Category Archives: Arts

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’.

KikeTele-IWD-2016

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, (!!!!)

Beautiful-International-Womens-Day-Wallpaper-Free-Download

(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.

1390973327_international_womens_day_wallpaper

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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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inernational-womens-day-cartoon

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.

international-womens-day-2

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.

International-womens-day-images-3942

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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!


Man about Town

Many years ago I was at the heart of Nairobi’s art scene. I sat in a roundtable and discussed Nigeria politics with Wole Soyinka at the GoDown, danced to Sweet Mother with Chimamanda Adichie in her first visit to Kenya at Club Afrique, spent a fortnight in Lamu with writers from across the globe, attended monthly spoken word gigs organized by Kwani, and so on and so on.

Somewhere along the line I dropped out of the Nairobi art scene. My people say he who once danced watches. And watch I did as new folk entered into the scene. For them the essence was not art for arts’s sake but rather money was the bottom line even at art’s expense. Added to their quest for money was their quest for fame aided by technology and social media.

This led to an interesting occurrence in Nairobi: Increased artsy events, increased number of people in those artsy events, increased number of people proclaiming to be creatives and yet still a nagging feeling that the Nairobi art scene is stagnant at best or filled with posers at worst.

But as I discovered much to my delight a vibrant honest-to-God art scene is very much alive and kicking in Nairobi away from Instagram and Twirra.

Friday – Caged Bird Sings

Reading through Nairobi Now I stumbled on the advert for the musical adaptation of Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings at Phoenix Players.

The Thursday night show had been bought out by the American Embassy who was the play’s sponsors so Friday night was the first open-to the public run.

caged2

The play featured 6 odes: to man, woman, Africa, America, love and life. It sought to address the issue of being black in America but there was also a bit of localization. The cast of Tone Theatre Productions directed by George Orido worked to deliver an excellent mix of elocution, music and poetry.

caged3

The play lasted a hundred minutes and it carried the audience along its brainy fare with the climax for me being the hauntingly beautiful duet between a flute and saxophone. From a production perspective, the lighting, wardrobe and props were all top-notch.  Mr. Moipei (father to the Moipei sisters) was the musical director and that perhaps explains were the music was beautiful. The intimacy of the setting at Phoenix Players also added to mood.

The 14 member cast was pretty young and featured 3 teenagers who sat for their KCSE exams last year.

Remember these names: Terry Wambui, Wendy Kendra, Linda Manja, Charles Ngambi, George Njoroge and Claire Etaba.  If nurtured well, then these are Kenya’s future stars seeing as Lupita Nyong’o also treaded the boards at Phoenix.

Dreams are certainly valid.

Friday – Singing the Blues

Still buzzed from the creative excellence enjoyed at Phoenix I decided to check out a gig I had heard about and even read about but which seemed incongruous – American mugithi/one-man guitar.

The gig is located at The Blues restaurant in Hurlingham. At the petrol station where there used to be Kula Korner.

blues2

The concept is simple. There is communal as well as individual band equipment – guitars, drum kits, keys – and anyone is free to go up on stage and jam. The talent do not know each other and are as diverse as you can imagine. In addition, a chat with the drummer, a Kenyan guy in his early twenties revealed that the songs performed are on demand and are improvised.

The appreciative audience was also diverse. A trio of young Kenyan guys at the counter, an in her thirties European looking lady, a Kenyan man seated alone downing Tuskers donning a Godpapa, a table of Americans men and women aged approximately 25-65 years.

the blues

What was common was the love for blues and country music with patrons singing the blues as they quaffed beers and kept the kitchen busy.

I totally enjoyed the vibes and the gig gave me an idea too: America meets Kikuyu.

Imagine a random American guitar player going head-to-head against say Mike Rua. Intriguing inter-cultural mash-up, no?

The gig happens every Friday. Check it out if you are a Blues, country music fan or if you just seek a different kind of Friday night out.

Sunday – WeLoveVinyl

My dad had an old Sanyo radio which had the vinyl player or ‘kinanda’ as we called it.

kinada1

Before the needle broke I grew up listening to 33s and 45s of Charlie Pride (my mum) and Jim Reeves, Kenny Rodgers, Kikuyu benga (my dad).

