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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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.

 

 

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.

Poet’s Journey on Stage.

Picture this.

You are a poet on stage, digging words from the depth of your soul, letting them out layer after layer, hitting new realities into the thinking dimensions of your audience. You pause for a while and scan a section of your audience. At first it doesn’t surprise you; maybe the guy looking down on his phone, fingers busy will be booted if he doesn’t reply to his girlfriend’s message immediately. You have been there too, and you understand the situation perfectly well. You move your eyes across the rest of the audience and notice two or three more guys huddled over their phones. One of them mumbles something to their neighbor. You try to catch what they are saying, maybe it is important, maybe it could have the answers to the many questions you are having now. But it is only a whisper, and you are no lip reader.

You try to raise your voice in order to have the attention of the distracted, but it becomes disheartening to watch them engage more in their illicit activities. At this point, you are about to turn away and concentrate on the audience that is willing to be fed, those who think you are worthy of their ears. That’s when you notice poet X, a big name in the industry, whispering to his neighbor. Your knees weaken, they wobble, but gravity refuses to pull you to the ground; it is not time for prayers, at least not yet. You are about to poop on yourself, but then you remember you have no diapers. Your funeral ought to be held here, were it not for your audience that comes to your rescue.

It encourages you with snaps. Their thumbs violently connect with other two fingers and sparks fires in your heart. The lion in you awakens and you remember who you are. You give your deserving audience what it deserves. It amazes you how the words come out, connecting with the thirsty audience. Soon you are through. You get a loud applause. The event organizer is smiling and that assures you of your fare home. Some guys give you a standing ovation, and you bow in appreciation. You are shocked to find two of the guys who were busy with their phones earlier now standing. Clapping. You smile and walk down the stage, but your soul pesters you with so many questions.

Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?????

These questions are not to be answered soon.

You walk down the stage after a great performance but your head hangs low.

“Did those guys pay more than the rest of the audience?” You ask yourself.

You decide to go sit next to the noisemakers. Maybe they might be having the answers.

“Awesome performance bro.” One of them turns and gives you a man hug, his phone still in his hands.

You are about to ask him why he wasn’t born with four legs and no hands to hug you. Or better still, without a brain to understand your words.

But the next poet is already on stage, and you don’t want to be a jackass to your fellow brother/sister. So you sit down and listen. The performance is awe-inspiring and your soul is blessed, questions forgotten. You go home a happy person.

But the devil is real guys. The devil is real.

You awaken early the next morning still in your boxers, face your image in a body length mirror, try to better your art for the next event. After a few rounds you remember to check on facebook, expecting lots of photos and congratulatory messages on the previous performance. A post from great Poet X is attracting many likes and comments. One look at it, and you freeze.

‘What is that thing they do on stage? Calling it spoken word? For who? For what? Mediocre!!! Mediocre art everywhere.’

Your comments come in torrents, wild punches from Pacquiao.

Which spoken word piece are you speaking about?

Why generalize?

Is it my piece?

Could you point out the mistakes?

Explain?

But all Mayweather big poet X does is hide behind the referees (fellow big names in the industry), avoiding, covering their faces, and going under the ropes, yet getting all the victory on their facebook posts.

“Is this what mentorship is all about?”

You wonder as you go back to the mirror, practice, this time adding some rhythmic punches that you plan to use next time you meet big poet X.

Later, you think of calling your nursery school teacher and connecting her to some people who might need lessons on how to nurture talents.

Big up to any poet who graces the stage, big or small, known and unknown, young or old. As Theodore Roosevelt put it:

‘It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.’

You Ask Why I Write?

You ask why I write? I write to create ripples that will drown my sorrows, ripples that will touch a friend I haven’t met and say hallo before I do. I write to kiss those with split lips, so that they can know how love looks like, painful but pleasurable and healing. I write to stop bullets and turn them into flowers for their owners, snatch the guns out of their hands and blow up the stupidity in their minds. I write to fill love into black holes found in hearts, to remind them that they were created for a purpose; to create a balance. My words are fodder for the black sheep. I write to remove the shame of a twenty four year old who has travelled the life journey of a ninety year old. I write to advise ninety year olds too. I write to impress, to caress the teeth of people who know not to smile and tell them that life is still beautiful. I write to turn you into a plot twist and surprise you, so that you can stop worrying about tomorrow, or so that you can worry more about tomorrow. I write for mama and papa, so that fossils will say that they had a son, and those few minutes of pleasure were not in vain. I write to stir jealousy in the sperms that did not make it, those that I beat. I write so that wish you can marry me, so that you can wish you were me, I don’t care whether you turn out gay. I write to stop time, time that hurries us into graves. I write to whisper a new tune into the winds to create a better future. I write to turn virgins into whores and whores into virgins. I write to question, to be the end of a sentence that doesn’t make sense. I write to remember, because I will never be a child again and dancing may be hard at some stage. I write to remind you, childhood friend that I have never met of days that could have been. I write to smack my tough primary school head teacher and advise my Sunday school teacher. I write to break rules and not get caught, mock stupid religions and not get shot. I write to become angry when I’m happy and happy when I’m angry. I write to reverse time, to tell nature to fuck off with its strict rules, coz we are not its slaves but its kings and we will decide what it will do. I write to remind you that they lied, that you don’t know, that you haven’t learnt yet unless you first forget and then start up again. I write to live my childhood dreams, to create rain in the desert, to be poor and then rich. I write to laugh at living, and then laugh at the writing. I write what I can’t speak, and can’t tell anyone to say. I write the pain that I hide. I write to celebrate life on flowers that are more beautiful than me. I write to kiss lost girlfriends and exes, create characters with their names and tell them that they still have a special place in my heart but its too shameful for me to say it loud or dial that phone. I write to create my own fantasy world and invite you in, hoping that you will copy it too. I write to move you, just as I saw the river move but did not carry me away, touch you like a whisper of wind then walk away blissfully. I write to control the life of kings and queens, to create presidents and turn them into peasants. I write because there is nothing else someone can do after so many dashed hopes and dreams that never came to be. I would have gone on and on about this nonsense…….. but the next time you ask why I write, I will write about you.

