Category Archives: Arts

Music that moves you

When a retired high school head teacher stood on the stage in the middle of a performance by five time Grammy Award winner Victor Wooten and declared “I am the reason why this is happening” my curiosity was piqued.

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The retired head teacher was a high school teacher in Western Kenya in 1978 when an American showed up at the school and asked for a teaching job. The American had made a trip to Africa to find himself and the teacher helped get him a chance to teach Math and Physics.

After a stint teaching in rural Kenya, the American went back home to do his Masters and 40 years later is now the third president of the world famous Berklee College of Music.

Francis Lutomia was the teacher 40 years ago while Roger Brown was the American looking to find himself.

Four decades later this unlikely relationship has birthed an even more unlikely relationship between Kenya and the Berklee College of Music through Francis Lutomia’s son, Sam.

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According to Francis, Roger gave his son a job at Berklee and Sam in 2011 went on to found the Global Youth Groove (GYG) whose mission is to transform the lives of youth in Kenya through music primarily by a cultural exchange program involving Berklee students and alumni and Kenyans.

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For six years Global Youth Groove has been doing the exchange programs and after three years of planning Sam had finally managed to get the hugely in-demand Wooten and Berklee Bass Department chair, Steve Bailey to come to Kenya together with several of Berklee students and alumni.

At first glance, Wooten dressed in a bright African print shirt – that he was gifted by Kenyan jazz artiste Ricky of Ricky na Marafiki – and spotting dreadlocks covered by a black woolen cap can easily pass for a Jamaican roots reggae musician.

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That is until he strums his bass guitar and magic happens. His hand motion is at times fast, at times slow and at times barely noticeable but what is constant is the brilliance of a man at the peak of his skill.

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For 50 of his 52 years Wooten has been playing the bass guitar and seated at the front side row of the Michael Joseph Centre I was blown away by the melodies he coaxes out of his bass guitar. It was easy to see why Wooten who also teaches at Berklee has been named at number 10 in the Top 10 Bassists of All Time by the influential Rolling Stones magazine.

On his part, Bailey a blonde haired, wiry man who would not be out of place in a country music band run to the stage high fiving all the VIPs sat in the front row and cracked jokes with ease. He then went on to strum a six string guitar that is the hugest guitar I have ever seen.

BAILEY

Bailey who is 57 started playing the guitar when he was 12 and the unwieldy instrument was like jelly in his hands.  Watching him manipulate it to produce delightful sound was like watching a painter produce a masterpiece from scratch.

Wooten and Bailey mastery on the guitars resulted in a sensory experience that was amazing. Imagine two guitars having different animated standpoints on a conversation that covered a variety of issues and you begin to picture the amazing chemistry.

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Backing up the two musical geniuses was Martin, a second year Berklee student on the drums who played with the confidence of a professional and the abandon of a teenager.

WOOTEN BAILEY

The intimate invite-only evening of jazz was hosted under the auspices of the Safaricom Jazz Festival with several Berklee associated musicians taking to the stage.

A gentleman named Ricky who was dressed like a Southern pastor engaged the crowd in singing a catchy song which had an American south churchy-feel to it. “People make the world go round” was the audience refrain as Ricky crooned and Wooten, Bailey and Marten jammed.

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Then come Leonna dressed to kill and looking so young and sweet until she began singing and her sensationally beautiful voice made a lady sat near me shudder in bliss and almost get into a trance.

And finally from the Berklee crowd was Sky Bridge band with Japanese vocalist and composer Utako Toyama backed by two other ladies of colour. Their song ‘We declare peace’ was about global unity and they also got the audience quite engaged.

SKY BRIDGE

Singled out for possible Sainthood by an enthralled Bailey was Elizabeth Njoroge, the brains and heart behind Ghetto Classics. The visiting Berklee musicians had visited Korogocho a day earlier and were wowed by the taking of classical and jazz music to the youth of a highly disadvantaged neighborhood.