It thus did not seat right that an year after #WeLoveVinyl started I had never graced it and I sought to fix that.

welovevinyl-eventposter

However I may have run ahead of myself.

From the outside in I thought #WeLoveVinyl is a Sunday plan involve girls in small sundresses, music playing on vinyl, many Nairobians, food, drink and your regular to be seen-at gig.

How wrong I was.

#WeLoveVinyl is a niche, for-fanatics Sunday plan. Music plays on Vinyl, there is crate digging but I was wrong on the other fronts.

Began by a group of music lovers, #WeLoveVinyl seeks to connect the small but growing community of vinyl lovers with record sellers as well as vinyl player sellers while creating a Sunday plan of music and fun.

Crate-digging – the act of perusing vinyl records placed in a crate is a delight. I pride myself as a music buff but I discovered I know nothing. There were records upon records.

There was a crate of music about which I was totally clueless.

Rhumba crate had Simaro, Anna Mwale, Tshala Mwala, Bozi Boziana, TP OK Jazz etc etc.

In the Book of 45 was Kikuyu gold. History of Kenyan music in the 45 records. Nyeri Hills Band, Karura Brothers, Nguku Happy Bros, Gatundu Boys, Joseph Kamaru and Sister, Baba Kiwinja, Kamaru Music Stores KMS, DK Undugu Sounds, Equator Records. These bands and recording studios were all up and running in the 1960s!  Also, discovered that AP Chandarana based in Kericho was making Kikuyu music in Kericho in the 60s. Makes you wonder where the rain started beating us.

Crate digging is akin to a treasure hunt and the glint in the eye of music lovers and joy upon getting a prized record is a sight to behold.

The gig is held every first Sunday of the month at Soiree Gardens. Alight at Uchumi Ngong Road, Take the road where iHub is (Bishop Magua House), go down then turn right and follow the music.

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So if you are a passionate art lover check out these gigs and enjoy authentic experiences. If you know of other ‘unspoilt’ artsy gigs happening in Nairobi please do tell.

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I appreciate that art is expensive and commercial aspect has to be cultivated. It is unfortunate that the emerging middle-class are the folk who can afford the art gigs even though for them it is about being seeing and not the art. A necessary evil I guess.

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GOD BLESS KENYA!

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The Caged Bird Sings photos courtesy of .

The WeLoveVinyl photo courtesy of .

Rest of the photos courtesy of Google.


#ConversationWith Kamene Goro: Kicking Ass! (Personal)

The Igbo say if a child washes her hands she can eat with the Kings.

Kamene Goro is an accidental journalist who is lapping up the spotlight while leaving a string of achievements not to mention admirers in her wake.

Two years ago Kamene was a 21 year University of Nairobi Law student. She is now a Senior Anchor at EbruTV who also hosts two hour-long content-intensive talk shows per week.

ebru chics

I met her at Java Junction for a chat over masala tea (me) and vanilla milkshake (her) and it was a laugh-a-minute conversation with her various personalities peeking out and her brains shining through.

She strutted into Java in a low cut pink top complimented with an afro-necklace on her cleavage, fitting knee-length black skirt which hugged her very voluptuous curves, pink high heels with a Masaai-ankle bracelet and spotting cornrows, big shades, many bracelets, a man watch and impeccably done very long nails.

Our chat began with the professional, then went into the personal and goofy…

curves

ModerateKenyan: Describe yourself.

Kamene: Firework. Phoenix. Indelible.

ModerateKenyan: How would your friends describe you.

Kamene: (laughs for long) Crazy.

ModerateKenyan: Your enemies.

Kamene: (pauses..cocks head to one side..) I do not have enemies. I am simple nice chic to all.

ModerateKenyan: Most important person.

Kamene: Simplest question. My mum. My baby sis.

ModerateKenyan: Most important thing.

Kamene: My career. I am in love with my job.

laughs

ModerateKenyan: Happiest moment in your life so far.

Kamene: (thinks..) I have had so many (laughs). Last year I had worked daily for 4 months straight. Took a break, went to the coast by myself. It was magical…view of the sea, the sunrise in bed. I love space and air. Thinking of it is giving me goosebumps. (laughs…)

ModerateKenyan: Most difficult moment in your life so far.

