By Alex Roberts
There is always a perception around the ‘literary community’- that it somehow belongs to the few; not the many, and is somehow well beyond exclusive in the circle deemed worthy to be involved.
This couldn’t be further from the truth with the WLL Store of Nairobi; wedged in between shops in the delightful little open-air market of sin, the Alchemist Bar. Within that shop is packed a slice of nerd paradise, all the comic books you’ve ever heard of, and even better, several hundred that you haven’t.
Lorna Ng’eno, one of the founders of the WLL Store and a current librarian there, commented on the spot: “We sell local books, comics and music and some other stuff. We also do events for people that love books, music and chaos. We’re trying to create a platform for local artists, authors, illustrators to present their work to a wider audience and we’re also keen to continue publishing more titles.”
The store stemmed from the World’s Loudest Library literary club; a kind of debate/blowing off of steam/meeting of the minds that used to take place first in down town Nairobi, and then later at the original iteration of Creatives Garage.
Indeed; few other places in Nairobi can offer the kind of literary bliss that one can delve into among like-minded people. The walls are a constant rotation, the latest albums in vinyl (along with the a generous smattering of little-found classics). In essence it is a spot that has quite frankly been missing from the Nairobi creative-sphere; one that should be replicated as a sort of home-base possibility for a creative sector hot-spot.
As Ng’eno said of the scene around the WLL store: “We also want to promote collaboration and good mental health practices among the arts community (we have a monthly mental health meet up). We’ve worked on some art projects in 2019, including the Sound of Nairobi archive project and we’ve got lots more art coming in 2020. We also like to party.”
It is true, the Kenyan comic scene is burgeoning; but it doesn’t get much love in the wider audiences across the country or the region.
Ng’eno continues: “The comic book potential in Kenya and East Africa is limitless. We are so diverse, our stories are important, and that’s true for everyone on this continent. Many of us come from cultures with a strong oral tradition and we are keen to preserve our stories in both words and images as well.”
With the WLL Store continuing its role as a hub for burgeoning talent; the comic scene of Kenya and East Africa will always have a home base to be featured front and center.