By Ogova Ondego
Published June 12, 2016
On this bright and sunny day, a group of about 20 youth have gathered not just to sing, dance and act; they are here to showcase their performance prowess to members of the public; to announce that a new era for the arts has dawned and that they are in the arts not as a hobby but a sustainable career of choice; to create income-generating opportunities for the youth. By taking over Kenya’s arts sector.
So the youth from Kawangware, Dagoretti Corner, Racecourse, Ng’ando and Kibera within Kenya’s Nairobi County sing, dance and act; as if their very lives depended on it.
After a day-long feasting on dance, music and drama presented by the hopeful youngsters—the majority of whom are either 19 or 20–I seek to find out a little more about the individual trees in the forest known as Geatrics Production whose chair is Gordon Odhiambo, artistic director Victor Layson and chief executive officer Hempstone Fron Malonze.
Founded in December 2013, Malonze says, the main goal of Geatrics Production that is based in Dagoretti sub-County, is to turn “the arts in Kenya into a reliable source of income and career choice for the youth; something that youngsters will be proud to study in colleges and universities.”
So far these youth who write, act, sing and dance say they have already recorded eight songs and a music video even as they continue to act, sing and dance on stage.
Wanja Mwangi, who says she joined an Olympic (Kibera)-based group known as Changamka Africa as an actor in 2015 after “completing high school ,” takes the lead role in Nalia (I cry), a Geatrics theatre production.
“It is my passion in acting that propels me on stage,” she says. “My all time goal is to become the best acting talent in the world.”
Daniel Githinji, who says he has been on stage “for just four month s,” says he is “motivated by Academy-winning Kenyan actress, Lupita Nyongo, who has proved that no matter your background, you can fulfill your dream if you believe in yourself.”
“I was born and raised in Kibera.I have attended school in Kibera and generally all my background is based in Kibera,” says Walter Mwori. “When I think of that situation I am just forced to work harder.”
“Once I get to that level of being recognised as a great actor,” Mwori says, “I will come back to Kibera to help those with talent but almost no opportunity to shine; there are so many such people here.”
CEO Malonze says he specialises in acting, script writing, theatre-directing and music.
Describing his acting roles as ‘versatile’, Malonze says his journey into the arts started in 2008 in western Kenya while still in secondary school.
“I do poetry, music and acting,” he says.”I started professional acting in 2011 when I joined travelling theatre groups in performing set books in secondary schools .I have had the privilege of working with some of the best set book performers in Kenya.”
Malonze says he joined a group known as Wassani Arts Theatre in 2012 before moving to Usmobilux as a director and actor a year later.
“When Geatrics Production was born in December 2013, I joined it as a director and actor. I have written and directed more than 10 plays between 2012 and 2015.
Malonze say he has over the past five years been involved in the performance of poetry and music.
“I have seven years of stage experience as an actor and four years as a director,” Malonze says.
But what drives him?
“My love for the arts has made me persevere in the sector through thick and thin and the fact that some of the people I found in the arts have now made it to the national television screen also makes me all the more determined to succeed,” Malonze says.
Geatrics Production is divided into three departments—acting, singing and dancing.
The music team consisting of Top Notcher (Salimsaul Owiti), Fronxiaz (Hempstone Malonze) and Hezeclah (Hesbon Ombuna) has recorded a hip-hop video titled Gini Wasekao; it features Alvina Gachugu.
“Geatrics family is a talented hip-hop group that is here to bring about change in the arts industry,” the group says of its music team. “Gini Wasekao means ruling or taking over.”
And Geatrics says it is not just taking over musically, but lyrically as well.
“We have what it takes to be the ruling hip-hop group in Kenya,” the group, whose music is downloadable on mdundo.com portal, says.