I’m in the process of coming up with a new ‘baby’, this is my first trimester and I am really wondering whether I shall make it through to full term.

Not only am I not eating, I am also spending a huge amount of funds on that which I crave for. Not to mention, impromptu car batt konked. Maize in the shamba needs to be harvested. Security bill arrears were slipped under the door and of course the car needs ‘ngata’ to get me to and fro from work.

But my priority has been especially on this new babe. It will not leave me alone, the pressure it exerts, its persistence to get attention is unabated. 

Never has the demands of a ‘thing’ been so important. One cannot escape the responsibility. I am not complaining. I am just explaining. I have always thought that carrying one is hard, but not this hard! 

Even proper planning will not prepare one psychologically for the amount of time one takes to just ‘usher’ in the smooth delivery. One cannot phantom, unless one has experienced the day to day changes as it evolves, grows and develops from a ‘dot’ to a ‘something.’ No one tells you that the planning is a personal burden that when you look around for advice, you will get tons. Even as the literature is endless you still will continue to search for the best, the most convenient, the most refined and the most proper approach tirelessly. Up to date, I cannot comprehensively tell you how many renditions, anecdotes, formulae, secrets and power tips I have absorbed.

Ridiculously I forge on, even though my system wants to shut down the excitement urges me on. To learn, explore, experiment, probe and celebrate in this newness.

By the way, writing now (in this blog) is a way of expressing the joy, imagine. My perspective to life too has changed. When I look around me, things start taking a new meaning. Initially I would just look, now I see. The shinny stuff doesn’t really please me any more, it’s the sentimental stuff that triggers a tear.

Its like a turning point. Never has things been so crystal clear. Its like I’m at my sharpest J Some would call this feeling the epitome of self awareness. I tell you this is bigger than riches, fame or love. This is attuning to your nirvana (hata sijui what to call it). Let me explain a little further…

No longer do you have to wonder what life has to offer. You have found the answer. What you are experiencing feels totally right. No longer do you have to ask yourself whether people will like it or not. You just know its good for you. No longer do you care whether you shall be judged by it, no, its not their feeling, neither is it their business.

You suddenly realize that of all things that you have accomplished this was what was going to be your biggest test and triumph. It is the one fundamental thing that makes you who you are, that masterpiece signature of your life that you have been preparing for all your life and you know you need to do it right, no matter what.

Nope, you cant undo and go back, it is a decision that once you initiate, it unravels like a ball of yarn. All one can do is pray and hope that all goes well when the end is near. The best part is the journey….

Every step is a milestone; every tiny progress is worth a celebration. Sleepless nights are spent strategizing for tomorrow. Because the taste of what is to come is oh so sweet. The hurdles are just small challenges that are there to keep you focused. ‘Aha, you have changed?’ You smile shyly and say to yourself, if you only knew half of what I am going through. But you politely ask, ‘How?’. They cannot put a finger to it. Then you smile again, this time knowingly…

Borrowing from the parable of the mustard seed, great thing grow from small beginnings. And they also say humble beginnings are usually sobering especially when one makes it to the top. Keep yourself grounded in what is fundamentally good. Start with a small good gesture, favour or sacrifice; make it a habit and you shall soon start to see the fruits of goodness. Indeed it’s the good things in life that are free. Remember that even in our profession, work done out of love shows through as those extra hours spent and the effort to get it precisely right manifest in the fabric of the creative.

And most importantly, never give up on a goal you truly believe in, because it may be at that point when you were planning to give up that it was going to take a turn for a success. At this point I especially want to acknowledge the work of a good friend, who is doing what he loves most and is great at it. Catch his work on Truly inspiring and I believe that his work will be given the attention it deserves.

 1 ‘verbstract’ is borrowed from a twitter username of an admirable Kenyan creative, graphics whiz and social media influencer. I felt his username would make an ideal title for my piece. Asante Poj J


Master the Meaning of this Word…

Let me just cut to the chase. The word is ALTRUISM. For those who are going eeh? Here’s the definition.

“Altruism is the practice or principle of concern for the welfare of others. It is a traditional virtue in many cultures and a core aspect of various religious groups (i.e. giving of alms to the poor)… Altruism is the opposite of selfishness.

Altruism is a motivation to provide something of value to a party who must be anyone but oneself…. Pure Altruism consists of sacrificing something for someone other than the self (e.g. sacrificing time, energy, possession) with no expectation of any compensation or benefits, either direct or indirect…”1

I have this inkling that most if not all professional designers have this quality. It is selfless. Another thing (and this is debatable) is that I reckon Design is slowly moving away from ‘consumer culture’ and into ‘welfare culture’.

There is even an organization called 🙂 I kid you not, these are a bunch of professional web developers, graphic designers, copywriters, marketers who volunteer 5 – 6 hours each month of their time to do design work for FREE to non-governmental organizations. No strings attached. They believe that true service should require nothing in return.

 Think Generation G (for Generous and not Greed -this word just keeps popping up), Free Love, Random Acts of Kindness (RAK), Reward INC. Embedded Generosity and many other similar trends associated with altruism are proving to be the new fad when it comes to marketing.

