Mark Kaigwa

Posts Tagged ‘Serendipity’

Back to the “Old School”

In Perspective, Real Talk on April 15, 2009 at 7:02 am
My High School Trunk...Just kidding!

My High School Trunk...Just kidding!

Taking it back to when it all began, while rumbling through my casket of a boarding school trunk,and finding the inaugural issue of The Laiser Beam. The very first magazine I ever wrote for, the first place I ever got published.

Published ‘by students for students’ in July 2005, the copy was an unbelievable 38 -pages long, and the first publication of any kind coming out of the school. Held together by 3 staples along it’s spine, and highly pixelated pictures with plenty of unrecognizable class pictures. It was a smash-hit with the students.

A budding writer in my final year of government education, I was glad to have two articles published in the issue, a first for the young 17 year-old journalist and soon-to-be blogger. And for your reading pleasure, here is the first one verbatim.

BREAK-TIME EXPOSED!!! By Mark Kaigwa
A slight caution before you read this article, what you will read will change you permanently. It will change the way you view the student body completely…Consider yourself warned! There are plenty of sayings to put the point across, “Only the strong survive”…”Survival for the fittest” and “It’s a dog-eat-dog world.” Well, they all apply now.


Welcome to break-time in Laiser Hill.


As soon as the bell rings, the mind slows and shuts down and begins calculations as the seat becomes harder and harder to sit on. The second the teacher sets foot outside, it’s a dash for the door. Looking at the tuck-shop all the way from class and it hits you that you’re already too late. People are shouting and squeezing through to give their orders.
But you don’t stop running, no, you can’t. Lest you have to spend half your break time shouting and jostling to get your order heard by ‘Madam.’ Physical fitness and endurance are a must. Nothing is bought or brought on a silver platter.


FACT: If you don’t break a sweat, you get no break.


There are at least 12 people, most being sweatier and of larger stature than you, constantly moving in and out of the window.
But not so fast, you need to look for a stepping stone or be ready to get your shoes muddy. As soon as you’ve balanced well on a stone, with your money firm in your hand, you need now to get to the window. Not forgetting that time is running out. The hardest is yet to come as you nudge and budge your way through the army of red sweaters you see the window and manage to finally squeeze your hand through one of the bars.


By then, you realize that you are partially deaf on one side because of someone, lets call him Mr. Pre-mandazi-breath both salivating and shouting into your earlobe trying to catch the attention of ‘Madam’

FACT: With your soft voice, you will be there until lunch but a deep commanding voice gets you a full stomach.


After buying, getting out is twice as hard as getting in, with your hands full, you don’t want to drop something or trip. You are now ready to go eat where the boys are at. There are way too many ‘bases’, behind the library, in front of it, under the tree, ‘parents park’…


With everybody and their own weird mixture of foods, crisps, drinks, powders and biscuits its no surprise that the nurse is always open at lunch time. And she’ll need all the luck she can get.

The thing I love about this article is the fact that it was sincere, witty and expressed moments that everybody in the school was familiar with. It was probably one of the best received articles I wrote, especially because I never presumed it would garner as much support as it did. Teachers, students, and even ‘Madam’ of the tuck-shop. She secretly thought I was trying to uncover her evil ring of chips-smuggling, where she would bring in French-fries by night and sell them to students, under the administration’s nose…Oops, there I go, ratting her out! How could I when I was one of the people who would leave her with a ‘deposit’ and take things on debit, or credit.

I need to tell you the names for our food combinations, or “combi’s” as they are referred to. We had “Mo-fire” a thicker type of mandazi made with extra flour, “Ndao” a regular mandazi.

Definition: Mandazi – A triangular, or rectangular (in Laiser Hill) shaped donut of sorts.

And the combinations ranged from a mandazi and a sausage, or mandazi and a samosa (both of which are very popular to date), chapati-sausage, to the outrageous ‘budget combi’ which was mandazi-crisps or chapati crisps, or mofire-crisps.