Kamene: Career going up. My relationship with long-time boyfriend going south. Having to pick between the two. It was terrible. It had to be done. No regrets. Just lessons.

frontal

ModerateKenyan: Favourite music, food, colour.

Kamene: I love colour. Yellow, black, I can wear a rainbow (laughs). White rice should be banned! Hate it. Everything else I will eat. I can cook very well. Broad taste in music. It dependents on my mood.

ModerateKenyan: What can you not live the house without.

Kamene: My phone. We are in a relationship (laughs). Crazy about Instagram…need pics.

ModerateKenyan: What is on your bucket list.

Kamene: Hahahahaha. Too crazy to say. Hahahaha. The PG list is sky diving, scuba diving, visit Tomorrow land and also go to Jamaica.

ModerateKenyan: Random things you would like to share.

Kamene: I LOVE books. I am a member of the 4/20 movement (we laugh and fist bump). I have 5 tattoos (I stare and she laughs), in concealable spaces (more laughs).

*her phone rings…it is her boss…asking about her Just the facts talk show..*

Kamene: I have to go. Work calls.

And she struts out like she walked in.

Confident in her brains, personality, skin and curves.

One to watch. Literally and figuratively.

GOD BLESS KENYA!

Photos – Kamene’s.


#ConversationWith Kamene Goro: Kicking Ass! (Professional)

The Igbo say if a child washes her hands she can eat with the Kings.

Kamene Goro is an accidental journalist who is up lapping up the spotlight while leaving a string of achievements not to mention admirers in her wake.

student

Two years ago Kamene was a 21 year old University of Nairobi Law student. She is now a Senior Anchor at EbruTV, a pan-African TV station based in Nairobi. She also hosts two hour-long content-intensive talk shows per week.

in studio

I met her at Java Junction for a chat over masala tea (me) and vanilla milkshake (her) and it was a laugh-a-minute conversation with her different personalities peeking out and her brains shining through.

She strutted into Java in a low cut pink top complimented with an afro-necklace lying on her cleavage, a fitting knee-length black skirt which hugged her very voluptuous figure, pink high heels with a Masaai-ankle bracelet and spotting cornrows, big shades, many bracelets, a man watch and impeccably done very long nails.

ModerateKenyan: Law student to journalist. How, why, when…

Kamene: Always wanted to do Broadcast Journalism. My parents thought I should do a solid degree so Law it was. Parents also thought after years of private school it was time for public school to balance out. So from Rusinga School to UoN Law School. Culture shock at first but then turned out to be best 4 years of my life. Mum always knew of my dream so when she met EbruTV director she told him about it and I was invited for a screen test. Took me two weeks to gather courage go and then I totally sucked. But the Head of News at EbruTV, Mr. Nadir saw something in me and he took me in and mentored me. It was a steep learning curve but I am a quick study. The late Reena Shivisi was my biggest cheerleader and teacher.

ModerateKenyan: What do you do at EbruTV.

Kamene: I am the main anchor. Do the Prime time bulletin Monday – Friday. Occasionally do the Lunchtime as well as Early Evening bulletin. I also host two talk shows: Just the Facts on Thursday 9.20pm and News in focus, thrice a week after Prime time news. In addition I am a general news reporter who regularly goes out on assignment.

ModerateKenyan: Biggest story/interview so far.

Kamene: Interview with Raila on Just the Facts. It was herculean task to get him but it was worth the effort. He is an enigma and he is painted as a villain but he is very very cool. He loves Kenya so much. He is a great man, a great visionary. I learnt so much from him. He is human. Also I love that he got and laughed at my jokes!

raila interview

ModerateKenyan: Worst experience at work.

Kamene: It is hard being a woman in the media industry. It is a harsh world. Quite fucked up. Think Game of Thrones. Men (politicians, corporate big shots etc) can be slimy. Achieving work goals and retaining your respectability is a tough balance. Daily difficult challenges. Different pot of shit daily to gobble up. It looks glam but it is not all glam. There is a lot of blood, sweat and tears.

ModerateKenyan: Day in your life.

