The air was reeling with anticipation as guests arrived at the Kenya National Theater. Members of literati, thespians, filmmakers, art enthusiasts not forgetting fans of literature and theater had gathered to be part of Dr. Zippora Agatha Okoth’s book launch. Zippy is a household name who has stolen the hearts of many with her exceptional talent on the stage.
Her play Stranger in my Bed was a masterpiece that pierced into people’s hearts and souls. It is a monologue about the rather daunting task of going through domestic abuse. Dr Zippy Okoth also happens to be Director of the Theater Arts department at Kenyatta University, a judge at Ms President Show, Executive Director of Legacy Arts Film Lab among other notable positions.
The event started with a short cocktail where attendants got to grab a few bitings. Thereafter, you could note the exhilaration on people’s faces as they waited for the launch to commence. When the doors to the auditorium were opened, people streamed in like water from a tap. Murmurs of excitement could be heard from every corner of the theater. When she took the stage, a profound silence descended in the auditorium. She welcomed us and talked a little about herself before giving us a break down of the event program. From the rapt attention the crowd was giving her, you could tell she is a phenomenal performer as well as an eloquent speaker. When she left the stage, we had a poet Kennett B do a short poetry performance which was rather profound.
The next part of the session was heart wrenching as much as it was thought provoking. An actress would perform one part of the book. When the lights went off then the spotlight was on the stage, the mood changed to one of depth. The lady was really in character and those moments that she wept, the audience wept with her. She brought out the monologue like it was her own, her face moving souls into the moment. Her very demeanor painted pictures in all our minds as her gestures only accentuated what she was going through.
When that was over, we had a panel discussion around the issue of Gender Based Violence; which is the primary focus of the book. The panelists included Prof Jeff Mugubi, Dr. Amakove Wala, Dr Fred Mbogo, Dr Mwari Muthaura, Simiyu Mbarasa and Mary Kambo. The book is exactly as the name says; a ‘From The Diary of a Divorced Woman’, it is simply the personal story from Dr Zippy Okoth.
The panel included experts from the arts industry, a psychologist and a representative from Kenya Human Rights Commission among others. There was a heavy discussion around the publication of the book as well as domestic violence. Members of the audience got to ask questions and share their views on the issue.
At the end, people got to take photos with the author as well as have their books autographed. As the attendants left the auditorium, many were thoughtful and others looked hopeful. They might have all been satisfied. There had been a platform to discuss a rather contemporary issue and there was a book that shed more light on a sensitive issue from a very vulnerable and personal point of view. The small groups of former and new friends were elated as the conversations went on even after the launch.
It was an amazing event.
[Pictures by James Gikonyo]