Nairobi Nights: Musing at MUZE

I didn’t feel like going to the club. It was a Thursday, I was broke, and social situations were starting to feel like interrogations at a time when I needed to be alone with my thoughts. But Nairobi is Nairobi. There’s always something happening. My mind was distracted, but in a conversation with my body- they decided that going would be good for the partnerships I was trying to forge for the year. After all, I was meeting a friend, for a birthday gift they owed me. It would be rude to cancel last minute.

Getting ready. “Make-up set. Basic outfit. Do the thing with your hair that makes you look like you actually wanted to show up. Fuck. You lost *that* lip gloss so I guess…Arimi’s? That should work. Wait, mum said you have to cook the chicken. You have like two hours so you’ll get to that. Okay, you’re done. Not so bad. Now, where’s Mwenda? He’s outside? Let’s get going for that movie. Shit. Traffic – we’re going to be late, guess we don’t have to go anymore?”

I didn’t know what I was doing exactly, but I needed a drink. There are serviced apartments with a bar area nearby, thought we’d grab a cold one and scope the place while we were at it. Cider for 300 shillings? No smoking? Fuck. No smoking. I’m not even much of a smoker but considering how bad that day was, I could have used a drag. We sat there and talked about why they were playing nothing but Ed Sheeran covers. He said it was something about the ambiance of the place: secluded, cute pool area and all. Something about the music irritated me to no end.

 

Done with our drinks but my phone is at 44%. He wraps up an episode of Doom Patrol and offers to charge my phone for me. I agree, it’s almost 6 and I wanted to be at the club by 8.30 PM. Seems like ample time. Scroll, scroll, scroll through Twitter. It’s 7.30. My phone is at 95% by the time we leave the house. We walk to the club – it’s not very far.

And then it hit me.

I can’t remember what we were talking about. A conversation about people who make their art work for them, they maneuvered even if they eventually cracked – at least what the outside world refers to as ‘cracking’: leaving the formal education system at any point to get a breather and recalibrate your life to figure out why any of it matters – they still got to make considerable strides, probably larger than anybody at that time had ever conceived possible of them.

“But then there’s sitting in the shit and actually making it work for you. Getting out of it.”

“And since it’s a pile of shit, there’s a chance you won’t make it out.”

Shit. Mwenda’s still here.

He noticed that I’m in my thoughts. “He would understand your rant but you’ve given it so many times before. You don’t even know how to explain where it all started. Ah yes, the chicken. Blame it on the chicken. Why was Mum so mad about the chicken? You cooked it. You missed your movie but you cooked it. Because you only think about your friends? A friend you hadn’t seen in months took precedence over the chicken you were making for your family. Why, Nyaguthii?”

He knows it’s not about the fucking chicken, because you cooked it and left it on the stove for them to enjoy. But he lets me go on with my rant.

I stopped. It came like a flood and I’m glad I didn’t let it drown me before we got to the club, because I would’ve spent hours in the (very comfortable) bathroom at MUZE. Can you tell I’ve broken down there before?

It came in flashes and the thoughts and imagery were heavy enough to make me physically nauseous. The urge to die. Actually trying. Calling on my mother just a minute too late to survive. Actually surviving. Looking at the disappointment in my parents’ faces. The helpless look on my lover’s face. Dealing with the fact that it didn’t actually happen, and I have to keep on keeping on. Feeling as trapped as Jon Snow in the 8th season of Game of Thrones, like my character arc was done ages ago and they’re only keeping me alive to appease the telenovela storyboards they borrowed from.

jon snow

He noticed the flood. I had to tell him what happened, but not enough to trigger him too. We’re not strangers to the demon of suicidal ideation. It knows us well. Visits us simultaneously. Makes us tea, spikes it with white rum and by the time we realize just how long we had been in its living room, weeks have passed and we have to rebuild, replenish and return to the land of the living because it chose us again. The ouroboros that has been my sadness has gobbled me up and spat me out like this for seven years now. I’ve forgotten what life looked like before it. I don’t remember because I never got the chance to see it.

We’re here.

