Interview with Serah Mwihaki on her movie, ‘Kidnapped’.

Kenya Scriptwriters Guild

Serah Mwihaki just won the Best Original Screenplay at the Kalasha Awards, 2017. She was also a part of the team that wrote the critically acclaimed ‘Nairobi Half Life’. Here she has a word with our writer, Hinga Mwonjoria.

Why do you write?

I write because I have a story to tell. I also like to entertain. Writing is also means to slay some of my demons.
What should be done to develop the industry.

Get brilliant stories made so that we create a faithful audience that will pay to watch our movies.
Tell us more about the project ‘Kidnapped’ and how does it feel winning the prestigious Kalasha award for Best Original Screenplay. 

Kidnapped was loosely based on a true story. John Kararahe knew someone whose girlfriend ordered a hit on him for leaving her for a younger woman. We developed the story and Co-produced it with Machawood to get…

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The Memes and Jokes will Keep us Going: My opinion on Plastic Ban Kenya

The only thing Kenya has been known to come first in is athletics, with corruption being the next thing that it almost tops. But this August NEMA broke the records by declaring a four million fine or four years in jail on anyone found to use the plastic bag. However, Kenya is not the first country to impose the ban as more than forty countries around the world have already done so, including our neighbors Rwanda. Those who have set foot in Rwanda will tell you that it is one of the cleanest places they have ever been to. Other countries that have taken the move either partially or fully include Italy, France and China.

 

Before we critique or heap praise on the plastic ban, let us first look at the motivation behind it. Plastic bags take between 500 and 1,000 years to be completely degraded. Most of them end up in the oceans, suffocate sea birds, strangle turtles, fill up stomachs of larger sea inhabitants such as dolphins and whales thus starving them and eventually enter the food chain through fish. Cows destined for slaughter have been found to have as much as 20 bags from their stomachs. Experts from the UN state that if the trend continues, Kenya will have more paper bags than fish in her marine waters. So, really, there was a huge and plausible reason behind the ban. But then why did it take us by so much surprise and cause more hullabaloo than any local TV show on our screens.

Kenyans are still catching up with the information regarding the ban, and apart from the official communication from NEMA, social media is being currently used to give updates, as well as, jokes and memes. In the latest update, signed by the Director General of NEMA Geoffrey Wahungu, the general public can drop off their stored paper bags for collection. The drop off points are Uchumi, Nakumatt and Tuskys supermarkets. Another update from NEMA that was doing rounds in watsapp groups on Monday stated that barred police from inspecting and harassing civilians with paper bags. This second update came from NEMA head of inspection, Wachira Bore, with his number on it. It was easy to confirm the updates through a quick search on the internet and from the official NEMA social media accounts. The plastic bag ban also led to a lot of jokes and memes on the matter. Some of the most popular include chapatti being stapled like a report form and soup being carried in a sponge. A popular meme shows a horde of guys running for their lives after a paper bag is blown in their direction.

I guess the biggest controversy with the ban on paper bags in the country lies not with the huge punishment that it carries, but with lack of alternatives for Kenyans. Even though NEMA states that the companies involved in production of paper bags should invest in alternative and more environmental friendly bags, I wonder whether the time given was enough. I wonder how many people will lose their daily bread as a result of some of the companies closing down and I also wonder how many trees will be cut down to fill the gap as paper is being used as the main alternative. The law was announced in March this year, and enforced on Monday 28th August. Five months would have been enough time for everyone to have found an alternative to the plastic bag, but of course we are Kenyans, and nothing is taken seriously except the last minute rush. Like Asbel Kiprop who insists on going for gold in the last lap, we have been caught in interesting times, but the memes and jokes keep us going.

 

 

Here we are, just me and you, in the afterlife.

It would have been easier for all of us if you had typed that it will be your death day. I wouldn’t have attended your event and stabbed your neck in rage. The mob wouldn’t have killed me too.

If only you had typed the truth.