Quest for sainthood aside, heartfelt pledges of support were made by Bailey on behalf of Berklee for the betterment of Ghetto Classics to which all the proceeds of the Safaricom Jazz Festival go to.

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A special mention goes to The Don Ouko, a brilliant Kenyan saxophonist who was backed by a vocalist, drummer and a guy on keys and who was the curtain-raiser to Victor Wooten, Steve Bailey and the other Berklee musicians.

The Don

I was also quite wowed by Jacob Asiyo who was a guest at the concert and who totally delivered when he was ambushed with a request to play the keys for Wooten and Bailey.

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The Master of ceremony was the delightful Kavutha-Mwanzia Asiyo who incidentally is also an alumni of Berklee.

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At the end of the two-hour jam session all the artistes who had graced the stage through the night went back on stage to jam in a lovely improvisation.

JAM SESSION AT THE END

Quite a lovely evening spent with music that moved me.

GOD BLESS KENYA!

PS: Images via @SafaricomLtd, Google.


Films from the heart

I am more of a books than film, movies or series kinda person. However, every year for well over a decade now I attend the European Film Festival (EFF) at the Alliance Française every May.

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This year was the 26th edition of the EFF and for that I say Merci beaucoup to the French Cultural Centre in Kenya.

My plan was to watch seven films and to attend a musical performance on the week between 16th May and 20th May.

Juggling work and life managed to watch 5 films and half-attend the musical gig which I reckon is a pretty good return.

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The first movie I watched was the Tiger Theory by Czech film-maker Radek Bajgar. It was a totally awesome watch that hilariously dealt with serious life issues. Premise is a man who gets himself admitted into a mental hospital to achieve freedom.

The musical performance was spoken word artist Checkmate Mido who’s gig I have never attended. It was set up at the cafe at Alliance and 10 minutes in, I had to leave as the acoustics did not quite sound right. Hope I get to watch a Mido performance soon.

The second film I watched was Notes on Blindness a British documentary based on the life of John Hull. It was an intimate and touching insight into blindness. I wear spectacles and so the documenatry touched quite close home. What if? Then what? There is a lot we take for granted as sighted folk. Quite thought provoking.

As a prelude to the screening the country director for the British Council in Kenya did the introduction with lovely British wit and humour. Joked about UK being United Kisumu while noting that perhaps that was not the best idea with Kenyan elections upcoming. Then talked of Brexit and stated that Britain has left EU but it has not left Europe.

The country director while showing off his Kiswahili fluency also hyped up the East Africa Arts program.

Under this program and in partnership with Judy Kibinge’s Docubox two Kenyan films have been made and whose trailers were shown:

The Letter – by Chris and Maia von Lekow which is about killing of ‘witches’ at the coast which is essentially about disposing old folk of their land.

Thank you for the rain – which tackles climate change from farmer’s eyes.

Looking forward to seeing their premiers.

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On Saturday I indulged in an afternoon of film watching three films at a go.

Labyrinthus – when gaming and real life overlap, Diamantes Negros – football & human trafficking and These Daughters of Mine – family ties, how they are fragile and how easily they are stretched due to ill-health or death.

What strikes me every year is how European film makers have mastered the art of telling stories that are raw and real.

Methinks Kenyan film makers and content creators can learn a lot from EFF.

When you watch a Nigerian film or listen to Tanzanian music there is no doubt as to where the content is from, but when you watch Kenyan film or listen to  there is nothing that stands out as Kenyan.

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Kenyan film makers and content creators need to figure out what is Kenyan content. Do you know what that is? Me neither.

So maybe that is why we start…

GOD BLESS KENYA!


Saving the Railway

When you think the railway you think of something old. A relic that belongs to a museum and whose time is past in this age of smartphones and driverless cars.

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Tayiana Chao is a stunning contrast to that thought.

Tall, slim, with long dreadlocks, afro jewellery and an infectious laugh she would pass for a uni student who moonlights as an model.

