Mark Kaigwa

Posts Tagged ‘Awareness’

Kuweni Serious – Waking a Sleeping Generation of Kenyans

In Perspective on December 15, 2009 at 12:13 pm

Young people in Kenya are no strangers to controversy, it must be said. The perpetrators of Kenya’s post-election violence in the last elections used the youth to execute their agendas.

It’s about time somebody spoke up and like Obama will tell you, there’s no better time than now.

Introducing Kuweni Serious ~ Swahili for ‘Get Serious’


They have some serious points of view for ‘young people’ seeing as they are the firebrands of a sleeping generation.

Kenya’s youth have largely been characterized as hedonistic generation of brand-obsessed youth, moving from party to party in the night and congregating on Facebook during the day – using TV, music and brands as our badges, our ID. We’re the Moi generation – the ones who grew up on the now-defunct “Maziwa ya Nyayo” school milk. We watched our parents root for and obtain multi-partyism, and we watched the country shrivel up and almost die under years of Moi’s rule.

And they are not afraid to call out the issues that plague young people in Kenya today.

We’re detached from the affairs of the country, they say – picking our addictions (which one will it be? Drugs, sex, TV, alcohol or God?) while the country burns. Perhaps it is true – what would you expect from a generation who are continuously referred to as “tomorrow’s leaders” in a country where people like one Mr. Kibaki have been in government for as long as Kenya has had a government? Tomorrow never comes, so we might as well carry on with our lives and forget about politics.

Here’s one of the videos on Kuweni Serious featuring George Gachara of Picha Mtaani of which needs a blog post from me too. He speaks candidly on the role of the media in Kenya, and his prediction of what will happen in 2012.

So as you can see, there is a debate that ought to be going on, young person to young person. More on Gachara’s interview here. Note: Youth in Kenya is anyone under 35. Kuweni Serious are trying to put a spotlight and include thought leaders on what we really ought to be thinking about, seeing as youth continue to be the majority of voters in this country.

It is perhaps only when our country was set on fire that we began to see how deeply politics affects us. A few months later, we were paying hitherto-unheard-of prices for fuel, there was water rationing, and power rationing, and then food started to run out. Only then did many more of us realize that we can’t hide forever in the company of the Lil’ Wayne’s and Prison Breaks of this world. Perhaps it is only when our comfort zones were threatened that we realized that our leaders, our “Honorables” are self-obsessed, thieving, murderous idiots. Honorables, indeed.

Blinky Bill, member of Just A Band and overall inspiring dude is honest when asked why he thinks we’re a whining nation, and why he thinks we keep voting in the same old people into Government.

Which moves us on to the real question on youth. Staring it face-to-face and asking people what matters.

And so we at Kuweni Serious – we’re a bunch of kids ourselves – have decided to go out there and find out: how do Kenya’s youth feel about all the chaos around us? Are we proud to be Kenyan or are we secretly wishing we could get green cards and disappear forever? Where shall we raise our own kids? Are we happy?

Convener of the National Youth Convention, Emmanuel Dennis, gives outspoken insight into why we can’t give up on this nation and why the youth seem so apathetic and detached from politics.

Food for thought.

We intend to seek out all the young people out there who are trying to make sense of all this, the youth groups, the activists, the people who read the news and get so annoyed that they write angry status updates on Facebook, the students, the guys and girls who’ve just landed their first job and have been hit hard by the realities of the economy. We want your opinions, we want your stories. We don’t know what we’ll find, we might step on a few toes, but we’ll do our best.

Join Us. Kuweni Serious.

And there’s plenty more where all this came from including a poignant piece by Njoki Ngumi, as well as interviews with award-winning photographer Boniface Mwangi, journalist Abdullahi Ahmed and more. Follow Kuweni Serious on Twitter and Join them on Facebook too.

As Obama said – The time for change is now.

29th October 2009

Kenya’s youth have largely been characterized as hedonistic generation of brand-obsessed youth, moving from party to party in the night and congregating on Facebook during the day – using TV, music and brands as our badges, our ID. We’re the Moi generation – the ones who grew up on the now-defunct “Maziwa ya Nyayo” school milk. We watched our parents root for and obtain multi-partyism, and we watched the country shrivel up and almost die under years of Moi’s rule.

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Pamoja Mtaani Wins Award + Features at Games for Health 2009

In Happenings on November 27, 2009 at 12:36 pm

This post is long overdue, but earlier this year, Pamoja Mtaani – a videogame I co-wrote and consulted on for Warner Bros was awarded the Global Business Coalition‘s Core Competence Business Excellence Award. The excerpt is below.