Definition: Crisps – thin deep fat fried slices of potatoes with added spices, packaged with nuts, and chevda-like additives.

The crisps-combi’s were hilarious, but became so popular. Started by students trying to be frugal, it caught on and became a fad, much like how ankle socks and slippers became a huge fad in school. Oh, to be young again…

These are smudges in my memory of high school. What are some of yours?

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Pecha Kucha Night Nairobi (ii): What you missed.

In Perspective on March 30, 2009 at 12:31 pm

I had the pleasure of having lunch with my good uncle, Keith Pearson, Director of The Theatre Company. We went to Parklands Sports Club for their buffet.

Luck had it that I’d run into Kiran Jethwa, who was also having the buffet at Parklands. We had a great chat on what’s new, his selection for the best job in the world, and how he was faring as in the polls. I guess this is where I tell you to vote for him, so yes, make sure you vote for Kiran, our very own slice of Kenyan talent for The Best Job In The World. He’s a fantastic guy and he deserves it.

I owe a lot of what I can call my writing to Keith and my Mumbi, who gave me a chance to attend a playwriting workshop of theirs in late 2007, it’s led to working with Warner Bros the following January, and eventually becoming a Maisha Alumnus.

We had a great lunch, with dessert, don’t know how I lasted the afternoon without a snooze. What was interested is that he had mentioned to me that he was wrapping up his presentation for Pecha Kucha. Slightly surprised, I remembered Dickson Migiro mentioning that he would be presenting at the same event, but I never quite got a date.

I happened to be in attendance at the first Pecha Kucha (ペチャクチャ) Night which was on the 20th November 2008 and was very impressed with the format of Pecha Kucha, and some of the presentations were remarkable. Not to mention, two of my villagers: Gakunju was presenting his sculptures, and taking people on a trip through his work over the years, and Mumbi, who is the MC for the event.

Pecha Kucha Night happens 357 times a year, that’s almost a Pecha Kucha Night every night of the year.

So yet again it happened that to my surprise I would find that it was happening serendipitously, and I had the amazing @louizah for company. We arrived promptly at 7:50, ten minutes earlier than when it’s scheduled to start. It’s 400 Shillings, and 200 Shillings for students.

Mumbi Kaigwa, the MC, called things to order at around 8:05. I had the pleasure of enjoying finger foods and drinks with my uncle, Gakunju before it started. Had a great couple laughs, looking forward to it starting.

Pecha Kucha, in a nutshell, it’s a format of presentation  for mostly creative work where you present a Powerpoint slideshow of 20 slides, spending 20 seconds on each slide. It’s mostly for creative work, but has been adapted to the business world. Typically, the crowd represents creative and design fields: architecture, advertising, photography, interior design and other fields.

So it began with Keith Pearson of The Theatre Company, my uncle, who took us through a project where The Theatre Company has been given a grant to renovate the theatre at The National Museum. Taking us through how it is restoring the dilapidated rooms and halls, and restoring what will surely be a beautiful stage and theatre in the near future.

Joseph Barasa was next with some of his photography. He presented at the last Pecha Kucha Night as an illustrator, and this time he gave a great presentation with some illuminating photography. From The Nakumatt Fire to lovers in Uhuru Park and a fight in his village upcountry, his photography provoked chuckles and giggles with his  laughable captions.

Faith Koli went up next, and took us through how she and her 4 friends started Take 4 Productions, with an enlightening look at the risks and jeopardy of starting a business.  She was accompanied by her other associate, Mia, who presented later on how she was the first to quit her full-time employment for the business. It was great to see because, I spoke to Mia afterwards, keen to find out what kind of a production house they are. For a business starting out, they were able to get their name out to a crowd that matters in art circles. That’s forward thinking on publicity, kudos for that.

Dickson Migiro went up next, taking the audience through ADAM Magazine, it’s inaugural issue, and the thought that went behind Kenya’s first men’s magazine. Christine Gitau followed him. A flowerpot painter, I especially liked some of her more charismatic colour combinations on her pots. She painted with different cultures in mind, from Indo-Asian influenced pieces, to Chinese oriental patterned pots as well as more contemporary palettes, her work was eye-catching. Including her final piece, which was a toilet converted to a flowerpot. Wonderful.

