Married To Art

It’s a way of life.

have not done much to change the face of humanity but yesterday I helped a kid trace his parents. That, I am convinced was a bold step towards saving the planet. If I was a member of parliament, I would have summoned a presser and spoke into those mouthpieces and journalists’ iPhones with gist “…was it not for me, poor kid he would have gotten lost!” and people would have clapped and shouted, “twenty twenty two is a won battle man of the people” And papers would have written “You will be surprised at what the seating member of parliament for Tenda Wema Constituency did on a Sunday. And blogs would have been awash with a member of parliament with a difference.
Math haters sorry. It was like a mathematical equation. Boy x is travelling from place a. He is poised to meet parent y at place b. On the way, he meets guy z (insert my name). That kid boarded that fourteen seater along the way. I had gotten on earlier. Some other passengers had been on it earlier than us. Some more had alighted and yet more had taken up their spaces. It happens our kid above seats on the seat bordering mine with his bag resting on his lap. He is staring outside mostly. His face eludes zero confidence. I am talking on the phone endlessly to guys in Nairobi. Some are aware they are talking to somebody who is 472 kilometers away from Nairobi. Others have no idea. In between I take a break and that kid wastes no time. He says “Habari yako” in a feeble bordering tremble voice. I lean closer to catch the words clearer. He says that again a little bit louder. I reply and share slight niceties to psyche him up. His face glows. I drift back to my phone calls world. Later on he manages to ask me where I am going. It kind of puzzles me. Why on earth would a random kid be interested to know where I am going? First of all I am safe? I choose to give a safe answer. “I am going to my home. And you?” He says he is going to some town where he is hopeful his mother is waiting to pick him up but they have not talked. Okay. It gets all twisted here. So this kid, when they closed school, he went to visit a relative and they had this ‘gentleman’s’ agreement with the mother that he will be back on the eve of opening school. Intriguing.

We move ahead. That driver is talking to no one. Wait, no one is talking on that mat in the first place. No one is even bothered that there is a kid on board who is going to meet a mother who is not even aware of such an arrangement in the first place. It’s just the kid with his random thoughts and now me to worry. Surprisingly, the kid, as gruesome this whole twist sounds, he is not scared at all. Behind his lack of self-confidence is a morphed assurance that all is well. Personally I am scared that this kid is on destination to getting lost. First of all, the kid can on not tell on his own where that town he’s heading to is. Secondly he’s not even talked to any person on that flight about his situation, before me. I even imagined perhaps he thought I was friendlier. Just in case I scolded him off, he’d have curled in and waited for fate to unfold. I ask him if there is somewhere he noted his mothers’ line. “Nowhere but I can say it off head” At first she doesn’t know who is calling. Then she is surprised at such an arrangement. It takes some time but I finally convince her to consider picking up her son. It works. It makes me happy. I get thinking perhaps it might make you guys happy. Say I was a career child trafficker, I would have had a dance in the park and my masters would have had a party. I am no child trafficker neither am I a member of parliament. I am just your ordinary guy who lives on his words. And it makes me happy.

Talking of happiness, today that house hold is happy. Well, maybe it’s natural or it might be because missus she is having a birthday today or something in between. There is this thinking that happiness depends on happenings whereas joy is more of long term. Such are complicated stuff for another day. For us boys, birthdays are less of our worries. It’s often our buddies who remind us a week later that we had a birthday and we laugh it off because that’s the much we can do about it. Come on, we never grew up having birthdays. Sorry we had birthdays but we never celebrated them. I get to think celebrating or not celebrating birthdays has to do with a culture that we pick and keep or chose not to pick. Apart from writing about it here or elsewhere and once in a holy while getting laid, there is nothing much I have done on birthdays looking back. Not scientifically proven but I am convinced there might be triggers of a third world war if as a man you say nothing on a girl’s birthday!