I met her in in a gallery but rather than her being the subject it is her photographs that are under the limelight.

Still in her early 20s, this retired computer scientist has a story to tell and she has already written her first chapter – Save the Railway.

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Save the Railway is an exhibition that is ongoing at the ShiftEye gallery.

It is the fruit of Chao’s 3 years labour of love.

Chao was picked to go to JKUAT and study Computer Science but instead of Juja she was sent to the Voi campus. Her first instinct was to say no but as a history buff and introvert, Voi won her over.

Being away from the city was heavenly and in her weekend exploring she stumbled on the Voi Railway station.

The picture of the Voi Railway station is stunning. A house built with red bricks, with a tree on the side and with the horizon endless. It stands bang in the middle of the exhibition taking pride of place as her first love in this project.

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Chao puts it brilliantly “…it takes you to a different time…the station exactly as it was..not in the present time..grand… antique..

With that a dream was born. To tell the story of the railway. Not as an item in the history books but rather as a living being.

Everyone knows about the railway start in Mombasa and end in Kisumu but what of its impact? Basically, what did the railway do for Kenya and Kenyans?

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Through her journey across Kenya searching for and photographing railway stations Chao learnt just how much the railway was part and parcel of people’s lives.

It was not history for the people who lived next to the railway but rather a living breathing thing.

She felt the emotional aspect of the Railway. The lives touched, the grievances, the poverty, the lingering hope. And she learnt that the Railway mattered. Life for many Kenyans revolved around the railway and you can not put a value on the Railway’s importance.

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Chao’s journey is curated in the Save the Railway exhibition that runs from the 19th of August to the 2nd of September at the ShiftEye Gallery at the Priory building on Arwings Kodhek Road.

What started as a hobby has taken a life of its own.

“..someone come all the way from India to see this! I felt so honoured…” gushes Chao.

She graduated as a computer scientist but she has taken time off being a programmer to think of the way forward.

She wishes to write a book on her experience chasing down Kenya’s forgotten train stations. She also wishes to complete taking photographs of the off-road train stations.

But that is just the second chapter of her book.

Computing for heritage is where her book will anchor next. As a techie Chao wishes to do culture tech and believes that restoration of history through tech is the way to go. Chao envisions a day when Gedi ruins will be mapped and one will be able to relive the 13th century.

With Kenya in the middle of the SGR hype, I had to ask if she has plans to photograph the current history being made.

“..why did the old railway fail? Even as we do SGR let us ask ourselves that. Development is great but we need to learn from our past..” was the deep response.

Chatting with Chao feels like taking a walk down memory lane as well as how the history looks at the present.

What made her achievement even more amazing that is that this was mostly a solo-project with Kenya Railways chipping by providing permission and transport for the first phase of the project.

The bodies you would expect to be involved the National Museum, Brand Kenya and even the government ministries were not.

Now to the twist to this tale of Kenya’s railway.

Hilary Ng’weno is Kenya’s best known historian. A nuclear physicist turned journalist turned historian Ng’weno has curated much of Kenya’s history. Makers of a nation anyone?

His daughter, Professor Bettina Ng’weno runs a production house and she is working on a Hollywood style movie – Last dance in Kaloleni.

The movie which is in the funding stage will look at life in African railway quarters in the early 1920s-60s.

How the railway as one of the biggest employers in the colonial time impacted in the urbanisation, the arts, the politics, the music of Kenya.

Chao is also involved in the movie and when I asked her if she will be an actress, she laughed her infectious laugh and said maybe as an extra.

My gut says that when Kenya’s history in the next 5o years is written, Tayiana Chao will be a name worth noting not least because she will have photographed, written and technologically curated it.

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Be sport. Go check out the Save The Railway exhibition.

 

GOD BLESS KENYA!


#ConversationWith: Faith Muturi-Ngugi

After 4 years of hosting NTV’s Sunday morning gospel show Crossover101, Faith Muturi-Ngugi has called it quits.

