#ConversationWith Juha Kalulu

A wise man once said that when you do what you love than you will never have to work a day in your life. Every day will be a continuation of the love-affair with your passion. Very few people are lucky enough to experience this.

Edward Gicheri Gitau who is the man behind the long-running comic strip on Taifa Leo – Juha Kalulu – is among the lucky few.

I was privileged to meet him and as a creative I was totally inspired and challenged by what he shared.

Mr. Gitau who is 82 years has sketched Juha Kalulu for a whooping 62 years and he is still going strong.

He began at inception of the Nation Media Group’s Kiswahili publication in 1960 when Taifa was a weekly which soon became a daily – Taifa Leo – and he had to quickly adopt.

The name Juha Kalulu which has come to be synonymous with Mr. Gitau has an interesting origin. Mr. Gitau worked as an electrician in what was then known as Tanganyika in 1948-50.

While there he struck up a friendship with Malawians and from them he picked up that in one of their dialects Kalulu is a hare. From his Kiswahili, he knew that a Juha is a person who is mostly clueless or ignorant.

In most societies, hares are known to be cunning – ‘Sungura Mjanja’ – but Mr. Gitau twisted that and Juha Kalulu is in his words “Sungura Mjinga” loosely translating to an idiotic hare. Therefore Juha Kalulu is a creative wordplay.

An accident while at work ended his career as an electrician and his sojourn in Tanganyika. Upon his return to Kenya he started employing his creative mind to cartooning and his childhood love for drawing found on outlet. He worked briefly for a several publications in the 1950s – notably Tazama – before joining Taifa.

Mr. Gitau who was taught English and Geography by Mzee Jomo Kenyatta at Githunguri High School has through Juha Kalaulu rubbed shoulders with the high and mighty. His proudest moment was when President Kibaki wrote the foreword to his book ‘Vituko vya Juha Kalulu‘.

While his age-mates have long retired, the veteran cartoonist is still cartooning with a work ethic that is completely amazing. He manually sketches every illustration and then personally hand-delivers his artwork.

Despite his advanced age his zeal and articulation to his craft are still solid and intact. His fluency in English and Kiswahili is impressive. His dress style – suit and tie – is that of an English don. His humor and sharp mind are thoroughly engaging.

He has no desire to retire but then if you really think about it since he started cartooning he has never really worked a day in his life but rather he has enjoyed living his passion.

His parting words were:

“Do not pretend that you are doing what you are doing, just do it to your best capability.”

“Do not wait to be pushed, just do it with all your mind.”

I am thrilled to celebrate Edward Gicheri Gitau a.k.a Juha Kalulu who is a LIVING LEGEND!



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