Rhodia Mann went up next, and totally blew my mind. I had never heard of her or her work, but wow, it was incredible. She’s been doing beadwork and making jewellery for over 35 years. She captivated the audience and took us through her journey across continents in search of beads. With her, we travelled from haggling with bead merchants on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan, to a striking sunrise in Mali, where she stayed and learnt from a tribe who made their own beads. In 1974 she was featured in The New York Times at her New York home, as one of the 5 Women to Watch, she showed us a clipping with the story.

Erik Kigada from Planning Systems presented an absorbing look at the Master Plans drafted of Nairobi Province, and how since the last one, drafted in 1975, we’ve exceeded the growth numbers projected and grown in the wrong direction. Instead of growing towards Thika, we’ve grown towards the southern parts of Nairobi, and the projected plan drafted by Erik and others, included The Masai Mara, all the way down to the coast.

He showed the misuse and mismanagement of the water catchment areas in the cities, and how the river system works, with insight to how bad it could get it we don’t make some key changes in the city’s infrastructure. A stirring awakening to what our city could look like, given Vision 2030 if we implement some changes to our city, making for more accessible water reserves. I later asked him how long the drafts and projections he had shown had taken to create, and he said 8 years, and counting, as they keep working on them. I pray they don’t take 8 years of government red tape to take shape.

There was a 15 minute potty break, with some of us grabbing snacks and mingling with the people. I enjoyed a couple more laughs with Jacky and Gakunju, looking at the paintings as well. I dashed in to the gallery to see the art.  Otieno Kota has his sculptures being exhibited at RaMOMA, if you get the chance to go, it’s pretty good, and surprisingly affordable.

 

A Pecha Kucha video for those blessed with the bandwidth.

Next was tattoo artist Nick, of ‘Tattoos by Nick’, he sent his associate to present on his behalf and she did a good job. They showed tribal, oriental and Maori tattoos. Soon after was Andronico Otieno, who I’m sure many of you might be familiar with. A thespian, appearing frequently for Fanartics, yes fa-nar-tics, Productions, so the theatre crowd, will no doubt recognize him from Phoenix and Alliance Francaise. He presented his work with Eco-sandal and the sandals they make, along with the curious names for their sandals.

Jason Corder came after Andronico, and according to the program, he defines himself as an ‘Earth Painter.’ Lecturing at the Nairobi University Department of Design, he’s been in Kenya for over a year, and showed his work while describing his intimate connection with the earth, and how as a painter using mixed media, he combines with the earth both spiritually and artistically. He left a couple raised eyebrows in the crowd, and seemed to lose @louizah at some point, but his work was commendable, and his understanding of art unique.

Finally, Planning interiors had Eryll Jalipa and Emily Odongo up as the final two presenters. Eryll showed us some of the interior work Planning had been doing including Maisha, a spa of The Serena Hotels. The creative concept was borne from the Jasmine flower. She also included the Private Lounge for Kenya Airways at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Along with IBM’s Offices here in Nairobi, where they adapted the artwork and ambience to reflect IBM.Using  barcodes and signatures on microchips on glass. Illuminating.

Lastly (I seem to be doing the ‘In conclusion’…’finally’…lastly…’finishing’) Forgive me, I’m Kenyan. Emily Odongo, a painter with great abstract work, now employed by Planning Interiors, she shed light on where she draws inspiration from and about her style of painting and her work. She’s gathered a following and is known in art circles for her ‘red paintings’ blending elements from crimsons, carmines, rubies and reds in her works. She has now developed her work and works with a wider palette, keeping her unique style and adapting it to the paintings.

Summing it all up, Pecha Kucha Night was fantastic for inspiration, networking and a night out. Best thing is if you arrive early, and get good seats. If you’re in any of these areas and are thinking of presenting, I’d recommend you attend one, then apply, but if you’d like to wing it, here’s the application form.