ModerateKenyan chatted with her just minutes after she hosted her final show.

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ModerateKenyan: You just hosted you last show. How do you feel.

Faith: Overwhelmed.  So so overwhelmed by the love everyone has shown me. We have really journeyed together. First the feedback got me to tears. You realize you have formed a relationship with people. Shocked by the way the crew and my family planned the final surprise of having my family show up on my final show. My hubby dropped me in the morning and did not say anything. Imagine my surprise at him walking in to the set. It has taught me the importance of finishing well. I resigned in May but stayed on till end of July to ensure a smooth transition happens. Glad I stayed.

ModerateKenyan: Why are you leaving is what everyone is asking.

Faith: I am leaving because it is time. . No I am not trying to be deep, I just feel that it is time.  Life has seasons. My season at Crossover is over.

ModerateKenyan: Let’s go back to the beginning. How did you start.

Faith: I had wanted to be on TV six years ago but one of the TV stations rejected me saying I was not cut out for TV. Then four years ago a pal told me Crossover were looking for a host. Imagine they had already finished doing screen tests and even shortlisted but I showed up and they liked me. I did a screen test on Saturday 5pm and was on air on Sunday morning and the rest is history. Goes to show that when God opens a door, He really does open the door.

ModerateKenyan: How was your first Crossover show.

Faith: Wow! Not sure I should say this. I had never watched Crossover but I obviously could not say that at the interview. Had also never met DJ Mo or Sadic so did not know who was who (laughs). Why did you not google you ask? Well, my internet was flaky so could not Google. I was a Psychology major and had no clue about broadcast. It may seem like I was totally flying blind but I was not. I had been doing youth ministry for four years, 5 days a week, 9 high schools a week and I did not know it then but that was my education for TV hosting.

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ModerateKenyan: Co-hosting with DJ Mo.

Faith: When I started we were two hosts, two DJs. Learnt a lot from Allan T and Sadic. Then they left and it was just Mo and I.  We have amazing chemistry and bring out the best in each other. I feel that I am a better everything because of Mo. We have moved from being just colleagues to great friends who have each other’s backs. We are also great family friends now. It took him so long to accept that I am leaving. (sigh)

ModerateKenyan: Shows that stand out.

Faith: Honouring Kaberere. That was very very emotional. (pauses for a awhile). We also did a throw back show and dressed like 70s guys, then there was a reggae show (laughs). The first show also stands out. The theme was forgiveness and the impact was phenomenal. It is hard to pick a show but trust me all the laughing and dancing on Crossover has a HUGE impact.

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ModerateKenyan: Has Crossover gone too far towards secular.

Faith: I came into the show as the deep one given that I am a pastor’s daughter but I have changed. Some songs I cannot sing along too and I do not understand but the youth relate totally with the songs and the musicians. I do outreach in the slums and I ask the gospel artistes to come perform. When we go by ourselves they do not listen but when a musician they love sings first then we talk after they listen to us totally. Through the music, which may seem secular we are able to change lives. The Bible says we shall know them by their fruits. It is easy to judge and not understand and call it going to far but Crossover is changing lives through what works in this generation.

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ModerateKenyan: How have you changed.

Faith: Ha ha. My look has changed. No, seriously, yes I have changed a lot. I am more conscious of the audience. I have moved from I know everything and the Bible is in my head and wanting to preach to seeking to connect and reach my audience at their level. Preaching at folk does not help anyone. Jesus used parables and really got the message home.

ModerateKenyan: The look.

Faith: Hahahaha. Let us just say many many many people have worked hard to get me here. It is still a work in progress but I am glad I have found my style. Dressing curvy me is not easy but I am now able to express my values, personality and still be trendy.

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ModerateKenyan: The curves.

Faith: You know my pal sent me a screenshot. Ati if you google Faith Muturi there is an option for Faith Muturi hips. (laughs and laughs and laughs) The curves have enabled us to push the Gospel. If someone watched Crossover because of the curves and stayed on longer and got ministered to then I am grateful. I have also shown that you can be curvaceous yet decent and with values.