Congratulations to Award-Winning”PAMOJA MTAANI” (”Together in the Hood”), Behavior Change Video Game

The “PAMOJA MTAANI” (”Together in the Hood”), Behavior Change Video Game, created by Warner Bros, won the Global Business Coalition’s Business Excellence Award.

As a key component of the Partnership for an HIV-Free Generation, this open world five player LAN-Based PC game educates youth in Kenya.

The Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria honored Warner Bros. Entertainment with the Core Competence Business Excellence Award for the video game “Pamoja Mtaani” (”Together in the Hood”) at the GBC Business Excellence Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C. “Pamoja Mtaani”, Swahili for “Together in the Hood”, is an open world, five player LAN-based PC video game created by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment in collaboration with technical experts within the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and noted serious games developer, Virtual Heroes, Inc.

Warner Bros. Entertainment, in partnership with PEPFAR, applied its core competence to develop an action-based videogame pilot that is delivering targeted HIV prevention messages to East African youths. The videogame combines traditional gameplay with messages aimed at changing behavior, focusing on key behaviors that can reduce HIV infections among youth. The game development is part of The Partnership for an HIV-Free Generation, a  public-private collaboration among PEPFAR and businesses with critical core competencies such as messaging, new technologies and market research.

The “Pamoja Mtaani” videogame can be played at select youth venues in Nairobi, which are an integral component of this new initiative to revolutionize HIV prevention. The game, intended to engage youth through fun interaction, is designed to help influence HIV risk perceptions, attitudes and behaviors among young people in Nairobi.

Pamoja Mtaani also featured at Games for Health 2009. Below is the presentation that Producer, Kirsten Gavoni, gave some details on what it was like making the videogame (It was Warner Bros. first such project in Africa)

Pamoja Mtaani is available to play at three centres in Nairobi right now, two centres in the Mukuru slum and the National Youth Service along Thika Road. I’d suggest you go play it.

Kibera Kid

In African Filmmaking, Film on October 20, 2009 at 2:49 pm
Screen shot from Kibera Kid, Nathan Collett's ... 

As part of the continuing series on African Filmmaking, we look at a film that’s made acclaim in both filmmaking and development in Nairobi’s Kibera Slum.

We’re looking at Kibera Kid this time. A short film revolving around the choices that people have in Kibera, and one young boy’s choice to change his fate.

Otieno, a twelve year old orphan living in Kibera, Kenya, Africa’s largest slum,  lives with the Razors gang, his substitute family.  Otieno has to choose between a life of crime or redemption. KIBERA KID was shot entirely on location in Kibera, with a cast from Kibera. KIBERA KID has won seven international awards, including the prestigious student EMMY, has been screened at 38 international film festivals and has been featured by media throughout the world.

 

Nathan Collett, the film’s Writer/Director/Co-Producer studied African History at Stanford University, California, USA and completed his Post-Graduate degree in Film Production (MFA) at the University of Southern California Film School. Nathan was a Fulbright scholar (2006-2007), researching storytelling in Nairobi slums.

From this, he founded Hot Sun Films and it’s non-profit arm Hot Sun Foundation, both located in Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya. Hot Sun Foundation started the Kibera Film School to train youth in all aspects of filmmaking. Through filmmaking and cultural exchange, Nathan hopes to change the world’s impressions of Africa. And so far, with the progress Togetherness Supreme is making, they’re getting there.

Hot Sun Films is currently producing the follow up the 12 minute short, Kibera Kid. The first-ever feature film made in Kibera, TOGETHERNESS SUPREME, a story of hope and reconciliation. It’s a fictional feature film made through screenwriting workshops with over 50 young residents of Kibera and examines the events related to the 2008 post-election violence. It’s positive message and unique approach are sure to bring it success similar to the 7 Awards that Kibera Kid was awarded including a 2007 Student Emmy for Best Children’s Film. It’s also been covered extensively by Reuters and The BBC.

A Teaser for the film is out on Youtube and you can keep up with Hot Sun Films on Youtube here

The film’s cast all come from the Kibera Slum and are a part of the Hot Sun Foundation’s initiatives to bring sustainable development projects to Kibera. So far, they’ve kept a pretty detailed log of how things have been going as far as the filming and production of the film on their About Page. They’re shooting on a RED Camera, they’re the only ones at the moment with the RED One camera in East Africa. The first Kenyan film to be shot on a RED was Judy Kibinge’s short film The Killer Necklace a couple years ago.

A great film and an awesome initiative, it’s amazing to see this kind of dedication to developing Kibera, which will finally be known for something other than what’s been making the news recently: Slum Tourism. I can’t wait to watch Togetherness Supreme and all the other films that will come from the Kibera Film School.

