Archive for December, 2011


2011 Goodness

An awesome year it was so I decided to segregate my highlights into the things I adore most; living, loving and writing.

Living

I obviously lived to see this day, so thank you God. I also thank family, friends and Grapevine fans for the support. In 2011 i met a brilliant Kerugoya kido, sigh. Read on him right here the-12-year-old-kerugoya-boy-%E2%80%A6

Hiking trip to Hell’s gate national park was adventurous. Riding a bike through the rough 8km terrain is no walk through an ordinary park. I fell off the bike a couple of times, some people tried to convince me to give up. I didn’t, and eventually made it to the gorge ready for another damning walk. It felt like life’s journey. People will discourage you but if you are tough, you should make it through. Speaking of which reading Lance Armstrong’s book titled ‘My Journey back To Life’- It’s not about the bike, redefined my understanding of self determination.

I also got my first modeling gig with True Love in their October issue fashion spread. The shoot dubbed ‘Spring date’ was a colourful impression in celebration of True Love’s 7th anniversary. Will post a picture or two as soon as I get them from super photographer Emmanuel Jambo. Thank you Sunny for everything. 

As for the reason why i write, it soothes me but THIS made my year —> blog-posts-that-speak-to-me-a-womans-prayer Stella, Black Roses is honoured to have been of inspiration.

Loving

Grapevine was really a fun ride, it was my second year at hosting and reporting at the show. We got a nomination for Kenya’s best entertainment show by Kalasha awards. Through the year, I conducted crazy interviews including EVE, Cecile and Elaine. And also the prestigious lead writer/ and executive producer of the Bold and The Beautiful, Richard Bradley Bell, bliss.

I grew up loving oldskul music, especially R&B. So when I got the chance to have a one-on-one with international R&B singer Donell Jones, I just felt like it was God send. It wasn’t an omg-donell-remove-your-pants moment (that was Fally Ipupa who i also got to interview). With Donell it was more like, God bless you for still holding it down for so gone is Montell Jordan, Case and most 90’s music groups. Read here the story I filed for UP Mag 505-a-toast-and-a-dance-donell-jones-in-nairobi

Music? Discovering Frank Ocean and Jahaziel was by far the best thing my ears and heart experienced in 2011. Thank you Raul and Masha respectively for that. A review on Jahaziel here the-still-livin%E2%80%99-mixtape-jahaziel

Books? ‘Love in the time of cholera’ was a beautiful read, thank you Wanjeri. 10 Quotes from the book here  10-quotes-from-love-in-the-time-of-cholera  I absolutely loved Khaled Hosseini’s ‘Kite Runner’. General best read goes to a feature titled ‘Best time to be alive’ from Intelligent Life magazine. Of all the places, this was my best  best-time-early-childhood

Thanks Octopizzo for introducing me deep into Kibera and Arusha, the slum’s Swahili food café with Ugandan chefs. Nakwambia, the true East- African bashment crew.

Thank you Wamathai for allowing me to host Wamathai december edition, together with Robert. It was a pleasure not peeing in my pants and seeing a successful end to the gig.

As for normal relationships, that didn’t happen. Not to say that I didn’t try sampling some fish off the proverbial ocean. I am still looking for a tall, dark and handsome man, who wears Neyo-fedoras and sings like Bez or Charlie Wilson. See, that’s why I am single :-)

Writing

Arise (A definitive international style magazine on African art and culture) took me in as one of their freelance contributors from E. Africa, thank you Carinya. Here is my debut story for Arise, an interview with Winyo. P.S in my regard Winyo is the best musician from Kenya. Read the story here 101464

Also got a job promotion at Kenyan magazines UP (Urban Perspective) and Kenya Concierge. From a contributor, I became the staff writer at both :-) Yaaay, to me! I felt best at ‘Music behind bars’, God bless you Insect and Natalie for the noble cause. Read on it here 453-freedom-through-sound

In the short time I have been blogging and writing professionally, in terms of hospitality and wisdom; Mzee Elimo and Philda Njau of the Paa Ya Paa art centre are at the top. Follow this link to read on my love affair with Paa Ya Paa how-i-fell-in-love-with-paa-ya-paa

Bonus pix, at Kinanda festival with Kev, Sweetawa, Wanjeri and Nanjira. Reumac took the pix, thank you.