ModerateKenyan: Baby bump. Congratulations.

Faith: Thank you. We are 5 months. It has been an amazing journey. I am blessed.

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ModerateKenyan: Boy or girl:

Faith: (rubs her belly) Hmmmmm. I shall tell you in the next interview. (smiles and winks) There is another interview, no? (laughs)

ModerateKenyan: Did pregnancy influence your decision to leave?

Faith: Since last Year I have felt it is time to leave. This was before expecting. So leaving was going to happen but pregnancy played a part. Ladies have worked in the media while pregnant and it should not matter only that for me I have a lot on my plate. I am a corporate trainer with over ten years experience; I do the Simama Outreach program where last year we had over 3,000 youth. Now add baby and husband then Crossover. Something has gotta give.

ModerateKenyan: Will you make a return to our screens?

Faith: (smiles) Watch this space.

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GOD BLESS KENYA!


Les Mangelepa at 40

Words are read but music is heard so it is hard to write fluently about a musical experience.

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But this story is about more than just music.

Since November 2011, Rashid of Roots International has hosted a live music gig at Choices on Baricho Road dubbed Thursday Nite Live.

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A glimpse on Nairobi Now that gives me the ‘in’ into Nairobi’s art scene revealed that the legendary Orchestra Les Mangelepa would be performing on Thursday 16 June.

I battled Nairobi traffic, got to Choices at 7.45pm and snagged a good seat that would enable me to get a good view of the stage and also of the crowd.

The crowd was a mix of young and old itself a testimony to the endearing and enduring nature of the music of Les Mangelepa.

The gig was set to start at 8pm but in typically Kenyan fashion it did not. Not complaining though as I got to overhear a conversation that was as funny as it was informative.

Three members of the ORIGINAL Orchestra Les Mangelepa can boast of forty years of marching to their step.

The three are Kabila wa Kabanze Evany, Nzazi Kalenga Kibawa Vivy and Kaniki Lutulu Macky.

The band members of Les Mangelepa walked into Choices and their humble bearings meant that many did not recognize they were the stars of the night. From my vantage position I observed them, picked out the trio of legends whose dressing revealed they are sapuers.

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At a quarter past eight Kenyan cartooning legend Paul “Maddo” Kelemba went up on stage and wore a new hat. That of the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Ketebul Music which is a not for profit organization that seeks to curate the music traditions of East Africa.

Maddo proceeded to give his audience an education on the origin of Les Mangelepa. His mastery of Lingala and the in’s and out’s of Rhumba in Kenya was a marvel to behold.

After the impromptu lesson it was time to invite Les Mangelepa to the stage. Maddo started with the new band members before completing with the three living legends – Kabila wa Kabanze, Nzazi Kalenga and Kaniki Lutulu.

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Les Mangelepa then gave a brilliant performance. The first hour went by so first. The dance moves of the three oldies were breathtaking. The trio then took a 10 minute break and performed for another hour getting the crowd on their feet.

Personally I was blown away. It was wonderful listening to hits like ‘Embakasi’, ‘Maindusa’, ‘Nyako konya’ and ‘Safari ya Mangelepa LIVE.

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Rhumba bands fragment every so often so for a band to mark its 40th birthday is an AMAZING feat.

Félicitations Orchestra Les Mangelepa!

The legendary band is marking 40 years in the music scene with a tour of Europe.

Hope they will celebrate their four decades in music with a performance in Nairobi West.

Long live Muziki ya Bakulutu.

GOD BLESS KENYA.

 


Talking Women with KikeTele

The 2016 International Women’s Day theme is ‘Pledge For Parity’ .

On the eve of the International Women’s Day KikeTele held an event, ‘Women Game Changers’.

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These are my notes from the event.

First impressions:

Full auditorium.
Mixed audience.

Afro print aplenty.
Moderator introduces panel reading from a paper. Shouldn’t panelist introduce themselves?