One good example is Tide, a detergent brand in the US started an initiative dubbed ‘Tide: Loads of Hope’ – a mobile laundry service that provides clean clothes to families affected by disaster. Through a partnership with Feeding America and Frigidaire, the program washed more than 36,000 loads of laundry for some 27,000 families in disaster-struck communities. One truck and a fleet of vans house 32 energy- efficient Frigidaire washers and dryers capable of cleaning more than 300 loads of laundry every day – the project’s staff carry all of this out for free and even fold the clothes afterward.2

Closer home, a Kenyan based non-profit athletic brand, Kourage, produces running t-shirts designed and manufactured here in Kenya. They then exports them to developed countries for sale. Priced at USD 39, the garments are manufactured from soft, light and breathable performance fabrics that use quick-dry technology. All profits are reinvested into the Kenyan economy in the form of awards given to small businesses and entrepreneurs working to improve living conditions and communities within Kenya.

Another recent example done early this year is the Kenya 28Feb which was a call to action for all Kenyans (sacrifice a few minutes) to all stand up at 1.00 pm and sing in unison the national anthem. 1 pm. 1 people. 1 nation. 1 anthem united in 1 prayer for Kenya. This was an initiative by a committed, patriotic group of Kenyans to celebrate and promote our country. Others could interprete it as a way of reminding us that most of our leaders are not delivering on their mandate, therefore voting them out in the next general elections is a must. Or to others, it could simply have been a time to refresh their memory on all the lines of the anthem! Brand Kenya should brand and patent this movement, but that’s just me saying.

Hence, designers, it is high time for us to rise up from the ‘pretentious aesthetic appealing’ executions that frazzle clients and start thinking of using more impactful, authentic models that ask customers to co-decide and/or co-donate, using either offline, online or mobile technologies to make the most of impulse-driven initiatives. Our intention must start building relevant experiences that shape society, otherwise we shall be shortchanging clients and wasting our efforts.

Get into your consumers (and not clients :)) psychic. Think content, content, content. Know what they want and soon you shall be designing more meaningful, engaging interactions and ultimately creating long term connections with them.

 Read more on it. Chambua maana ya ndani na ya nje. The word is ALTRUISM.


1 Wikipedia extracts

2 – Non-Profit & Social Cause Industry Report pg 21 & 23

Its Her Birthright

The bell had just tolled.

She is smartly dressed in a new ‘School Outfitter’ uniform. The shoes are a tad too big. The sign on the gate says ‘Allan Grove’. Shy, timid, small with wide eyes hungrily looking and absorbing anything and everything she sees. She peers in the class, and is surprised to see other little kids dressed like her, look at her.

Day 1, kindergarden. The strap of the heavy milk bottle around the neck is hurting. She slowly and carefully removes it from her neck, holding it tightly around her hands. Pauses, unsure where to go. Suddenly the bubbly teacher sees her and beams, ‘Come in, there is room for you here’. ‘What is your name?’ A small lapel pin badge with her name written with a fountain pen is stuck on her small chest. She smiles ☺ She steps into class Yellow A.

Sing-a-long. Colour. Play. Daydream. Break snack. Scribble. Learn to write Name. Story telling time. Count 1,2,3. Lunch. Siesta. And on and on, day in day out. She grows to like her class teacher and Kate the girl with the braces. She likes the ‘alone’ activities. Collects stickers and smiles when she sees the gold stars stuck on her homework page. It is so pretty and glittery. Shinny and bright. The pictures in the colour book needs to be coloured. The black ‘makaa’ scribblings on the walls of the house is a temptation but she recalls the ‘slippers’.

The report card reads, ‘Teresa is shy and obedient. She likes to draw and paint.’

Skip – skip – skip to my loo. Katii. Shake. Swim. Scottish Dance. Michael Jackson. Paper aeroplane. Kiss, Command, Promise. Paula Abdul. Drama Festivals. Bendings. Junior Championship galas. Bootie knitting. She has grown and so has her skills. Her favourite companion is her Sony Walkman. Class. Novels. Games Captain. Badmington. Soccer. Prep Time. Enough with the activities, primary had endless renditions. Gold fish dies.

The thread is unraveling, winding, leading, suggesting. Unconciouslyly shaping her. Today everything is good and wonderful. Tomorrow everything is horrible, news from the television is sad. Tempers flair. She has the greatest smile ever! Busted with nail polish, ‘panoed’ and the polish is applied again the next day. She bends a long safety pin, puts it in her front teeth. Cool, braces.

Calligraphy. Paper Crafts. Hand made Christmas cards. 32 letters to mum. She can’t get enough of them. ‘Description is vivid’ she says. High school is so anti-katii. Math is uncomprehensible. They say she is a tomboy. Drops French for Art. Learns Gothic calligraphy. Tells dad she needs Fevicryl acrylic paints, Osmiroid callig pen and four horsehair bristle paintbrushes. Zile original. Pocket money drama. Matron busts her sleeping under the bed past ‘wake up’ time. She turns to hiding in her wardrobe. Ace Physics and Art. Made a ‘Red Rag’. Sneaks in a blow dryer to use after swim training.