2011 taught me a lot. At the front, how to dust myself, if I don’t succeed or get misunderstood. I look forward to 2012 mostly because I have no choice, how can I look back? I have had visions in the past, I always either surpass them or achieve different ones altogether. So as 2012 takes off, I delve in like a blind bird. No resolutions. I am ready to soar into the unknown.

Falling In Love With Paa Ya Paa

It’s not only an art centre but at its centre is tranquility. The sun is blazing on the late afternoon when I arrive at the Paa Ya Paa on a motorbike that saves me the walk from the junction off Kiambu road. The silence is convivial, the birds are singing and the banana trees are flaunting their leaves.

Paa Ya Paa’s co-founder and director Mzee Elimo Njau receives me like his daughter. He hugs and welcomes me to a seat at the patio whose spectacle is unusual. On the floor is a lineup of little wooden sculptors of crocodiles and men. The women are carrying pots and the men are holding rungus. In between the assemble are three black cats standing and that mutual intimacy makes them all seem alive. Oblivious to the heat, Mzee brings me tea and sweet bananas. “It’s herbal and good for you, everything around here is authentic,” he tells me. The tea is really sweet, devoid of milk, I can taste lemon grass, honey, ginger and everything-nice.

When Philda Njau, Mzee’s wife of American decent who is also the international arts program coordinator at Paa Ya Paa arrives, she leads me to the main gallery. “Sit and have your tea here, look at the art pieces,” she warmly invites me.  I slowly walk around. Pure serenity. I already dread departure time even before the start of the interview. At the fore front of the gallery is a mural of Jesus surrounded by the 12 disciples. Among numerous art depictions I see Maina Gikonyo’s portrait of Dedan Kimathi, some graffiti and Chandvi Shah’s painting of beautiful butterflies lost in colour. I marvel at Louis Duval’s painting of a woman cooking from an African pot. In 1997 the Paa Ya Paa art centre was destroyed by an inferno in an electrical freak accident. Dubbed ‘In Love With Africa’, this is the gallery’s debut exhibition since it’s notable renovation. Mzee and Philda join me at the grandiose glass table, Philda bringing me chocolate brownies and soda. I am still drinking my tea. I am spoilt.

At the heart of the gallery is a roofless partition with a eucalyptus tree rooted in the middle. “Colonialists brought in the eucalyptus tree from Australia because it needed water and so the Kenyan soil fed it. It’s years later and to date the trees and soil have never quarreled. Just like the tree, art is sacred. At Paa Ya Paa we reflect the African personality regardless of colonialism, tribalism, traditions and civilization,” says Mzee.

Founded in 1965, Paa Ya Paa is the oldest indigenous art gallery in Kenya. It’s a modern-day miracle that in just 14 years, the centre re-built on its status despite the loss of art work collected over many decades. “Art is not a building but an indigenous spirit which brings to life the omnipotence of God as He is the spirit that never dies. It’s what saved us,” says Elimo an accomplished painter, sculptor and muralist.

The adjacent gallery has the sign ‘In Love With Africa’ at the entrance. Inside are portraits of African presidents by Boyd Oyier. At the front is Kibacia Gatu’s beautifully beaded collage of Wangari Maathai labeled ’The African mother.’ This room exalts African personalities.

The ruin section of Paa Ya Paa is out of this world! Take my word when I say that the fire artistically burned down the gallery. The wall, floor and doors debris are striking, especially when accessorized with the art pieces. “After the renovation, we wanted to hold a meaningful exhibition. Africa came to mind and when we called out, over 50 artists with over 140 art pieces answered,” says Philda Njau with a satisfactory beam.