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Saida Ali Mohamed (Consultant -Feminist analysis and women’s rights) opening:

What are the reasons for cultural practice’s
Context of pain as an African woman
Decision making at community level – household & community level

Dr. Faith Mwangi-Powell (Country Director for the University Research Company, Kenya) opening:

As a mother moved
Big up to Lightbox for aiding community telling story
It’s until community says no
Matter of choice – how can they be empowered to make choice
Dialogues with community – when you know why then your what changes
Convos shouldn’t happen at this table they should happen at village level
Let girls dream
FGM is an issue for global concern

Kennedy Otina (Coordinator Men to Men FEMNET) opening:

At times you wonder if you are doing anything
What happens if my daughter gets married in Samburu
(ModerateKenyan aside – Should it matter it’s your daughter/sister?)
FGM is impunity. Extreme patriarchy. Men deciding on women sexuality.
Power relations???
60 year old man marrying 12 year old – the men are weak, girl are red-blooded, (!!!!)

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(ModerateKenyan aside – Rambling thoughts galore)
(My friend  seated next to me – Do you want me to write my thoughts?

It’s really rich of him to talk about patriarchy and then go ham on the ‘our daughter’ nonsense)

What are we not doing?

Saida Ali Mohamed (Consultant -Feminist analysis and women’s rights)

Let’s talk about the silence, agency, power.
What are the practice’s impact on women
FGM confers ‘womanhood, respect, status’ in community
Understand nuances not to validate but for clarity and effective approaches to deal

Dr. Faith Mwangi-Powell

When you understand the why you get the what
Not every culture is bad

(ModerateKenyan aside – Can we give alternatives?)

Amref is already giving alternates  – everything but the cut
Tell community about danger of FGM health wise
Not big stick but education of community is best
Narrative is changing
Create solutions with community

How have you addressed power issues

Dr. Faith Mwangi-Powell (Country Director for the University Research Company, Kenya)

Men pretend to know everything
Men pass buck
Power is in favour of men
Laws are hindered by enforcers who are part of community who turn a blind eye – chiefs come from same community that perpetuates.

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***

Notes exchanged between ModerateKenyan and a friend:

ModerateKenyan  – NTV’S Rose Wangui recently did a story on morans who have stopped FGM. Chief Moran leading campaign. Anticut warriors.

My friend  seated next to me – But do they have an NGO that knows how to use buzzwords?

ModerateKenyan  – Hahaha! Wish she was here. She has done stories on Northern Kenya for a decade plus.

My friend  seated next to me – I’d love to meet her… She sounds interesting.

ModerateKenyan Actually her story on beading was the first one to lift the veil

My friend  seated next to me – Write a blog post!!!

ModerateKenyan – Tutaona.

***

Question time:

(ModerateKenyan aside – Reveals the many NGOs in Kenya – many in audience who stood to ask represented an NGO)
NGO talk is grating
The Girlchild vs boychild question came up
A question on what of communities who do FGM in hospital, in modern space to fulfill rite? NGOs have concentrated in the so-called marginalized areas but anecdotal evidence shows FGM happens in suburbia Nairobi.

Panel response:

Saida Ali Mohamed (Consultant -Feminist analysis and women’s rights)

Role for broader sexuality conversation for boys and girls
Crude abortion – should safe abortion be possible
Safe spaces for girls availability
Have sex. Do not get PG. How now?
Autonomy of woman body in context of societal

Dr. Faith Mwangi-Powell

Medicalization of FGM has to be checked. Doctors, nurses arrested.

Kennedy Otina (Coordinator Men to Men FEMNET)

What are the numbers to support  boychild neglect
Human rights are gender blind
Men are jobless and still want to be powerful. Confusion.
Bringing forth a new generation of men
If we empower women it doesn’t mean that men are dis-empowered

More question time:

A Samburu warrior stood up and made a commitment that he will marry chic who ain’t  cut
Same warrior asked Is there alternative to ‘fight against FGM’ – breakage of family/society, alienation of girl child have long-lasting impact

(ModerateKenyan – felt this was the crux. A shoewearer who could have provided great insight and also moved conversation from NGO-speak to real talk. Shame time run out and moderator ended discussion.)

