I'm really excited about this festival. It's been a bit of a dream of mine since I went to the World Social Forum in Nairobi... there I saw the effect of a large number (they said 60 odd thousand but I don't know) of at any rate tens of thousands of open minded think outside of the box people descend on Nairobi, ripping apart old archaic paradigms and doing things differently. Even in terms of how they visited the city. Staying in dodgy parts of town, taking public transport (Matatus) all the way to Kasirani, making friends with people in the matatu and being invited home for dinner etc. It was great, and I think to some extent it changed the vibe in the City a bit and challenged some people's beliefs of what could be done and how one could live in Nairobi.
Here I was in Malindi, stuck in this annoying mess of chartered tour operator tourism. Where on some levels people encourage racism and fear by saying its dangerous outside (come on in Malindi!??!?!) so that they stay in the hotels and spend there money there. In these hotel's they're brought Masai dancers, eat pasta and generally don't get any idea of what Malindi or the Coast really is. (I can come up with plenty of examples but don't want to get hammered by tourism people in malindi) Generally though, everything in malindi feels negative towards locals, Giriamas are backward and have no culture, the only real culture or richness is brought by Mzungus, you can't trust locals, they only want your money, especially women... etc etc
So I thought to myself, what if we got (like at the WSF) a big group of people to change the tide of the Hegemony. What if a bunch of open minded people descended on Malindi who were genuinely interested in learning about giriama culture, eating local food, listening to the amazing drumming sessions they do and not coming to Malindi because they can't afford to go to Sardegna. Maybe something could change? Maybe even the businesses would see that there is money to be made in responsible tourism? Or at least they could think positively, feel good about contributing to a positive event and thereby perhaps, in some way become slightly less negative selfish/profit seeking and feel good about investing in the place? I think this is part of the spirit of the Festival. As well as promoting positive messages: Last year we focused on Child Protection/Sexual violence and this year we are focusing on Access to Education especially ECD.
So anyway, the thing is starting small (even though last year we were much bigger than expected) but it's nice. Local businesses are contributing as well as some large Kenyan corporations (Air Kenya, Royal Media), We've had some big Kenyan names, last year Achieng Obura, this year Nyota Ndogo and Eric Wainaina, as well as some big italian names (yes, sorry, we need to catch the attention of the Italians of Malindi so that we can educate them! :) ) Tullio de Piscopo, Paola Turci, Tony Esposito. So, all in all I'm pretty pleased, I hope it catches on, and yes, I hope malindi improves and is no longer considered a town where Italians come to exploit local women and grab all the land. There's always hope! :)