The late James Kangwana was among a group of art lovers, writers and artists from allover Africa who founded the gallery whose age is nearly clocking half a century. He is the one who named the centre, Paa Ya Paa; a witty wordplay to mean an antelope rises. Antelopes have long legs and can run fast. In the long stride Paa Ya Paa is taking it easy. Wonder if James knew that one day, the centre would burn down to re-live it’s name.

Mzee and Philda later invited me into their home for dinner. Mzee even suggested that I should sleep over. I felt at home and wanted to; just that I would have no change of clothes for the next morning to work. Only last week Mzee called to ask why they hadn’t heard from me in a while. “You know we love you,” he said :-)

“Kenyans appreciate art. They just don’t know that it’s in daily life. It’s how you arrange your flowers, your clothes, it’s the general order. While it’s true that art is abstract, it lives through your eyes in two forms; the tangible and intangible. At the end, art is about receiving and living. You are as much as an artist just by appreciating a piece of art. Same way you are a composer if you can value the music,” wise words from one of the fathers of East African culture & art Mzee Njau. As my love for Africa got re-acquainted, I fell hard in the acquainting of my love for Paa Ya Paa.

BONUS: AfricanColours ask Elimo Njau four questions

The Lone Poodle

Most poodles from Runda, Ridgeways and such high-end residential areas have custom-made backyards, just to facilitate their need to exercise and run around. When they have to get out of their plush compounds, I am almost as certain as the sun will set that no big dog or monster would eat them. They walk majestically on the smooth terrain of roads, unaware of the meaning of potholes, mud and water puddles. Back in the house, these poodles must probably drink milk for breakfast,  eat biscuits and juice for brunch and then have bacon and steak for dinner.

I spotted a poodle in Harambee estate this morning. She wasn’t ordinary but still just what you would expect. She was miniature, the cutest walking creature and white in colour. Her litu-paws stood out as they constantly missed on the estimated count of how far she needed to jump across the dirty puddle of water. Out of every three jumps, she missed two. She was out-of-place as it was all muddy and no leafs in this suburb. She however seemed to be in her element because none of this stopped her from running wild as if searching for her lost soul. She must have not known that her colour white is a symbol of innocence and purity because she was running aimlessly blind to the dirt.

My sister was the first to see the poodle and she shrieked, “Look at that poodle! It should be in the house!” We were picking her friend who lived around the area where the poodle was. On asking about the poodle’s whereabouts, she said that it had no home and that it spent all its days just larking about.

I have been thinking about that poodle all day. I can’t understand how such a gem, the second most intelligent breed of  a dog could be homeless. It reminds me of a lot of things. I see a street child who should be off that hard-knock life. I see that beautiful woman who doesn’t deserve a battering husband. I also see that person who has given up on hope. If we look deep inside of us, we will find that we all have a poodle inside of us, running around wild waiting to be rescued. When we are faced with difficulties and harsh environments, we fail to walk with our heads up high. The poodle didn’t care that she was in the unkempt alleys of Harambee estate … Just like an unattended flower, she still blossomed. And just like the poodle, we all should too :-)

1. The Search
Looking for a good man is just like searching for a good job. It has to satisfy you, keep you busy, provide for you and make you happy. Fundamentally if you leave either of the two, a good experience should be the ultimate by-product. It starts with the chase towards that interview which is just like going on a first date with a suitor. After applying for that job, and implying that you want John, you hope to have a chance for a sit down to expound on why you are best suited for the job. You wait on that email or phone call. You are nervous and anticipating. You even have a tentative outfit to wear for that meeting, and date. When you actually get that phone call to confirm on the interview, just like when he calls, you get butterflies. You don’t want to miss on that opportunity so they ask, “Is 3 P.M good for you?”You are supposed to pick up your niece from school or maybe you have that salon appointment but no, you make it sound like it’s cool, and that you haven’t been waiting for this phone call the most in the recent past. “That’s perfect timing, I will be there”, you confirm.

