Mark Kaigwa

Posts Tagged ‘Social’

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.

KTN’s Larry Madowo interviews Kahenya Kamunyu and Mark Kaigwa on Social Media

In Happenings on November 20, 2009 at 3:34 pm

Last week, Larry Madowo – Business Anchor for KTN, sent out a tweet to his followers on who to bring to KTN’s Sunrise Live show the following morning to talk about Social Media. The said person would accompany Kenyan Twitter Rockstar and techpreneur (not to mention, good friend of mine) Kahenya Kamunyu.

Thanks to the likes of Teddy and many other people on Twitter, I was recommended and got Larry’s call later that evening. I was both humbled and very grateful for those who put in the good word from me, and I hope I did them justice in the interview, of which is an excerpt below via Kahenya.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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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The Barbershop Professor

In Perspective, Real Talk on February 24, 2009 at 12:07 pm


Originally uploaded by DanieVDM

I coined a saying, though I might not be the first to have come up with it “There’s a professor in every barbershop.”

As many as there are stretchered couches that the pyschiatrists and therapists will have you lie on to tell all your problems and dilemmas, there are barber chairs and stools and seating arrangements in barbershops across the neighbourhoods of Nairobi and this African continent.

Ng’ang’a is my barber-barber. I might do you well to explain just who a barber-barber is: A barber-barber is a man (or woman, these days) who cuts hair and beards as a trade, and has cut a particular customer’s hair for over 10 years. Like I said, Ng’ang’a is my barber-barber. This man has known me longer than I’ve known him. From hi-t0p fades to ‘Jordan’ to Afro trims, from blowouts to curly-kits and those hair-gone-wrong days he’s been there.

I haven’t been to Ng’ang’a’s for over two years, but it doesn’t erase the fact that he’s been my barber-barber for over 16 years. Giving stories as he cuts my hair, barbers seem to have a savoir-faire that’s pretty darn good. And they need it to stay in business. I have countless recollections of telling Ng’ang’a all that was going on in primary school, all the thrills and spills of pubescent life, not realising he was actually becoming a confidant in some way.

Ng’ang’a’s was always the place to be in the large neighbourhood, and he moved shop like two or three times, the clientele always remained faithful. Even as his prices went up 200% as he accustomed himself to the new ‘relaxing routine’, that dominates barber-world of haircut, wash, massage, and a rubdown to the head, clientele remained faithful.

I can be said to be one of the ones who just moved on. With a barber-barber you don’t move on, you just ‘take a break’; it’s strangely like a marriage. No one knows how to cut your hair like he does. Regardless, when he changed to incorporate the ‘relaxing routine’ I changed too. I like all that jazz, but keep it under 100 or 200 bob for me, it’s just a haircut!

Needless to say I’ve found another barber, and if you read about Mbugua and Sam’s breakup. I went to Sam’s yesterday, since Mbugua’s was a little busy, if you consider two people in line busy. I was only going for a cut-which is where he doesn’t cut the hair, but the edges of the hair along the forehead, down to the ears and round the back of the head. Thinking about it, I don’t know why it’s called a ‘cut’ then…Anyways, he did a good job.

It was our convo that really got me sure that there is a professor in every barbershop. He always has a story, an analogy or in most cases an allegory -hence my referral to gossip above- to keep the exchange flowing. With me we talked many things, among them death, and passing on, as you’ll find out more in the Thank You post coming soon.

And if you pick up a phone call in there, it’s likely you’d be grilled or teased (depending on how the barber feels) and the second-hand speech will be used against you by all means.

I’ve been to a couple different barbershops in my days, I’d say, but in life, it looks like you can’t really have that many ‘barber-barbers.’ If you think of it like a marriage, you want it to all work out the first time, and hopefully things get easier, and hopefully better with time.

Gents, are you taking lectures and discussions with your ‘professor’? Ladies, is this true for salons? Wouldn’t be surprised if there were similarities.

The Village Near the Valley

In Perspective, Real Talk on February 11, 2009 at 11:40 am

A while back my church had a mission trip to a not-too-distant  slum/village called Mji wa Huruma. The slum is located in the Runda area. A sharp contrast to its’ surrounding area, with lush carpeted and trimmed lawns, fountains and yellow-bricked driveways.