But instead, you typed that it will be your birthday, which was so unimportant to me yet so striking. You had just broken our young relationship and I was finding it hard to pick my pieces from the cold floor. After seven days I texted you the way a normal guy in love would. I told you I still loved you and all you could reply with were those laughing emojis. And then I asked you whether any events would be occurring in church.

“Well, it will be my birthday…”

It wasn’t a call but I could clearly read the tone of your message.

I thought that I really stood a chance to get you if I just came to your birthday to please you. Don’t they say that you should never forget a woman’s birthday? I didn’t want to be that man.

I told you that I would come read you a poem.

And you lied again, you said yes.

I knew you loved my poetry. It was the last bait I had of getting you back. It was the one I had used to get you in the first place,

Your living room was small. The church youth had to rearrange the seats for all of us to fit in. I took the front seat, the one near the window where I could easily jump out in case your CID dad came snooping around. He never did. I think we could have engaged in an intelligent talk between a potential thief and a policeman, on why thieves exist in Kenya. I think I could have taught him some martial arts and helped him on some investigative work and intelligence on how to track thieves in Dandora. That way, it would have been easier for me to ask for her daughter’s hand in marriage.

But again, here we are, just me and you, in the afterlife.

How did we get here? Getting to read the poem was a struggle. You had already convinced everyone in the church youth that I was a stalker you didn’t want nearby. How? I don’t know. But who wouldn’t believe a sweet voiced nineteen-year-old girl when most of the youth leaders were males in their twenties. The queen of the youth would easily steal their hearts with her beauty. I wanted to be a part of that beauty too. Finally, weak and shaking, I managed to secure a chance to read the poem, despite your facial expression daring me not to.

The three last words in the poem. I tried to judge hard whether to read them or not. They came out by themselves. As a tear. An orgasm of pain that released me from my cage.

I said I love you.

I blessed the cake with my words.

Everybody laughed out loud.

I sat down, satisfied.

But the youth leaders were not done with me yet.

They wanted to confirm whether what I had just said was true.

They asked you to choose the first person you would give the cake.

I waited.

You called a leader.

He refused.

You insisted.

They insisted back.

I waited, seated in an awkward position.

You called him by his first name.

George.

I couldn’t hold myself any longer.

I couldn’t watch you give away our smile.

And so, here we are, just me and you, in the afterlife.

George survived the fork stabs, otherwise he would be here with us too.

 

 

Of School Going Teenagers with Big Phones and Soft Hearts

The local kibanda has nowadays become my second home thanks to my poor cooking skills and busy schedule. The place is deserted, as few people around this area have a brunch at 11am. The usual suspects are here, Mathe and her coworker. I order tea and two toasts while waiting for the main dish to warm.

My eyes rove around to a high seat on one corner. A girl sits, her head bowed, her arms across her chest. She looks barely fifteen, and her eyes are covered in large shades. I guess that’s what they call stunners. She wears a grey pullover and a black trouser, making the hotel look like a funeral.

“Wewe leo umeamua haukuli.”

The statement tells me that she has not eaten anything today. And according to the way Mathe is talking to her, she is most likely her daughter.

She does not even open her mouth or nod her head. She answers in sobs, those ones that sound as if you are drinking some porridge and you want everyone to know that you are not willing to share. I pity her. I almost go to hug her but I choke on my tea.

Mathe goes out to call a bodaboda. I learn that the young girl has lost a phone, that is why she is crying. Not a Malkiat Singh, or S M Patel, or a calculator, or a P. E kit, but a damn freaking phone. I pity her even more.

Now she won’t be able to talk to talk to outsiders while at school, text or send pics. She is likely to become traumatized the whole semester and probably flop in her grades.  I almost ask to give her some counselling but I check myself. My motives will most likely be misinterpreted. The irony.