2. The Date is set

Just like before setting out on a date, you first have to get the right outfit to wear to the interview. You don’t want to look too flashy, too casual or too uptight. You want to mix it all up and leave the employer just like your suitor, wishing to see a tad more of where that came from. You look good, now you have to smell good. One of the longest moments in life thus causing perspiration is waiting to be called next into the interviewing room, same way waiting on that guy to show up. FYI, a man who is going to keep you waiting should be deducted at least some 10 points with immediate effect. Always carry your deo, body splash or perfume in your bag. No man will settle for a woman who smells like boiled ‘murenda’. Same way no employer will let a person with such an odor sit in their office, let alone at a desk near theirs.

You are now at the interview; it feels just like being on a date. Your first hope is to impress. Second hope is that you become the chosen one. You don’t want to go through a dozen job applications and interviews to get the right one, you just hope to be lucky to get that one job. Same way, you don’t want to spend a lifetime going on dates with frogs hoping to stumble on a prince; you just want to get that prince, even if it means settling down with the frog.

3. The interview

You have cleaned up nicely. It’s time to speak. You better have brushed your teeth. Bad breath sucks for any conversation, even worse when you might get kissed. Just like a date, at the interview; you find that measuring what comes out of your mouth is paramount. If you ever suffered from verbal diarrhea, this is the worst place to lose control over your bowels, so to say. At both scenarios; you don’t need to say something that won’t necessarily augment on your resume. In other words, don’t volunteer to give irrelevant information. Your employer will care that you are quite the ‘sporty type’ only if you are being interviewed to be a tour guide. On the other hand, if your date is a bouncer or the dude from the movie 127 Hours, then he will care that you rock sports. The vibes about having gone topless at the Maasai Mara, then the one about sleeping in Naivasha’s Hell Gate’s gorge, keep them to yourself. One day when you are best buddies with your boss and you are having drinks, you will unleash them then. As for your date, if you clinch on that lay, these will serve as interesting topics for pillow talk.

4. Grace period

After the date, and the interview; it’s the long await. Is the employer going to call? Is the suitor going to call? Sleepless nights and countless days, a bundle of nerves later and you are still staring at your phone. You finally get that call. “We would love to have you work with us!” He called and said that he really enjoyed the time he spent with you and would definitely love to see you again. Anyone know what time it is? *Swizz Beatz voice* It’s exactly Kemboi-dance o’clock :-)


5. Months into the new Job / Relationship

You are getting used to the new environment. Same way, you are getting accustomed to having your man around. You are getting trained on how things are done at the new office, you have a new routine, probably a whole new set of duties. Same with your man, he is not like the rest. I mean, that’s why you settled in with him. There is a way he likes his things done, and to be done; to say the least. You get with the program.

6. Blending into the new Job/ Relationship

The ‘new office’ is now just your office. When you envy other offices or look for other jobs, they are like potential mistresses. You get that strong feeling that you are cheating. You have settled down with your prince. Sex is good, communication is even better. Talk is cheap so most times you are both busy doing stuff for each other. Your eye however can’t stop from appreciating other fly brothers. They want to flirt with you, sometimes you want to do the same, actually you do it once in a while; no sooner do you indulge than you get that guilty feeling that you are cheating.

7. Job/ Relationship satisfaction

Sometimes it’s not just working for you at the office, so you keep your ears on the ground and eyes high up like a hawk hoping to see a new venture. Other times everything is cool you just feel like you wouldn’t mind an additional freelance gig, so you go ahead and indulge in the side hustles. Same way, your relationship is on a plateau.  Your man’s loving is consistent and you need a rocky motion, so you lose concentration. All of a sudden all the men around your life look like Biko Adema and Michael Early. Your man isn’t satisfying you like he used to. If he is, sometimes you just want to taste other waters to gauge if they are as fresh. So you either take a chill pill or take on into that affair.

Summary.

Love your job like your man for they are painstakingly similar from Day 1. If by any chance you pass the 7 steps; do not cheat for it takes a lot of calculation. If you intend to grow old with that fly brother or frog (If that’s all you found), advance your relationship so one day it becomes a lifelong commitment. If you intend to grow into your job, aim for the stars as the sky might fall.

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