This is a more humble area, and it’s a village. By village I mean a small community of people who have goings on in, and possibly around, the Runda area. And the dynamic in the village is notable, I would say that possibly 3/5 of the village are children between infancy and teenage years.

Changaa Brewing

The mission was simple: For a week, bring the message of Christ: love, forgiveness and redemption to them.

Forgotten, almost, by their immediate neighbours, the church’s duty was to bring and show love to all, and to bring ties of friendship to the community.

It was business as usual when they first entered Mji wa Huruma, which when loosely translated means the "Village of Pity". An assessment of needs, engaging the youth through sports, and ladies and mothers speaking to fellow ladies and mothers in the village.

However, for the men there was also one unique challenge that presented itself. One of the things that goes on in plain sight was the preparation of chang’aa [chah-ng’-aah] which is an illicit brew that’s made and sold within small communities in varying degrees of strength. When I say in varying degrees of strength I mean strenght enough to kill, strength enough to paralyse, and strength enough to blind a man.

I might rephrase that to say that it doesn’t occur in ‘plain sight’ but rather since it happens at a valley (it must often occur near a river) it’s never really in plain sight, it’s just not hidden from anyone’s attention.

It’s preparation is simple, but very effective. Mastering the age-old technique of distillery, it’s preparation happens by a river. Always. And at Mji wa Huruma it was no different, a select group of men, 4 of them, taking turns every now and again, on an unwritten rota with an unspoken set of rules.

Preparation requires a drum, old oil drums made of iron are preferred in this case, their oil-stained insides along with their rusty charred exteriors are perfect, and they conduct heat well. The drums are then cleaned out, or not. But usually an effort is made to ensure that they aren’t poisonous, but not in all cases.

The oily cask is placed by the river, and stands on a custom-made holder comprised of yet more old iron, or stones, it sits on a tripod of sorts; one that will remain unburned, but can take some heat. Old, metal seat frames are used at times. This is what supports the drum as it’s put upright. Once balanced and supported, the drum is placed a slight angle toward the river.

Below it is what ought to be a perpetual flame, and an array of items can be used, some being more harmful than others such as plastics or other inflammable objects being burned to keep the heat on the base of the drum. From old foam from retired mattresses, to garbage, though wood is of course the preferred kindling of choice.

Next, the drum needs contents, the contents that form this wicked concoction vary, but the staple ingredients are usually water, sugar and yeast. The variables include the oil in the drum and what possibly is the most devastative and corrosive element: embalming fluid. Either embalming fluid, or embalming powder, call it what you will. It’s effect is just as potent.

Oh, and I might just mention, that this is what is known to be in the nefarious potion. No one can know what it doesn’t contain if you catch my drift.

It is usually served in small (or large doses) about a glass that goes for Ksh. 10 or Ksh. 5, 15, 20.

You might have wondered at some point about the police. WE’ll they’re in on it. They come down the hill to the bottom where the brew is being boiled and brewed, and as if to literally add fuel to the fire, they pick up a bribe, give a smile or two and leave. This was witnessed unashamedly by our team.

I did hear, though, in fairness to them, that they came through the place sometime and shot up the drums that make the chang’aa.

As I wrote this post, someone asked me, Mark what is the purpose of posting such information, intricate and detailed as it is?

I answer him in the same way I would answer you if you asked me the same. I write this not so I can condone, glorify or justify the creation of such, but if in some way we can provide a sustainable solution, I know people working in places where it has been hard to reverse the culture of such a mind numbing drink.

What I may not have mentioned here are other examples of people who’ve given more to see people work themselves out of this. The work of another good friend of the church, Dr. Ndung’u who not only pastors and leads a church in Ruaraka, but he also practices dentistry there and treats and heals the physically and spiritually sick, so to speak.

Or perhaps of the projects going on in churches in and around peri-urban areas and areas afflicted by poverty e.g. goat-rearing, livestock farming and even rabbit-keeping which, along with the Gospel, and great follow-up, has seen men deep in the chasm of such alcohol freed and released with mighty testimonies.

