GBM Blog

The Storymoja Hay Festival honours Wangari Maathai!

September 18, 2012 - 01:05PM
Published by Vicky Brotherton

*This memorial lecture is the first of a number of events to be held this month in memory of Wangari Maathai. Further information about these events can be found on our events page and on facebook and twitter.

As shared by Wanjira Mathai (GBM International Exec Director) and Njeri Gakonjo (GBM Board Chair) who attended the festival

The 4th Storymoja Hay Festival was held in Nairobi this past weekend. The festival is the Hay Festival’s African counterpart, bringing together writers from across the world. In honour of Wangari Maathai, an annual ‘Wangari Maathai lecture’ was launched. The inaugural lecture was given by the celebrated Chinese author and historian, Jung Chang.

Jung Chang signs copies of her books at the Storymoja Hay FestivalThe lecture was introduced by Njeri Gakonyo, GBM Board Chair who highlighted the important linkages between great writing, such as Jung Chang’s and Wangari Maathai’s work, and inter-cultural understanding in overcoming the kind of awful, unacceptable conflict currently being witnessed in the Tana River delta. Through her work, Professor Maathai promoted cultures of peace and welcomed books, like 'Wild Swans', which provide an insight into other cultures. When people have a better understanding they are more likely to talk than fight. Reading widely is conducive to peace!

Jung Chang, author of the global bestseller ‘Wild Swans’ then gave a riveting talk about her life and journey as a writer with a wonderful mix of wit and humour. She began with her passion for stories as a child when she created tales and poems in her head, never putting pen to paper for fear she and/or her family would end up in the brutal hands of Chairman Mao's military forces during the Cultural Revolution. She shared how that era shaped her life and her determination to share the truth, and how China is still yet to overcome the suffering inflicted during the Mao regime. She spoke of her admiration for Wangari Maathai, and the feeling would surely be mutual!

All who attended were unanimous that the memorial lecture was outstanding! The Green Belt Movement would like to say a big Thank you to Jung Chang for honouring us with her presence and most importantly for honouring Wangari Maathai with a powerful lecture. We look forward to next year’s Storymoja Hay festival already and hope to see you all there!