My financial gods have been moody lately. My financial religion allowing or not, there was a birthday coming up. And it was a girl’s birthday! And man must live. I had been thinking about an easy plan for some time now. My creative side was not doing me justice. I thought more and deeper. Nothing was forthcoming. There comes a time when a man must do what he’s got to do what he’s got to do. Sorry, I am becoming a philosopher here. Hold on. It’s a week a part. There is this guy we had been chatting with the previous evening over whatsApp. From the blues I pick up my phone and ring his number. He has this audio skiza tune. He calls himself NellyMchoraji and in the audio the girl who did the voice over professes he is the baddest pencil art artist in town. I am immersed to listening to this girl too much that when he picks I am almost not sure what I wanted to tell him. So I go, “Is that your girlfriend?” He goes “Which girl?” I say “That girl talking nicely about your art” He is slow at it. I break it down further for him. “I have been listening to your Skiza Tune and I heard some girl shower praises for your pencil art” He breaks into this loud laughter from his end. I am even afraid a passerby might peep at his air bag. In between I have regained my ground and streamlined my thoughts. I had wanted to ask him for an interview feature about his drawing talent for some project. So we meet mid-morning of the next day. We settle for the park section of the August Seventh Memorial as our venue. It is this easy dealing with artists. They are flexible. Good artists in this case. They will go to heaven. They don’t put you on hold and order the tea girls at the office. Neither do they promise to check their calendars to get back only for them to forget about you and move on.

He keeps time. Good people keep time. It’s an easy interview. We are just talking about random stuff. Life. Family. Girls. Friends. Money. Art. He is this badass at sales. Before we commence, he asks how wants to do a pencil portrait of me. “But I am broke as a church mouse boy. Business has been low. Will I really afford to pay you?” He counters, “You are my boy, I am not going to charge you as much. In fact in this case we are not using the rate card in your case. It is a great offer but that assurance has not changed anything about my financial religion. Not that I don’t like art. Personally I am a lover of art. I have several pieces at my living room but no one has ever offered to draw a portrait of me yet. “How about we do this in twenty years. Like I start saving towards it right away?” I joke. Back and forth we agree on a plan. It’s me who goes first, “Your offer is heavenly. I love it already. But point is I am deficient on funds. Let’s do this, let us not compromise on the rate card. Just charge me the same way you’d charge the ‘big boys’. Let me think of a plan. Let’s talk on first.

In between my mind drifts back to that birthday plan idea. I bring it up and decide his portrait might save me out of it. “How about we do a portrait, not for me, but for her for the birthday?” First he is surprised that I am married. Then he is excited about the idea. He is the expert here. I am just a man of words. He delves into advising on what would work in that connection. He decides that a portrait of me and her would be such a perfect match. I agree. He asks I show him several phone picture options from my gallery. I have limited options in my mind. In my gallery too. I think of one. I fumble through the gallery and find it. I hand the phone over to him with the image covering the screen. He stares at it thoughtfully like a doctor would look at a patient just wheeled in with marasmus. I guess he doesn’t like it. He doesn’t say a word about like or dislike. He swipes left then right. “Kwani everyone does that?”
As it stands, that’s the option we are working with many factors and time withstanding. He says it takes him an hour of concentrated working to do a single portrait. When I ask how soon I can have my art ready, he says that depends with how fast I want it myself but as per him, he can deliver morning of second day. That’s genius of him. That boy got potential. Doing an hour art work that costs close to some people’s monthly income is something above genius! I tell him we have less than a week time to work with. Its cheers!
The payment plan is something bordering half pay half barter. It includes paying him half of the amount and remainder half being paid in form of a continuous publicity package at my brand. I am like what about I pay you half of the total cost then we have a branding package for your art to offset the remainder half?” He says “cool”. That’s what happens when two sales people hang out. We clinch fists and roll sleeves and get down to work!
He delivers in good time but unfortunately, his delivery date coincides with that day that the balance reads ‘below room temperature’. The delivery guy is such a composed boy. It happens we have interacted in an event before. I phone my artist and tell him “This piece of art is amazing (in Trumps voice_all of a sudden I am talking like people who own art) but unfortunately numbers are not adding up over here. How about your money comes through as soon as some check I am counting on matures”. That idea is welcome. Trust is a good thing in business.
How did I meet NellyMchoraji? We run BizHub; a youth based talent mentorship initiative where ask, how can we utilize talent to impact society? The long and short, we invigorate and encourage talent monetization as an alternative career option amongst the youth as a step towards scaling down the wide spread youth unemployment. March this year; we shoot up a forum for artists what would pass for the creative economy dubbed; The Art, Culture and creative industry. The forum rolled down at the magnificent Safaricom Michael Joseph Centre in Westlands. Nelly being an art enthusiast saw the session poster take rounds on the congested streets of social media. He reached out. He called and asked for more information about the event. He got hooked. He declared he was paying for his crew of four. That was amazing! So the event happened. Time too happened. During the session we compared notes and exchanged numbers. He is street smart. He sneaked in pieces of his works for display complete with his crew and even managed five minutes on stage showing off a portrait of JOHO he had made. This was long before the hand shake and Joho was word in town. Girls screamed. The rest of us felt small.