It is of worthy note, I believe, that at the end of the mission week, we renamed or rechristened the village, ‘Mji wa Baraka’ which means ‘Village of Blessing.’

I challenge your thinking to give me a way around this practice in some way, something that I could propose.

Your comments and musings are appreciated.

Mbugua Gets a Good Look

In Perspective, Real Talk on December 29, 2008 at 8:15 pm

I had the honour of christening my barbershop in South B ‘GoodLook Barbershop’ this evening. My barber- Mbugua was one of the hundreds of people affected by the government’s amazingly orchestrated demolition scheme in South B.

Destroying all standing structures on the ‘Road Reserve’ their tact was simple but effective. Tuesday whilst collecting occasional bribes and mingling with the residents they hear the familiar jibe “We’re coming to bomoa (demolish) you guys next Monday, you know.” Amidst banter, negotiation of kick-backs, and such.

They came that very Friday, and didn’t leave a single standing structure, save for the Container turned Shop outside Zanzibar Lane, and the Butchery – They had to really jitetea ( plead their case) with meat that would go bad, fridges, and other amenities. So they stood, and I came that evening to find my barber Mbugua gone, his partner barber Sam gone and Mbugua’s mentor, and probably the most popular barber in South B- Kinyash gone.

Sad, and with a gruff, hairy face I went my way. I enjoy getting cut at the barbershop. It’s a social thing I guess in its own way, with witty discussions and all the repartee of a salon, this is the testosterone-filled equivalent.

So, it broke my heart the next morning to come and find Sam and all the other people affected by the demolition. They had a little protest march. I got glimpses through the white gates of Zanzibar Lane. I met him at the matatu stage and I told him to stay strong. I promised that if he set up again that I would pass by and ‘promote’ him and Mbugua- they had been partners at this barbershop for little more than 8 months. But Sam’s brother is the one who owned the business.

He gave me his phone number. And with a meeting tomorrow where I just had to look the part, not alongside all this gruff, rugged and manliness crawling over my chin and jaws. It’s too distracting to the common mwananchi, but it’s a great disguise with all the attention I seem to be drawing from a popular billboard right now 😉

I came this evening, they had electricity, but alas, Mbugua and Sam who were the tag-team that formed ‘Lucky Barbershop’ were no more. They were together but in separate shanties. A shrewd lady had actually demolished her own wall, built up shanties and was to rent out these kiosks to the previous owners, at twice the price of the rent.

She was now renting it out at Ksh.7000 a month, that’s around $90 a month. Meagre it may seem, but imagine paying that from when you paid around $30 a month. It was a leap, but like in any business, Mbugua and Sam stuck to their individual guns and would stick it out.

So I pass by Mbugua’s and it’s barely complete, he just got the electricity done, two fluorescent lights strapped hastily across the mabati roof. It’s 8:30 PM, the eerie light bathing the piles of sand and ballast outside his barbershop. I see the words ‘Barber’ painted in a fading red, probably the something oxide used that morning to make sure edges of the mabati doesn’t rust.

And I get my cut. And yes. It’s a good look. But in between our conversation there’s the feeling that he’s going to have to really compete with Sam on this one. I haven’t been into Sam’s, but I can even feel that Mbugua’s clippers aren’t as sharp. My hair doesn’t give him any problems, but if I had nappier hair I wouldn’t be smiling. Sam’s also has music, the radio plays and leaks into our stall. It’s got some bass so I know he’s got something decent on his side.

I look at Mbugua’s side and I see a speaker with wires showing while it sits on top of a wood base around a foot and a half off the ground. ” We’re going to do it big this time,” he says “I’m going to get a DVD (LCD Screen with a Video CD Player) and I’m going to play whatever my customers want.” So if I’m feeling a little mellow that day, he’ll play me some blues as I get my cut, or some reggae to ease my soul after the troubling day.

Good Look is on it’s way to looking better. Let’s hope it works out for him.

Mbugua’s got dreams, and God know we all do.

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.