Kamene: My baby sister wakes me up at 6am on her way to school. Mum checks in at 7am for a catch-up chat. Listen to music to get into the mood. Pick clothes (hate it, it’s hard, being on TV means everyone has opinion on my outfit). Do not take breakfast. Get to work at 11am and leave earliest at 11pm daily. Basically a 12 hour shift.

editing

ModerateKenyan: Are you a celebrity.

Kamene: (scowls) No! Yuck. Shindwe. Hate that word.

ModerateKenyan: Consider yourself eye-candy/sex siren on screen.

Kamene: (laughs) What is that? (laughs again) I am so oblivious. I am a tomboy. I think like a man. Hahaha. Love my tees and sweatpants.

ModerateKenyan: Come on…

Kamene: Okay. It is hard not to be seen as a sex siren. No clothes can hide my curves (laughs). Cannot change my looks (shrugs). When am dressing I think what would be okay to wear in front of mum-in-law while still having fun and being me. Cannot help what men will see or look at.

studio2

ModerateKenyan: Attention due to job.

Kamene: (laughs) It can be crazy…proposals from Nigerians, 400 friend requests on facebook a day, stalkers…(pauses) other crazy things I cannot talk about…hahahaha…no complaints though…it comes with the job…plus I am friendly person, believe living life with open arms..past a certain limit I will block, ignore..I am a big girl…can handle myself…(laughs)

ModerateKenyan: Parting shot on work.

Kamene: (serious pose, hands clasped) You will most likely get once chance at a lucky break. Own it. Run with it. Be on beast mode. Kick ass.

GOD BLESS KENYA!

(Keep it here for part two which has the Personal (and goofy) side of Kamene)

Photos – Kamene’s


My meeting with Wole Soyinka.

Dated Nov 2006.

Yes, penned this almost 8 years ago. Time does fly.

Ex-student leader turned politician – Kingwa Kamencu

Two Caine Prize winners –  Binyavanga Wainaina & Yvonne Odhiambo

Celebrity blogger – James Murua

****

 

The Kenyan in me just had to share this real account of my afternoon with self-exiled, Nobel Laureate, soon to be president of Nigeria(for real!).

To start with I must digress….the previous day I was meant to have coffee with an ex-student leader turned politician. Sounds familiar? She is also a writer but she stood up as she just had to fit a suit for a big event next day. Imagine my shock when I turned up for the event in my usual shirt and trouser!

The event which was dubbed “Moderated session” (what’s with the NGO-speak?) was meant to start at midday but was at last minute in our very African way pushed to 2.30pm .Had things to do at the office as I am just an ordinary Kenyan struggling to make an honest living (navumilia) but by 2pm was to ready to roll. I could not miss this for anything! Driver picked me up promptly as scheduled, we passed through the bank (grants to be signed, art is expensive!), then went to British Council to pick up my boss (meeting for more cash. clearly art is expensive) then proceeded to The GoDown which is funded by the Ford Foundation (clearly mzungu money hard at work for Kenyan art but what’s that about who pays the piper calls the tune?).

Anyway riding in a car with two Caine Prize winners (big literary award-cash prize=0.7M) and also the only celebrity blogger in town must be what they call fringe benefits of my job!

Get to The GoDown and as usual I’m amused by the fact that almost everyone here has dreadlocks (fad, trend or arty?). Polite meet and greet then ensures and there are more art big shots in attendance from film and soaps producers to globe-trotting writers to university dons all psyched to meet The Man. 

Out of the blue or so it seemed, The Man appeared and just like magic digital cameras and camera phones were unleashed (How else would you make people believe?) to capture the moment with The Man.

After a walk around The GoDown (practice for the presidency?) we are the ushered into the boardroom which is in a photo gallery (it’s an art world thing).I pick a seat as far away from the Man (mkenya wa kawaida only here to be a fly on the wall).The Man walks in and shock on me, people stand in awe then he tells us to seat. President anyone?

The session started with round table introductions. I chocked on mine – The Man does not know of Kwani!, Kenya’s biggest literary journal? Clearly homework is for the rest of us. I had tried to Google The Man but jambonet (as usual) let me down!

