The African Book Fair, organized by Soma Nami Books, was a tremendous success! Held from August 1–5 at the McMillan Memorial Library in Nairobi, Kenya, the event saw a massive turnout of over 5000 attendees from various parts of the world.

With the display and sale of books from more than 50 African countries, the fair was a hub for celebrating African literature and culture. The fair included a staggering collection of 10,000 books and over 2000 titles from diverse genres and authors, at discounts of up to 50%.

Attendees had the opportunity to explore an array of literary works, ranging from fiction to non-fiction, contemporary novels to historical works and poetry collections. The fair aimed to promote not only established writers but also emerging talents, giving them a platform to showcase their works.

The book fair also showcased 20 panelists, 8 exhibitors from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, 3 Library tours of the historic and iconic McMillan Memorial Library in Nairobi CBD area, and a book launch.

Some of the highlights of the fair include:

Venue – The venue for the fair at the McMillan Memorial Library was a very deliberate choice for the organizers. When the library was built in 1931 by Lady Lucie Mcmillan in memory of her late husband Sir William Northrup McMillan, an American settler, Kenya was still a British Colony. Use of the library was restricted to white settlers only until 1962, on the cusp of Kenya’s independence (in 1963). It was an intentional decision to host the very first African Book Fair at this historic library as a reclamation of this public space and a celebration of the strides that Africans have made since colonial times when we were unable to access reading havens.

Interdisciplinary Panels – The fair also incorporated interdisciplinary panel sessions to reflect how different art forms coexist, merge & marry and also borrow from each other. The first panel includes multidisciplinary artists such as Kenyan music legend and author of Shades of Benga Tabu Osusa, University of Nairobi literature professor Dr Tom Odhiambo, poet and cultural curator Adipo Silang, and Benga musician Winyo. The panel held an insightful discussion on reclaiming the narrative and documenting culture and included interludes of music performances by Winyo.

Book Discussion Moderated by a 14-year-old – A confident young reader Maria Marube held a one-hour vibrant book discussion with Shiku Nguru, author of the YA book series Intasimi Warriors, in front of a mixed audience of both adults and kids.

Library Tours – In partnership with Book Bunk, a social impact organization  working to restore public libraries in Nairobi, Soma Nami hosted 3 library tours of the McMillan Memorial Library. The tours were well received and attendees converged for a walk through the library to look at relics from Kenya’s colonial period.

Book Launch – In partnership with digital and print journal Down River Road, Soma Nami held the official book launch of Mtama Road by Linda Musita. Mtama Road is Musita’s debut collection of short stories, set along Nairobi’s Parklands Mtama Road neighborhood. The launch was held on August 4.

Significant Collaborations – Soma Nami collaborated with the Nairobi County Council which manages the McMillan library and allowed its use for the fair. They also partnered with Book Bunk to conduct the library tours and worked with publisher of children’s books Storymoja to incorporate storytelling sessions, a teens’ book club, and interactive games for children between the ages of 6-14 years.

Segmented Display of Books – The books were segmented and displayed according to the specific region of Africa the authors are from. These included North Africa, Southern Africa, East Africa, West Africa, Central Africa, Diaspora, and a Rest of the World section that showcased books from other parts of the world. The aim of this segmented display was to allow easy discovery of books across all regions in Africa and allow readers to test and determine how widely they have read from different regions of Africa.

The African Book Fair by Soma Nami Books served as a powerful platform to bring African literature and culture into the limelight. By attracting such a large number of attendees from across the continent, the fair successfully fostered a sense of community and appreciation for African storytelling. It provided a space for readers, writers, and enthusiasts to come together, exchange ideas, and celebrate the diversity and talent that Africa has to offer.

We cannot wait for the book fair to come back next year! Till then, enjoy the photos from the week-long event below.

Make sure to follow Soma Nami on Instagram (@somanami_ke) for updates.


Photo credits to Cavlary Photography.