Panel concluding remarks:

Saida – s/o to Samburu girls in audience
Dr. Mwangi-Powell – tell someone about dangers of FGM
Ken – men shout it that you are against it

*****

Felt the conversation ended abruptly.

Wanted to talk to the Samburu girls in the audience and hear their voice.

Wanted to talk to the Samburu warrior going against the age-old cultures also wanted to engage him on how he thinks the fight against FGM should be tackled.

Got thinking as a communicator why the FGM campaign is taking so long to reach the audience. Is culture chipped away slowly or at once? Are the works that have been done in last 20 years and that are being done now chipping away at the roots of FGM and results will come soon?

Got challenged as a man to check my privilege which sometimes is subconsious.

****

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Mwende Ngao who was moderating second panel began with spoken word

Politics of Womanhood – Women belong to every one apart from themselves
Kesho it’s international women day – pledge for parity
Parity is 117 years away – It’s serious.

Talk would centre on – Women artistes – portrayal of women in art

Moderator introduces panelists. Reading from phone. Why not let panel intro themselves?

Aleya Kassam (writer)

Began by saying ‘Such a chaste audience’
She read a blog post – brilliant vivid writing. Huge applause at the end.
Conversation on Aleya’s writing with moderator
Astounding how women are writing in plenty but are invisible

Moderator did question and answer instead of conversation
Also zero involvement with rest of audience/panel

As Monitah set up moderator read another spoken word piece

Monitah (musician)

Sang 3 songs
She looked she was enjoying herself a lot
She was being herself
Moderator – How do you deal with non-mainstream tag? Monitah –  I do my music, I am me, That’s bottomline
Moderator – Challenge as a woman in media? Monitah – being hit on, want more women at the top
Moderator – Plans for your album? Monitah – working on it, follow me on social
Moderator – Arts place in society? Monitah – it’s key to give folk something to think about. Plant seed.

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Question time:

Is there a point to your art

(ModerateKenyan aside -this question GRATES!)

*****

My friend, her friend and I had to leave at this juncture for various reasons.

As we left we chatted on the almost two hours spent at the event.

Authentic talk vs Talk for pay.

Heard one talk, heard all talks until it sounds hollow.

Whether one should have standards or whether one should accept standards do not pay bills and accept to be a mouthpiece for something they may not be very passionate about.

Additionally whether the talks really help or they are an echo chamber. No divergent views expressed.

I have talked about Talking Shops in Nairobi before.

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An aside from the conversation was self-publishing and the perils. With the bigger picture becoming  whether as a friend one should harshly critique a friend’s creation or one should be ‘supportive’.

You read things or listen to songs and ask doesn’t the creator have friends? What if the friends are too timid to share harsh truths?

So my appeal as a creator is if something is good PRAISE it and if something is mediocre BASH it.

Moreso if it is done by a friend. Only way for our creativity to grow.

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Our exit conversation also tackled:

Afro print and Afro-centric wear which have become the uniform for creatives. Note to all ourselves: do not jump onto bandwagon 🙂

Moderating is HARD. Curious: Who is your favorite moderator?

*****

March 8 is International Women’s Day.

I gotta say:

Women are AWESOME!

I CELEBRATE all the women in my life.

Thank you all for being a BLESSING.

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GOD BLESS KENYA!


Talking Shop

I am technologically challenged.

After decades of an old fashioned phone I finally got a smartphone six months ago. It has only being eight weeks of instagram and my relatives and friends are now holding vigils for me to join Whatsapp.