Or you can get in touch with Marta Anna Gloserova on 0733 – 245 – 813 or email her on wateringcanevents {at} gmail {dot} com.The organizers of the event are Kenya Buzz. It’s supported by RaMOMA Gallery of Modern Art, and The British Council.

If you were there what were your thoughts, what did you like? And if you weren’t, what do you think of the format? Would like to know.

I’m seriously considering applying to present at the next one, to be held in may, possibly at a larger venue because it was very well attended this time round.

My serendipitous meeting with ‘The Killer Necklace’

In Film, Perspective on March 5, 2009 at 8:55 pm

A couple weeks ago, I happened to be walking from work when I glanced at the chalkboard outside the Goethe Institute. The blurry words ‘Lola Film Screening and Forum’ were out of view before I could make sense of them.

In the oneirism that is me walking from work, about 5 minutes after walking past Goethe, something ‘clicked’ within me and I began to backtrack towards the sandwich board sign. Reading and confirming it, I entered in. I was 15 minutes late, but it hadn’t started…Gotta love Kenyan time.

The house lights dimmed, I sat at the back, and there was only one head obstructing me. As the opening credits rolled, I read the words ‘Killer Necklace’ appear and transition off the screen. In case you don’t know about Judy Kibinge’s film ‘Killer Necklace‘ it came about from a comic that appeared in Kwani that was done by Alfred Muchilwa, and was developed for screen by Judy, who wrote the screenplay.

The movie was amazing, this was the director’s cut that they showed as well and I must say I was really impressed. Without giving too much away, the story revolves around a young Kenyan male who’s good intentions are swiftly put through the wire, as he has to sink or swim through the murky and mucky waters of the crime ridden life his relative-by-association.

His relative, a slick-talking playboy, is well-versed with iniquity, and leaves Boo to his conscience and inner demons to decipher an ultimatum. Compelling storyline, coupled with a dynamic script interpreted very well make for excellent viewing. The film I believe, has been sent out to quite a couple film festivals and I’m certain it will command several awards at the very least. I believe Judy Kibinge, the writer/director and her producer Appie are in Burkina Faso for FESPACO, an African Film Festival.

One thing I personally loved about the film is that it was full of relatively new actors, especially in the lead parts. It was, of course, featuring well known faces in cinema and television in supporting roles, but it surely didn’t disappoint in acting.

The cinematography of it was jaw-dropping, the photography, composure and overall aesthetic makes it in my opinion a hallmark in contemporary Kenyan cinema. This film is historical, in my opinion, because it was filmed on a RED Camera. In short, the RED Camera is the pinnacle, the ‘Don-Dada’ of digital film, better than 35mm Film Cameras, yet still digital and with eons of extendibility as far as the camera and what you can do with it. It doesn’t get more captivating, or amazing than on a Red, here are some things you know which were also shot on a RED. And it shows, with some of the most amazing scenes I have ever seen caught on Kenyan camera (would rather you watch it than I explain.)

The movie, selected by MNet for their Mnet New Directions Program, is scheduled to air on Mnet sometime in the near future.

On the whole though, I feel the storyline is captivating and punchy, it transitioned quick and seamlessly between scenes. Dialogue was very well used, with the absence of dialogue put to good effect too. The music set the ambience to scenes well. The translation (because there were subtitles because of the sheng) were done well too. Speaking to Appie after the screening, she informed me that the script went through close to 25 re-writes, which only reiterated to me  the screenwriter’s mantra that Writing is rewriting is rewriting…’ But they did a fantastic job and kudos to Judy, Appie and the cast and crew, who were at the screening. It was a real jump in the benchmark to what is ‘Kenyan Cinema.’

I had no qualms worth mention, but this was my first time watching it, and as a screenwriter, there’s what you pick out on the first viewing and there’s what you pick on the second. Bravo to Judy, Appie, Seven and to cinema. All we can say is We want more…