone. I am an extrovert but I need to spend time alone.

NAFSI And how do you spend your alone time?

KAMAU I schedule it at night. I disconnect from social media. I pick my journal, sit on the bed, and write how my day has been like. It is important for me because the creative process is not only online but offline too. I am a huge believer of journaling. It is something I want to do, I do not force it. I write down my weekly goals every Sunday. Right now I display them in a place where I have to see them every time. I also reflect on my experiences.

NAFSI We think that having a reflective routine like this is why you have been able to polish your craft each time. Would you say that too?

KAMAU It is important for me to spend some time alone since a creative needs to be fully charged like a phone to give their best.

NAFSI What do you do immediately after you wake up?

KAMAU I write down my dreams if I can remember them. If I wait any longer, I may quickly forget them. I pick my phone without looking at the notifications and type my dreams. A glass of water then follows. I have a banana, read the Holy Qur’an, open my curtains and have breakfast. When I go online, I first check on what my family and friends are up to on WhatsApp.

And then I begin my day.

Gratitude is a powerful mindset for anyone to have. It cultivates contentment, abundance, uplifts moods, shifts perspective, and opens up more opportunities to be grateful for. Gratitude goes beyond saying that we are thankful but a belief that we truly blessed.

Teaching children about thankfulness early on helps them to be happier and appreciative, reduces feelings of envy and comparison, makes them to become more optimistic, and deepens relationships.

Here are some of the ways to instill this attitude in children.

Gift them with a gratitude journal

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

There is power in writing down things. It brings words to life. Reflecting on positive experiences can add more of that in their lives.

Get them a journal from bookstores which they can deliver at your doorstep as you safely stay at home, if you can. Or have a simple unwritten notebook they can use specifically for gratitude journaling.

Creating a habit of writing down five or even more things they are grateful for every day before they go to sleep, makes for happier children.

Remind them of their blessings during difficult times

Photo by Zach Lucero on Unsplash

If we want something to be unhappy about, we will find it. If we want something to be grateful for, we will always find them.

When they are sad about a thing, it is best that we acknowledge their feelings. You can also ask them what they are happy about. This could lift their vibrations.

Help them to be giving

Giving gets our minds to think that what we have is in plenty, and that it is more than enough. Volunteer with them. Help them to share items with others. Giving brings out gratitude.

Create a gratitude mantra

Photo by Kiy Turk on Unsplash

Come up with a mantra with your child. The positive affirmations on this such as “I am blessed”, “I have many things to be grateful for”, “I have everything I need”, “I appreciate everything in my life”, steeps a child in a thankful mindset. Help them come up with their own too. This can become a constant point of reference to them throughout their life.

Refrain from complaining in front of them

Embody gratitude too. Talk more about what you love and less of what you dislike, especially in front of children. The little ones have huge superpowers of detecting whenever we are feeling off. It could then pass onto them.

If we complain less, we nurture the attitude of thankfulness in them.

Talk to them about gratitude

Photo by Conner Baker on Unsplash

Always make them believe that there is more than enough. Whenever we run out of an item in the house, you could say something like, “we will get it next time” instead of “we do not have it.”

Teach them to notice the things to be grateful for, explain the need to be grateful, and how to express gratitude in everyday life. Teaching a child to view the world from a perspective of appreciation and not of scarcity.

Use the words “please” and “thank you”

Photo by Courtney Hedger on Unsplash

When children hear the two words genuinely spoken a lot, it shows that one, respect and lack of entitlement. Therefore we can ask by using the word “please.” Two, we are grateful for what it is that we get.

Thank them too when they help out at home.

Help them to care for stuff

Teaching them to care for the things they own projects an appreciation for those things. It will impart responsibility. These two is a manifest of gratitude mindset whereas taking things for granted is not.

Read books about gratitude to your child

Children can also learn through reading. Get books which talk about thankfulness. As they interact with characters and experience different situations on gratitude through a book, it will encourage them to be thankful too.

For a very long time, we have seen only one representation in children’s products. This is changing. African children can now see themselves in animation films, dolls and literature. Children’s books on shelves display characters with kinky hair and dark skin. That is not all. These and many explore empowering stories around self-confidence, leadership, ambition, values and identity.