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It’s Gallery Night at MUZE. Janice Iche is showcasing her work. We walk in as she finishes her live installation- I know her as a visual artist but part of the exhibition included a performance piece titled “Life Excerpt”. A few friends had taped it on their Instagram stories so I got to see it, but wished I’d been there earlier. They said it was the most beautiful thing they’d ever witnessed.

 

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There was a mattress right down the middle of the aisle, where the stage was supposed to be. She used it as her bed, propped up with one of her pieces, ‘Mutuma’s Departure’ – a piece inspired and dedicated to the memory of the late Jason Kalinga. The performance: Janice would get out of bed. Paint. Watch a film. Paint. Get back in bed. Get up. Paint. Interact with the piece. Get back in bed. She painted the words “I’m too much for most” on one side of the black canvas, and “Doing these things without support is hard” on the other.

PEOPLE JUST TAKE & TAKE.

 

YOUR FREEDOM IS FAKE.

 

I was taken by how raw these statements were. How much they resonated with how I was feeling at the time.

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I’d been out of a job for about five months now. I quit my 7-7 job as I was graduating from law school and  didn’t see any career progression where I was working, plus I’d landed a creative contract that would act as my parachute and give me time to explore something I’m really passionate about while continuing to give me the financial independence that I’d already established. I worked throughout school but it always felt like it was only to get me the money to fuel my creative pursuits and give me full control over it, without the fear of debt. Even so, I try to make sure that the job aligns with my personal values, in a field which I am qualified for.

The contract ended. As creative contracts go, time passed before I got word of any payment. I picked up smaller contracts to give me enough float but time caught up with me. As an adult, being broke means going back to dependence. A tip: contracts that don’t explicitly state when they’re going to make your payment are open to ambiguous interpretation. Making the contractor’s work sustainable for everyday life is a game where they constantly feel like they’re nagging for money that was promised to them. Money they could use to sustain other projects. To pay the bills, to continue doing what they love, free from the shackles of debt.

Dumping a 9-5 for creative living sans the cognizance of the issues that hamper its sustainability or establishing a cushion will char you from the inside out.  Doing these things without support is hard. People do just take and take.

So how do you keep your creativity going in the midst of corporate bullshit?

Back to our night out.

Janice gave a brief speech thereafter. She talked about how the late Jason pushed her to exert herself into her art by preaching self-love. It’s always the first step: once you love yourself, once you’re comfortable with yourself, your art captures the same. For as long as I’ve known Janice, she has produced thought-provoking pieces in different art forms: music, photography, and now as a fine artist. She is always at the center of her art; she is a quintessential element of it in a way I can only compare to the late Frida Kahlo. Her experiences and the influence that others have impacted are stories she tells through her art. It’s inspiring to watch and experience fragments of her life in this way.

I believe in kismet. I didn’t want to leave the house, but if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have gotten to hear and see the things that I did. The interactions I had that night with other creatives and people navigating the creative industry in different ways was a message that I should continue to try, even when I am forced to consider otherwise. The urge to quit is always strongest when your life feels like it revolves around your bed. Don’t limit yourself to one medium of expression, either. There are too many ways to make your mark to limit yourself to just one.

Oh, and love yourself. You are important. No flowery language for that because it makes sense as it is. Do as you will with this information.

Nairobi nights, no sequels.

 

Sookie Murage is a dog-loving gin aficionado who spends her days conjuring concoctions with edible flowers & spends her nights as the flaneur of Kileleshwa. Sauntering about, thinking things.

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Featured Image Courtesy of Royce Bett. 

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Finding clarity: Janice Iche

Floabs: Who do you think you are, Janice Iche?

Janice Iche: I think if there’s just one word that would describe me: it’s artist. Growing up and getting older, I’m using my brain more than I was and being more conscious and present. I’m learning many lessons, finally seeing the reason why things have been the way they’ve been since I was young, and there’s a reason I’m like this because I just have to be like this, y’know? By like this I mean-

Janice Iche-

Yeah.

Who do you want to be?

An artist, and I’m happy about this. I’m happy because everything I do is now productive in one way or another and it contributes to every piece of art that I want to make. I realize that I’m not just a musician, I’m so much more there’s so much more that I want to do and now I’m realizing why I’ve been wanting to do all those things and that makes it feel even more special.

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Why?