I will say Nelly understands his trade. He gets majority of his clients through social media. He has been on television and several radio hosts have had him talk about his art work. To me he is an epitome of just get out there loud and do it. It’s a try away! He never always did this. He started off as a gate keeper. He would get uniformed and wield a rungu to watch over people’s homes as they slept. And some watched movies and others made babies. He knew how to draw yes but watching over sleeping peeps for a pay was a comfort zone. He woke up one day thinking “Come on people, I can draw my way out of here!” and people took him serious. And slowly but gradually he drew his way up. He lives in a stable home in the outskirts of Kayole. Fans of Khaligraph Jones might know his home. He employs four teenagers to help with delivery and logistics. He has done dozens of arts. His instagram shows it all. He puts smiles on people’s faces using pencil and paper. Let’s just say he is in the business of causing happiness. Like he did for our household today.

She marveled at the art the art work. She loved it but didn’t like the choice of picture. She didn’t say it but the tell-tell signs were all over. Just by any case i lost sleep at night and got keener, I could easily hear her declare it in her dreams. There is this unique look ladies give outfits when they love them and they can’t hide it any longer. She reserved her reasons as to why. Perhaps she wanted a change of cloth in that photo. And she would change outfits five times as I waited with the photographer from the living room and still say the initial outfit was much better. Maybe she wanted to sprinkle some water on the nose after the make up in that picture but water would have ended up washing off the entire make up and we would have to start the process over and over and that would be boring to the marrow. Who knows, perhaps that hair in the photo doesn’t befit a birthday show off and that would have meant more hours of seating at the couch as she went over and over through the phonebook to keep up with her friends about the latest hair styles in town and we would have had to postponed the photo shoot and this picture would never have come to fruition and Nelly would have nothing to draw home. See, you guys would never have known about this chap who is married to art! We would have missed on so much happiness.

Married to art is a celebration of the creative in us. It’s a statement and support for art. It’s a call to all artists out here to support themselves then each other because that’s the only way to grow potentially. But how did I come up with that phrase? Interesting. Lately I am sliding back to movies. I used to be a movie junkie back in time. I even sold movies for a living then life got busy and I moved on to other hobbies. She is a medic. A moment of silence to us guys who live with medics. We are crying out for love. They will stare deep into your pupil, you will boil with expectations for that elusive phrase ‘I love you’ but they will go “I think you have Malaria. Your eyes are watery” They are always at work. Personally I think I should walk into a medical school and pick my graduation certificate because all of the time we talk about medical stuff. I have come across so much medical lingual in a year. “How was work today?” “Some patient checked in. He had a knee fracture. We had to Sijui clerk them and refer them to surgical department. Blah blah” Then I get lost and listen through. Back to that header, there is this day she wanted we do a movie. And mostly they want to go first. So she goes first. She suggests “Married to Medicine” a series. In my mind, I conclude it’s boring but who says that. So I act excited because i want to appease the gods of happiness. We venture out to find it hoping from a movie shop to the next to no vail. See my mind. I was almost concluding no one stocked medicine related movies when finally we check into some space deficient movie kiosk and that dreadlocked kid fishes it out. We buy and hop out to go try it. It starts with this narration. More of a prep on what exactly to expect. She doesn’t like the characters. Its way after supper. She joins my mind to conclude it’s boring. We switch off the lights to sleep. She says nothing about it. But unfortunately or fortunately, silence speaks. Lesson 101, they never accept they are wrong!

The name is the only thing I can salvage from that series. Otherwise it would have been a total waste of resources. I corrupted ‘Married to Medicine’ to ‘Married to Art’ because I can relate. What do you guys think?

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