Here are some of the powerful stories you can read to your child.

“Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls” by Francesca Cavallo, Elena Favili

In the context of this book, ‘rebel’ means a person who is going above the limits set. The book is a collection of real stories of 100 women. It shares their heroic lives and the marke they have left in different professions: astronaut, engineers, tennis players.

The book is an interesting read for little girls and even boys. They can learn about all these professions and to be reminded that there is no limit to what one can do. Price: KES 1,990.

“Sulwe” by Lupita Nyong’o

By now you may have known about Lupita’s new book. It is a story about a girl called Sulwe, a Luo word meaning star. She goes on a personal journey to discover that beauty comes from within. The book is a beautiful representation of coloured little girls.

The author hopes to have girls accept themselves inspite of what society defines beauty to be. Price: KSH 2,199.

“Affirmations ABC” by Dorothy Ghettuba Pala

A fun way to teach your children positive affirmations is taking them through the ABCs. The book has 26 affirmations for a child to appreciate themselves more. The book aims to nurture self-confidence and self-appreciation in the little minds.

The book is ideal for children between the ages of 3 to 7. Price: KSH 1,161.

“Harriet’s Humongous Hair” by Ni Lo

Harriet is not happy with sitting still when doing her hair. She later realizes that she needs her mother to help her do her hair. The book is a celebration of kinky, African hair. Price: KSH 1,198

“Hair Love” by Matthew A. Cherry

Zuri has to have her hair made. His father has to learn how to make her hair just the way Zuri likes it. The book recognizes the relationship between fathers and daughters, showing the place of fathers in building self-confidence in their young daughters. It celebrates natural hair too!

The book was adapted into an animation short film. And it won an Oscar this year. Price: KSH 1,055.

“She Persisted” by Chelsea Clinton

The book is about 13 inspirational women who stubbornly do not take for an answer. Chelsea Clinton applauds the courage of these 13 American women who spoke up for what is right and in doing so, they brought change in the country.

This book can awaken the activism in children to speak up for themselves and for others. It reminds them to stand up for what they believe in. It hopes to show them that they can use their voice to bring change. Some of the women featured in the book are: Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller and Oprah Winfrey. Price: KSH 1,850.

“Bird Hugs” by Ged Adamson

You can never go wrong with picking a book about animals for a child.

Bernard is a bird with very long wings. He is not able to fly. He wonders why he has wings in the first place if he cannot fly like other birds. He meets a sad ape, leading him to start accepting what makes him different from other birds.

The book was originally published last month. Price: KSH 1,142

“I Said No” by Zack and Kimberly King

In their early years, children need to be taught about body boundaries in a language they can understand. This book offers ways children can address disrespect of personal space when they encounter such a situation. It is also a guide to parents and caregivers on how to teach children about the same. Price: KSH 1,213

“I Can Touch” by Muthoni Muchemi

It is a good thing to show to children that even girls can play football. There are no limits to what one can do. Gender is definitely not a limitation. The book can help your child learn new vocabularies. Price: KSH 290

Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World by Vashti Harrison

The book features 40 women creators from around the world. Children can be inspired by the true stories of writers, scientists, environmentalists, filmmakers, architects, and so on who have made an impact. Story of
Environmental activitis the late Wangari Maathai is also featured in the book. Price: KSH 1,145

“Let’s Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent and Respect” by Jayneen Sanders

This book teaches children about body boundaries. It offers a guide on how they should treat their personal space and that of others. It teaches children to own their bodies. The book explores self confidence, sense of self, respect of body boundaries in a way a child can easily understand. Price: KSH1,034

“The Magic is Inside You” by Cathy Domoney

Madeleine has a big challenge of negative self-talk. She has to learn to take charge of her thoughts and turn them into a positive attitude. In doing this, she is able to cultuvate a positive self esteem and transform her life successfully.

The book takes a look at different thoughts and emotions children too can experience. It can help them in nurturing emotional intelligence. Price: KSH 1,383

We would love to know, what books are you reading to your child?

Kenyan band Sauti Sol has set the date for the release of their fifth studio album, “Midnight Train” under their recording deal with Universal Music Group.

