Last year The NEST Collective, a group of young Nairobi-based artists and activists, released a stunning film called Stories of Our Lives. The film, which was culled from true stories researched over a period of time, was a tender and evocative exploration of LGBT experiences across Kenya: a series of vignettes that celebrated queer Kenyan life in all its extraordinary and quotidian majesty.
Although the film was heralded in the west, the reception back in Kenya, particularly amongst the censorious and homophobic current regime, meant that its primary audience -- LGBT Kenyans -- would not have the opportunity to purchase and watch the film. Undeterred, The NEST Collective, which is a genuine study in team spirit and creative forward thinking, decided to release an anthology of short memoir pieces that expand on the narratives that made the Stories of Our Lives film such a soulful, poetic act of risk-taking.
The testimonials in the anthology are snapshots of lives lived on the periphery, snapshots that when pieced together create a vivid and necessary mosaic of what it means to be queer in Kenya today. The act of publishing this book in an environment that is hostile to the lives contained within its pages is a radical endeavor, which is amplified by the fact that there is no hectoring at play here. Each story is suffused with dignity, sometimes defiance and other times lust, love, longing, cockiness, humility and general badassery. The cumulative effect is a transcendental one.
This is an anthology that demands to be read again and again for its sheer ambition, scope and quiet power. The NEST Collective is to be commended for putting together such a thrilling and vital addition to the global LGBT literary canon.
You can purchase the Stories of Our Lives anthology as a Kindle. You can also purchase music inspired by the Stories of Our Lives film on Amazon.