A powerful opening speech by my boss set the tone and the questions posed to the Man varied from how do you write? When do you write? Who do you write for? To humor, politics, sheng, structure of language, creative process all which the Man answered with wit, candor and an amazing show of brain power for a 72-year old. 

Time flew really fast and was thoroughly enjoying being a fly on the wall till the Man’s chaperone brought the talk to an abrupt end thus bringing me crashing back to earth. Now I know why they call it a “moderated session”. 

An impromptu autograph session then followed and it degenerated into a free for all photo-op. You should have seen everyone run around the table to position themselves for a photo with the Man. Then as suddenly as he had appeared the Man was off, most likely to meet another group of awe-struck Kenyans.

After the expected tea and bitings, it was an opportunity for the writers to sit and talk shop while for me an Art Outsider, it was back to by daily routine, its 5’oclock,got to get home, how to beat the jam and such mundane stuff. But for a couple of hours I had been an Art V.I.P and I think one could get used to this!

PS: 
The Man is tall, medium-built, and bespectacled, with an afro and bushy beard (100% white).No crazy arty look. (He is dressed in white shirt and trouser and half coat).His voice is medium-pitch, he has a ready smile and even readier scorn (clearly genius has no patience).He has an amazing memory, can switch languages at ease and is a natural comedian (quite a contrary to his serious books!).He struck me as a typical guka (grandpa) – fussy, short-tempered, and self-opinionated, stuck in his ways but with his heart in the right place.

PS: 
The Man has been approached by a very popular party in Nigeria (5m registered in two days and the party is not even registered) to run as its presidential candidate. He says he will run not because he wants to but just to prove a point to Obasanjo! (In Africa? Yeah right!)

******

Wole Soyinka has confirmed attendance to the 2014 Storymoja Hay Festival.

His name is pronounced SHO-YI-NKA.

**

GOD BLESS KENYA!

 


I am at ease…

Chinua Achebe has gone to meet his Maker.

As is wont nowadays the news started as an online unconfirmed story before his family confirmed the worst. I got the confirmation via a BBC World Service news bulletin.

There is a point to my rambling. There was a time when BBC was the authority of news in Africa. During those days autocratic authorities practiced censorship. Now online social media is the first to break news. Time certainly do change. Also Achebe worked for radio in Nigeria and he also had a relationship with BBC.

So the dots do connect. You just have to know where and when to look.

Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe

I have read all of Achebe’s books and his style of weaving the old and new is breathtaking. I have visited Nigeria from the comfort of my house. I have come to learn of Nigerian traditions and culture via Achebe’s books. As a history buff Achebe helped open a window into how life was before and after the coming of the whiteman. I have enjoyed countless hours immersed in an Achebe books. For all these I say thank you.  Also I have grown as a writer due to my reading and thus by extension I owe Chinua Achebe a thank you for the inspiration.

As an aside, over and above mourning his death I also mourn that I will now never have a chance to meet him. I have been blessed to meet Wole Soyinka and Chimamanda Adichie and early this year I spoke of how a brilliant hatrick it would be to meet Chinua Achebe. Sadly that now will never be.

If I had had a chance to meet him I would have asked him about his simplicity in his writing which is something every writer aspires to and which Achebe seemed to achieve effortlessly. I also would have love to chat him about his passion for Nigeria as I am passionate about Kenya and I seek to write to make Kenya better.

Chinua Achebe’s life was a life well lived. He was a storyteller extraordinaire and he will live forever in the memories of all of us who savoured his work and that is why although I mourn I am at ease.

Fare thee well.

‘There is that great proverb—that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter… Once I realized that, I had to be a writer.’

– Chinua Achebe

‘I was conscripted by the story, and I was writing it at all times – whenever there was any opening. It felt like a sentence, an imprisonment of creativity.’

– Chinua Achebe

‘It is only the story…that saves our progeny from blundering like blind beggars into the spikes of the cactus fence. The story is our escort; without it,we are blind. Does the blind man own his escort? No,neither do we the story; rather, it is the story that owns us.’

– Chinua Achebe

PS: Every African needs to read The Trouble with Nigeria by Chinua Achebe.

GOD BLESS KENYA!

***Image courtesy of Google***


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