Because every single different art form has its purpose, but they all just merge into one. Growing up, I always felt very singular; it was always just me, especially in my teenage years. I felt different from everyone else, but all those experiences I had when I was by myself contributed to the person that I am today and I think it’s because I’m appreciating the person that I’m becoming. I’m starting to love it and I finally love myself. It’s exciting.

I’m accepting everything that I’ve seen and experienced in my life, and how they make me the person that I am today. It’s a very strong emotion and I’m happy about it. Literally, my heart is racing talking about it!

A friend once told me that I’m an empath because I feel very deeply and I feel other people’s emotions as well, and sometimes you don’t even know whether they’re your own emotions. Most times, they aren’t- because with your own emotions you always have this piece of yourself that you’re able to maintain.

I’m having so much fun in my life right now, discovering all these things and-

Discovering yourself-

Yes, and what I want to do. Everything is clearer. I know exactly the woman that I want to be and I’m actively going for it. It feels amazing.

Sometimes, I wish it would hurry up and get there but I know you’re supposed to enjoy the journey and well, it’s always gonna be a journey.

Why did you start JaniceIcheblog?

I realized that there’s so much that I want to create and share and I needed a platform to do that. Besides my music, everything I write is going to be on the blog. I also realized that I can use my vulnerability as my strength: I’m a very sensitive person and for the longest time, I’ve been having trouble dealing with the emotions that I carry; pretending that I don’t have these emotions when these emotions dictate every single day of my life. So I’ve been figuring out how to use these emotions to my own benefit. Instead of letting them keep me sad, I can turn it around and use them to my own advantage.

First of all, because I hate feeling alone- I want to show other people who also might be feeling alone that we, basically, have no reason to feel alone. Being open with our experiences and being able to share them gives us a sense of community as human beings, because we’re going through human experiences and human emotions but for some reason, everyone’s pretending not to have these emotions and experiences which are such a part of being human and being at this age and being a woman or being a man.

These are things that are common, but then everyone’s pretending like they don’t have these emotions then everyone feels like they’re alone. I don’t understand why that has to be and I don’t like it. I didn’t want to feel alone so I don’t want anyone to feel alone when they’re people out there who feel the same way.

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That’s why I started the blog: I wanted to be open, I wanted to be raw, and I wanted to be honest. I want to stop pretending like these things don’t exist- they exist. Why are we still pretending?

And it’s not like pretending is doing us any good. Everyone is depressed because no one is talking about their issues openly and genuinely. I guess I also want to show that genuine people do exist and there really is no need to feel like we’re alone because we’re going through the same thing. I wanted to spread awareness on the importance of being open and how transformative and revolutionary it can be.

Who are your influences?

My influences are black women who are going after their dreams and just being themselves fearlessly: Hannah Faith because she’s a sick dj, Solange, Oroma Elewa, Sza, Lee Litumbe, Yagazie Emezi. These black women who are just doing things and are at a level that I want to get to.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

These same women.

And when I see someone’s work online and you can tell that they’ve put in so much love, effort, dedication and passion. When I see this work, it inspires me and I’m like, “I have to do the same thing. I have to put my all into it.”

Also, all the bad ass bitches near me who really motivate me and inspire me. Alexis Nereah because she has created her own path and she’s living it and it’s working out for her. It just goes to show how if you’re passionate about something and determined, it’s bound to work out.

Darina Anstis. She’s creating her own beauty standards and going with it fearlessly not giving a fuck about what anyone will say and it’s beautiful and she’s beautiful.

Lyra Aoko because she’s a boss ass bitch, simply.

My cousin Mary, who’s another boss ass bitch going after what makes her happy and stable.

My mom too.

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So what does the future hold for janice iche?

A lot. My music: I’m still writing music. That’s the one form that I feel has to be perfect so I’m really taking my time with it, but the future is going to be me with albums and performing on worldwide stages and at the same time, indulging in other forms of art which I am finding my place in.

Janice Iche is a singer-songwriter, a feminist, and an activist against emotional abuse. You can find out more about her at https://janiceicheblog.wordpress.com 

You can listen to her music at https://soundcloud.com/janiceiche

 

Images by : Adrian Kumli