Soldier or Dancer? Design or Architecture? ‘You will make a good plastic surgeon. Look, look at how fine your hands are. Straight and handsome like your fathers. Precise and stable firm hands. Medicine is best.’

Results are out. The subjects that matter are aced. Those that don’t are ignored. It was a given. She is admitted. A.D.D. is her sacred sanctuary. 6 hours studio. 15-minute lectures. This must be the best course in the entire campus! Eye – hand co-ordination. Print the Helvetica font. Impressionism, Cubisim and Makonde Art. The dark room at the photo lab. Light-sensitive paper, (or was it photo chromatic?) now you don’t, now you see it. An image magically appears. It is all a fascination. She smiles, excels and spends mindless hours in that space. That space of wonder, colour, precision. History of Art. Statistics. Trans-nighting.

‘Isn’t it gloomy not to be able to see the wonderful object and animals that God has put in this world?’ she muses over ‘still life drawing’. Quick caricature. 3D modeling. Ergonomics. Scramming to book for a chance to sit at the only ancient Pentium computer to finish off typing a rushed CAT. River Road. Science Scope. Luthuli Avenue. Dressed scruffily to fit in with downtown style. Bling is left in the hostel. Meals money is allocated to purchase materials. ‘Pin-up’ is approaching. Panic. Coffee addiction. Starved and zombiefied. True friendships made.

Graduation Square. Bling bling in hot pink, shinny brass, and christmas tree green is flapping over the black costumed soon-to-be-graduates. Hundreds seated to await their turn. An accolade is bestowed and camera snapshots clip tirelessly. Merry laughter, hugs, relief. Finally it is done, school is complete. ‘I now bestow you the powers to go forth to the world and do all that pertains to the degree.’ Clapping. Handshakes. Goodbyes. Celebrate.

‘So what next? What is your plan? Have you started applying?’ The dreaded portfolio is requested for. Meanwhile she is also training on the outdated MS Publisher and other packages. Selling some campus work. She is lucky to be filling in for the still vacant secretary position for her aunt’s business. Sent resume to 6 agencies. Tarmacking. Interning at Stan Images meantime. Book Illustrations toiled on despite measly wage. She is hopeful. Optimism and patience are cultured values.

Graphic Designer. Ehem! A break through. The journey has just began. Her eyes brightly dance. Humans relate with her musings. Everyday is a strive to sharpen her imagination and learn about the target market. Probably 8% of what was learnt in school is what is being applied in her work. Psychology is a point of interest. Online & Offline strategies are merging. No day is alike. No brief is precisely the same. The exploration continues. It’s a gut feeling. It comes from her heart. No one can take it away. It is her birthright.

Metallic Glam Meets Fashion Elegance @ Ngong Race Course

The just concluded CBA African Concours d’Elegance 2012 was absolutely phenomenal. Jaw dropping motor parade, a first elegance garden, airplane show, gleaming trophies onstage, fashion scouts to award the best top hats, fanciest head gear and contemporary fashionista gents and ladies was just but a few of the highlights of the day.

On call but on the look out, I watched as people streamed in just to get a slice of this social event. I could tell that everyone tried to leave their scruffiness home. Some were either trying to pretend that they were casually dressed (but had gone all out) and for some they had deliberately gone all out (kadha frantically shopped last minute) ; to show off!

My favourite part of the event was a setup (oh yes so inspiringly by me J ) of  the cupcake lady sitting in a table. She was dressed in an Afro haute couture style at the CBA Banking of Ages zone. Alluring and quite striking, she caught the attention of the passerby’s.  Once you saw her, you couldn’t help but stare or at least steal a photo of her. She had a mannequin – statue look that at some point it seemed like she was not real. All in all, she attracted attention at the zone and resonated well with ‘Couture Banking’ – A Time for More, which is CBA’s new mantra.

Haiya, another razzmatazz was the winning automobile (the word ‘car’ is not a good enough term to describe this beauty). It was a burgundy; spic and span clean 1972 Jaguar E – Type entered by Mathias Koehler. Man, that is one fierce machine. Sleek like a models skin, this was not a vehicle to just look at, it was an automobile you caressed with your eyes. The smooth exterior finish, cream interior and boot alone must have garnered her enough points to place her way ahead of the rest as the best of the best at yesterday’s event.

Pyrotechnics show, confetti pop and a grand slamming performance from Sauti Sol crowned the day.

Hardly are there many Kenyan events that come close to the preparation and effort put by both the spectators and competitors alike. At the ‘Concours’, the convergence of prestige and elegance is unconsciously mirrored by both parties.

There might be a small following of classical motorcars adorers but the number of attendees to such an event acknowledges the fact that people do appreciate and recognize the effort of the competitors. People come out in droves to represent, witness and socialize at the event. Kenya’s middle class is indeed emerging into a sophisticated lot.

As a true believer of the arts impact in shaping society, it is my prayer that appreciation for the visual arts be avidly embraced, exceptional work go acknowledged and finally authentic talent be supported.