An older woman, likely to be her grandmother or aunt, comes in before the bodaboda does. She becomes very concerned with the state of the young girl whose eyes have become water liquid and her heart ice cold. The older woman pleads with Mathe to buy the phone. Mathe says the daughter has refused a Mulika Mwizi phone. The worker, who turns out to be a relative, advices the daughter to find a string and be tying the phone around her neck so that her friends can stop stealing it. The daughter cries out some more. Mathe eventually gives in to the pressure and dishes out money for a brand new smartphone. The daughter pockets the money and leaves, not yet happy till she sees the phone in her hands. She doesn’t even eat. All I can do is stare as my main meal arrives.

I hope to be a father and a daddy one day. I just don’t know how to bring up my children. I hope they open up a parenting school soon.

 

Ulimi Tamu Album Review

i-writeNg’ash P aka Ulimi Tamu, has deep spiritual poetry that revolves around the issues in his background. He is good in delivery, word play and storytelling, making him an all-round spoken word artist, a rare thing to find in this industry. His well-done videos feature common themes such as calling out the evil in church, and very unique themes that only the trained eye of a talented artiste can spot, an example being the cry of a boy child who has been condemned by the society to an ego that cannot seek help. Two of his pieces, Mercy ya God and I Write, are very personal and relate to his journey as an artist. Mercy ya God speaks about the hardships faced by upcoming artists, such as hustling for fare then being denied the chance to perform, while I Write speaks about the dreams the Prophet from Githurai has, including taking his art to the standards of King Kaka, Kitu Sewer, Juliani and Vigeti.

My favorite piece in the album is ‘Phonecall’, as it brings a unique story of a boy who most people would condemn as reckless. The character highlighted in the piece is talented in poetry but is also lost in booze, drugs and women. Instead of condemning as most Christians would, Ulimi realizes that his friend needs help and instead prays for him, making a phone call to God. It is also good to note the writing gradually improves from the random punchlines in the first piece ‘Random Thoughts’ to the coherent storytelling in the last three pieces ‘Phonecall, Mercy ya God and I Write. Hopefully, his second album will be even better. Ulimi Tamu does not work alone on the album but also features great artists from his hood such as Arap Symore, Hannah with the sweet vocals in Be my Guide and the brilliant acting of K-nine as well as many other of his friends. The album goes for only kshs 200. You can make your orders by calling 0700021278, and yes, it is the first visual spoken word album in Kenya.

The Stolen Bible

Omar looks at the bible in his hands. Funny how he had revered it, used it to turn the hearts of others and even worshipped it. He now considered it an abomination. It is the one that had made him chase away his younger brother. Just because he had stolen it. The bible.

But today he is going to make all that change. Today he will go look for his brother wherever he will be and apologize to him. Today he will bring him back home and they will live together forever after, with no bible coming in between them. He carries the bible, and a recent photo of his brother between the pages. And of course he has to have the collar in his shirt. He is a pastor after all.

These streets are unfamiliar to him. They stink of rotten cabbages and sweat from workers. It is hard to believe that his brother now lives on these streets. He has to get him out. He removes the photo from the bible and starts showing it to the sellers.

Some faces turn to look away, others twist into queer shapes. He looks at the picture again. Yes it is his brother, and they resemble one another.

Maybe adding a verse or two from the bible might help.

He opens the bible and start reading, but still they won’t look at him.

He walks away downcast, feeling dejected, shaking his head. He has to get his brother away from these people who don’t even know how to welcome a visitor, let alone listen to a man of God.

He turns a corner, and it is as if he has walked into heaven. He sees his brother running down a hill, a clutch bag in his hands. He spreads his arms wide and wears a great smile. But his brother won’t stop. He knocks Omar over and continues running. Soon a crowd appears in hot pursuit. He tries to rise up but his legs won’t just move.

***

Mosoti reaches the shantie glad that he has made it alive. It was close, he had almost got lynched, but somehow the crowd baying for his blood had stopped chasing after him. He was glad he had passed the test, and would now become a member of the gang.