 

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Pamoja Mtaani : Breaking New Ground in Gaming and Social Awareness.

In Perspective on December 17, 2008 at 1:17 pm

It’s been 11 months since the inception of this Warner Bros. Project, now debuted and launched. Named, Pamoja Mtaani (‘Together in The Hood’ in Swahili) it’s unprecedented territory as far as both gaming and Social Awareness on HIV/AIDS is concerned.

Pamoja Mtaani Animation Screenshot

The PC Video game “Pamoja Mtaani”, developed by Virtual Heroes and Published by Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment (WBIE) is part of the HIV Free Generation Project made possible by PEPFAR ( The President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Response). I will state unashamedly that US President George W. Bush has done more for Africa than any other president in history. There is little to debate on this matter.

Obama may hail from Kenya, and remain it’s talisman, but it is hard to see him ever coming close to reaching the touchstone that President Bush has reached. With economic hardship, and the American people demanding change, his mandate is to serve his country; we will respect that. But what’s for sure, is that we’re really proud of him and we are sure that with PEPFAR and the HIV Free Generation Programs in place, we’re in good hands.

With Pamoja Mtaani, what we are witnessing is a radical and most certain an unprecedentedly bold approach to combating HIV/AIDS. Targetting the younger African generation, starting in Kenya, addressing them where they are at. With this project in particular, the beginning of the HIV Free Generation Initiative, the youth are being engaged on a level not before envisioned here in Kenya. Through players engaging and fostering a creative and communal approach to challenges in the game, it’s been rolled out at three major locations in Nairobi to start with: the National Youth Service HQ, The Hope Worldwide Center in Mukuru and Micato Safaris St. Mary’s Church in Mukuru as well.

The game is a RPG (Role-Playing Game) which was designed to be played by 5 characters at a time over a LAN (Local Area Network). The official statement from WBIE (Warner Bros. Interactive) sums it up.

“The game follows five strangers who are brought together through unforeseen circumstances, losing what is most precious to each of them. Working their way through various East African neighborhoods, players must recover the stolen items and help an injured woman on their quest. Along the way, they will experience barriers and facilitators to behavior change through a variety of missions and mini-games. ”

Writing the videogame was a challenge, and one of the most insightful, and demanding projects I have ever been involved in. And I loved the opportunity to create, and adapt something this visual and this visceral for a market that hasn’t been approached in this way before.

One of the most interesting things for me was ensuring that the videogame was able to achieve the Behaviour Change Communication (BCC) Objectives. With each character crafted with an arc, to which they gradually transform and fulfil during the game. We had BCC Expert  Nichola Harford, currently based in Zimbabwe working with us, as well as several other teams on both continents.

My trip to the U.S at the beginning of the year to study meant that my schedule would change slightly, and I would be away from home. With that, seasoned writer and thespian Cajetan Boy was selected to write the game from Kenya, with Nicola and I forming the rest of the writing team. This turned out for the best. We were in constant contact, the time difference was cut back significantly for me (From +10 Hours to +3). And best of all, I was able to harness the power of ‘real’ broadband to teleconference, send and download Giga-sized chunks of material at will.

To integrate sheng (local slang- a blend of English and Swahili) into the game, as well as translate the entire game into sheng was something I relished. Sheng, I believe is the epitomy of popular youth culture in Kenya. It is dynamic, unashamed, and defiant. Sheng conforms itself to your reality. So much so that it is by no means restricted to it’s transcribed form. It’s written form cannot keep up.

It continually defies the rules set to govern it (sound like your member of parliament?), and it fluctuates in punctuation and inflection between neighbourhoods, street corners and cities. An example, that’s already outdated by the fact I can write it down  : some words get reversed at a moments notice, and their reversed and revised editions replace them. Most times indefinitely, but then there is no indefinity in it, is there?

There were also 5 CG Short Films developed to debut with the game, and give players and the masses quick views into the characters lives. They were directed by visionary animation director Chris Bailey and were produced by Aaron Parry of Mainstreet Productions. I had the chance to do writing and consultation on part of the project, and you can view them here on the HIV Free Website hosted by Warner Bros.  (http://hivfreegeneration.warnerbros.com)

The entire process of writing both the Short Films and the Videogame was a revelation. Being able to see scripts go from being marked up in their 10th version, and being able to meet on a middleground between our different cultures, yet staying relevant to Kenya’s was amazing.

There is hope that with the game, and the large amounts of data that will be collected from it, we will be several great steps closer to achieving a HIV Free Generation.