The band recently released its first single “Suzanna” off their much anticipated album to be out in May 22.

“The recording of this album was a mishmash of stress and happiness. The process of going through these songs was a lot. But when recording it, we felt that we were ready. We felt the same way too for our previous projects but this time it was on another level,” said Chimano, a vocalist and member of the group.

Adding: Aesthetically speaking, all the four of us in the band was depicted how we are as individuals. We wanted to bring to life the 1970s and 1980s aesthetics and to make our work look 2020 and cool. The production was detailed and it integrated what we had explained what we wanted.”

The group has a recording company, Sol Generation records, and signed Nviiri, Kaskazini and Bensoul who they have worked with in their album.

We sat down with Bien to talk about the art of songwriting, which is a big part of Sauti Sol brand, and founding of a songwriters’ association in Kenya. He also shares how songwriitng has made an impact in his life, what he would like to see in the industry, and more.

NAFSI Share with us about Kenya Songwriters Association.

BIEN It is one of the legacy projects by Sauti Sol for the industry. We do not plan on holding onto it but we plan to put it into its feet and to make sure that songwriters are actually paid for what they do.

We finally just got clearance. You know opening an association is a process. You have to have a chairperson, you have to have this… there are so many regulations. We just completed the whole process and we are going to start with workshops this year.

NAFSI What role do you play in the Association?

BIEN I am the acting chairperson until artists come on board and elect their own. People could come on board and say that they do not want you as their chairperson and they elect Ethic Entertainment. I will agree to that.  

NAFSI How would you describe the aspect of art and business of songwriting in Kenya right now?

BIEN It is sad to say this but it is dead. I have been commissioned to write songs many times in other parts of the world. When I see the structure from other countries, I am amazed at their level of professionalism. You know, in Germany songwriters are given an advance pay because musicians already know that what will be written is going to be a hit. I want Kenya to experience that. I want Sol Generation to be giving song writers an advance pay to write for Nviiri, to write for Bensoul.

NAFSI Having written for many artistes here and in other countries, do you feel the need to create emotional boundaries with your art or do you find complete attachment to your art needful as a creative?

BIEN I am not emotional about it. I just write about the experience of the artist. So I do not write a song and then approach the artist. I talk about to them, what are they going through? What is the story? And then write from there. I have serious emotional attachment to the songs I write as my own. Still, the balance with that has created itself naturally.

NAFSI Who is your first audience when writing a song?

BIEN I think myself first and then my fellow artistes like Sauti Sol and Sol Generation. The song has to captivate me first. I will then hear the opinions of my band mates and Sol Generation artistes. I respect Bensoul and Nviiri as song writers more than as musicians. I respect their opinion. Most of the time they would give suggestions to some of my lyrics and come up with their own.

NAFSI Has songwriting had any impact in your life?

BIEN Yes. It is a good outlet. You are able to tell people your story. It has earned me respect. You know, there is a form of respect that comes with songwriting. It has earned me commercial value too. I have been able to see the world, meet different people, and broadened my perspective. It has taught me how to take peoples’ opinions and not to be too attached to mine. I can do that easily now. I do not hold onto my lyrics. If someone says they do not like my lyrics and they have better ones that make the song better, we put it in there.

NAFSI When artistes have songs written for, the perception has been that they are less of true artists. Do you see that perception has changed?

BIEN It is important for an artist to work with as many artistes that they need to, to make their work great. Beyoncé has 80 writers in her album, “Lemonade”. Even today in this conference, we did not have 80 people. 80 is a lot of people. People from western countries have moved to an understanding that it does not make them any less of an artist to have songwriters.

NAFSI The upcoming album and documentary you are releasing drives the narrative of mental wellness, with themes of heartbreak and insecurities in it. How did you decide to compile together these themes?

BIEN The stories are about myself. I have insecurities. I have dealt with heartbreak. Writing songs is how I deal with them. Insecurities never end. They make me a better songwriter and they make me a better human being. You can never go wrong when you write about your own story. If you write about partying, that has a short shelf life. It is also important to write about those things too but it is good to find a balance.