He found the senior most member of the gang seated alone on the bed, a gun on the table.

Mosoti could tell that Senor, as he was referred to by everyone else, did not like him very much. He wished that Sammy, Senor’s junior, would have been there.

“Ako wapi Sammy?”

Mosoti gathered his guts and asked. After all he was a member of the gang now.

“Umekaa sana nikamwambia akuje kukutafuta.” The bearded face of Senor didn’t even turn to look at him. Did that mean that he had failed the test now? Because he stayed too long?

Mosoti opened his mouth to speak, but stopped when a figure appeared at the door.

“Mosoti anauliwa huko kwa barabara, twende tukamsaidie.”

“Mosoti ako hapa.”

Sammy looked at Mosoti and blinked.

“Nani huyo anauliwa huko kwa barabara.”

“Mi sijui, na hiyo si shida yangu, mi niko uhai hapa.

Sammy sits down, but the gloom never leaves his face. He hold his chin in contemplation.

“Huyo mtu anakaa ka wewe”

The comment sets Mosoti’s mind in motion. Only one person looks like him. But he lives in uptown. No, he couldn’t be the one.

“Nadhani Mosoti sasa amepita mtihani wa kwanza.”

Mosoti almost jumped at Senor’s words, hoping to catch them and fly with them out of the window, but he controlled himself.

“Lakini mtihani wa pili bado.”

“Twambie kwa nini umetoka kwenye umetoka ukakuja kujiunga na sisi?”

That was the question he dreaded most. It wouldn’t make sense to anyone that he had ran away from home after an argument with his elder brother about a misplaced bible. Was that why he wanted to join the gang? Mosoti swallowed hard and opened his mouth to speak.

“Na ukitudanganya tutajua.”

Senor’s words cut the air like a sharp razor. And Mosoti was sure they were true.

“Tulikosana na bro yangu nikatoroka nyumbani?

“Uko na bro?” “ Anakaaje?”

Sammy’s hand were now on the gun.

“Hawezi kuwa ndo huyo.”

“Ebu nifuateni, hatutaitikia mtu auwawe juu ya makosa yetu.”

Mosoti is out on impulse. Senor is reluctant but Sammy points the gun at him. He follows.

***

 

A stone hits his side, someone steps on his stomach, another kicks his groin. The pain is unbearable.

“Choma yeye, mwizi.” They shout in unison.

These slum people, they just won’t understand.

“Mi ni Pastor, mi si mwizi.”  He tries their lingo.

“Nyi mapastor tunawajua sana. Nyi ndo wezi wakubwa zaidi.” The voice sounds familiar, maybe from the earlier encounters in the street.

A tyre is brought. The petrol too. He can do no more to protect himself. He is slowly slipping into unconsciousness. He clutches tighter to his bible. He will die with it, and the picture of his brother inside.

There is a gun shot in the air, and everything goes still. He thinks he is dead, but he can still hear their voices, see their faces.

A familiar face stands a short distance from him.

It is his younger brother, Mosoti, holding a gun in his hands. Two other rugged youths stand beside him.

He gathers all his strength, covers the short distance between them in short painful knee steps. Everyone stands still, staring, breathless. He reaches them a short moment later, presents the bible to Mosoti and mutters the most painful words in his life.

“Sorry for calling you a thief. I am the one who had misplaced the bible.”

And then he collapses, gives up his life.

***

Mosoti leads the memorial service by the grave. He wears a cloak and carries The Bible. Sammy and Senor are by his side. The people listen and watch on.

The Spill (Short Film Synopsis)

In the modern world, terrorism has become a major threat to property and human life. Kenya has been no exception with the highest number of hits targeting institutions of higher learning. With the security personnel proving to be unreliable most of the times, it is the responsibility of each individual to be on the lookout. The spill tells the story of Anne, 19, an intelligent art-passionate girl with her dreams vexed on becoming the next entertainment secretary but she finds herself caught between two terrorists, one of whom she has a crush on.