The Woes of using my Bachelor’s to Cook

Here is kinda a funny one and crazy one, but msinipeleke Mathare please. Huko tuliachia kina Poeta. My favorite food is ugali and fried tomato stew, all due to my younger siz Muthoni Hinga who insisted on devouring such delicacies alone during our very interesting childhood. I was very excited yesterday when I decided to buy four big ripe tomatoes for supper. After lazing on watsapp for a while, I get down to serious cooking business. Three cups of water, add heat, five minutes wait for water to boil, add a lot of unga to the water. Five minutes pounding, turn the mould and shape it like a mountain, the ugali is ready. Remove from fire and store upside down on a metallic plate, just like I saw mummy do back then. Then comes the easier part, cooking tomatoes. Just slicing onions and tomatoes then add some oil and heat. Very easy cooking, suitable for any bachelor. The tomatoes are almost ready, boiled in their water to flatness after kindu five minutes. The next part always confuses me. Adding salt. I think it is something to do with my hands being either too small, or me underestimating my hands, or thinking that the tomatoes look too many now or my eyes being too big/small. I am not sure whether I am having my specs at this time. I think that the salt in my hand is too much, but who wants to waste salt? You can never be sure about anything on this earth anyway, just have to try my luck. The salt might just be enough. I add all of it and hope that the God will be with me.

Its time to serve. I place the ugali on the covered water bucket and slice it into as many large pieces as I can. I only manage two large pieces. I promise myself that I will cook a bigger ugali tomorrow. Tomato stew needs no serving, just put it into a plate and add a spoon, wash your hands. Pray, and thank God that He turned some of the salt into somebody’s wife. Maybe Lot’s. Then taste. The food is too salty. At least someone is still a bachelor like me, the salt didn’t become anyone’s wife. That offers some consolation to struggle with some few spoonfulls, then give up. Seems I will have to sleep hungry tonight. I know I would have called my sister and she would have suggested that I add some water into the food. But who adds water to tomato stew? That sound’s dumb.

I lie helplessly on my bed, meditating and spreading nice thoughts to anyone who might be in my position. Till I remember that I was once a chemistry guru, a BSc Analytical Chemistry holder. A genius idea strikes me. What was that thing about neutralization again? Or was it titration? Isn’t sugar the opposite of salt? Or is salt the opposite of sugar? Which is which? It’s one of those, unless our class two teacher lied to us. Mrs Thamaini looks too innocent to tell any lies. I add a few spoonfulls of sugar. Just two will be enough; I have to experiment first before going any further. I sit down, very happy with myself; the one who is able to apply chemistry to solve domestic problems. All that chemistry done in campus didn’t go to waste after all. And then I have my first bite of my newly prepared concoction.

My eyes redden, deep furrows form on my face. My childhood was haunted by cold chills and I didn’t like it when my dad forced me to have syrup as medicine. I don’t like it now too. This stuff tastes like it. I can’t go past three spoons of this thing. I have to sleep hungry after all. Maybe it’s just fate. It’s hard to get any sleep but, who said life is easy? A few more lazy chats on watsapp and facebook. All of them remind me that my friend Richard Mbugu is gone forever. I have to sleep now, at least to try and escape from the sad reality. May God rest his soul in eternal peace.

I wake up late, stomach rumbling and grumbling. Have to work first, no time to prepare proper breakfast. Go to check on my thing again. Still there on the gas cooker, uncovered, spoon improperly positioned. Untouched by houseflies. Not even a cockroach came close. I start by taking quarter spoonfulls first, with short stints on my computer. I had planned to take the stuff to the lab for analysis, but it’s too late now. I can see none of it. I don know how it disappeared, but maybe the tractor sounds in my stomach can tell.