Despite my stubbornness and yearning for the past I do realise that the world is changing and tech is the present and future.

tech

I am also insatiably curious and thus the the title African Futures – “Technology: Means or Curse?” piqued my interest.

pichaaaa2

Before I fell off the bandwagon ten years ago, I was part of the Nairobi art scene. Kwani? is home for me and thus attending the talk which they were curating was a sort of homecoming.

Got to Goethe at 4.50 since the talk was to start at 5pm. It started at 5.50pm. Time in Africa is obviously an elastic concept. The delay gave me ample time to observe and people watch the creatives. The dreadlocks, the colourful attire, the fancy hairdos, the afro bracelets were still how I remembered them.

Being an introvert my default was to sit at the back and avoid small talk. So imagine my horror when someone from my past remembered me and come to seat with me. To add to my horror I could totally not remember her name. Since asking would have seemed rude she talked and I listened.

She is a creative who became a biologist and who is now a new mum and also setting up a biotech lab. So in the near future Kenya may not need to take DNA samples abroad. She was also reading the Black Anthena. Surprisingly the highlight of my evening!

Finally the talk did begin and I took shorthand notes.

PICHAA

Dr. Kamau Gachigi.

A Materials engineer. Runs Gearbox which deals with Hardware side and is basically quipment for lease. Think of it like a gym. Previously run Fablab at UoN. A scion of MIT. Newest course is How to grow anything. Amazing that this is normal now. Where is your mind most of the time – that is your religion – is tech a religion? Is internal tech a thing – telepathy, premonition – can be explained how?

Prof. Karin Harrasser.

An academic. Author of Body 2.0. Tech has to be looked at as an ecosystem. Tech births new worlds. Rise of black box tech – just use devise and do not care what is inside device. Tech has taken away consent in that you will be dragged kicking and screaming into the brand new tech world.

Jimmy Gitonga.

He need not introduce himself or what he does. He devolved straight into it. Defined tech as useful art that must meet a need. Pace of absorption is phenommenal. What is in smartphones is mind-boggling. And for the young ones it is the normal. Internet has thus democratised. All can access the ‘promised land’. Posed question of whether Africa is a country. Internet and tech have birthed mediocrity and innovation in equal measure. 1st world – I think therefore I am. In Africa – I relate therefore I am.

Marie Lora-Mungai.

A journalist turned producer.  Tech and media are wedded. Tech has drastically personnel need for multi-personnel. Internet in Nairobi has changed drastically. 10 years ago to send a 3 minute story it took 4 days and one had to split it in 15 second parts. Founded XYZ show 7 years ago inspired by a French show. Made everything themselves. Thus creativity/media met science as they needed a cold room to manufacture puppets. Ventured across Africa. Need for distribution led to birth of BuniTV. Urban Africans have smartphones. But slow internet and expensive data means promise of internet is a dream.

Some Q&A from audience:

1. I f tech is too much should we wean ourselves out of it?

2. Content is there but it is not accessible. So how do we bridge gap?

3. Should Africa be a country?

NB: There was a moderator but felt she was superfluous to the whole event.

Remember I attended the talk as a technologically challenged person seeking to reduce my tech illiteracy.

Walked away with very little in that regard. The talk had four panelists two who were scientists and two who were creatives. This dichotomy obstructed rather than aided the debate. The moderator did not quite guide the talk or seek to drill down the issues so the panelists went round and round. The audience also got lost early on so by the time it come to Q&A there were still navigating the daze.

Underwhelmed was the over-riding emotion I left with.

under

Projecting forward and a look at Nairobi Now shows an increase in Talks, Seminars, Conferences being held in Nairobi.

A Talking Industry has emerged with being a panelist, moderator a sustainable side-hustle what with seemingly a deluge of donor funds for folk to TALK.

Respect the hustle but I am reminded of Rabbit’s line in his song Swahili Shakespeare – “….talk haipiki rice…”.

Smart spaces for smart people to talk and talk is all well and good but after all is said and said folk have to actually roll up their sleeves and work.

talking shop

Ama?

GOD BLESS KENYA!


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