Today on Man Around Nairobi we feature Nuru Bahati. Nuru Bahati is a biro artist, graphic designer and poet. He says he is a laid back fellow, very simple and socially awkward, a constant learner and a man with many flaws. He has been fortunate to work with Fatumas Voice Foundation doing logistics. He says this was a journey of self-discovery and he also met a lot of great people.
- Did you grow up in Nairobi?
I grew up in Mombasa and studied at Sacred Heart Primary. I then joined secondary at the same school situated in Ganjoni. My dream as a child since 1994 was to come to Buru Buru Institute of Fine Art (B.I.F.A). I joined B.I.F.A in 2003-2005 to pursue a diploma in drawing and painting. Art has always been dear to my heart and my slogans have always been “married to art” and “art is bae”.
Ganjoni was a great place because we didn’t differentiate between who was a Christian or a Muslim, we were just having fun as kids and a child belonged to the whole community. The kind of games we played were Kiss, Commander, Promise, hide and seek, cops and robbers, draughts, cha mama, marbles, skipping, cards, soccer and we watched programs like He-Man and She-Ra. The adventures we had were like going to the show ground to see a horse for the first time, going to the circus and going to the animal park to see animals up close. I have memories of my first formula one car toy, my first Transformers belt, my first He-Man drawing book, my first bubble gums boots, and my first turtle ninja jeans. My first crush was Sabrina who was beautiful and had a golden heart.
Even though I have been here for ages I am still warming up to Nairobi. I’m still experiencing culture shock – a good example is most people in the city only are friendly to someone if they need a favour. People in the big city really size someone up based on accent, dressing code, educational level, influence, attractiveness, tribe, and status issues. It’s really not nice because we’ve lost the human connection and the mental strength to see past the flesh. Although it’s very interesting in terms of interactions when one rises above and you challenge people’s comfort zones and stereotypes based on perceptions.
- What do you love about Nairobi?
What I love about Nairobi is its diverse multicultural, metropolitan feel and attitude. I also love the amazing networks with brilliant minds from all walks of the world. The opportunities in terms of ideas, innovation, modifications in concept developments and incubation hubs.
Nairobi is a place where as long as one is grounded and ambitious it’s easy to rise up the ranks because one has maintained quality and reliability. These are rare qualities which when placed in motion produce the best relationships.
- What would you change about Nairobi?
We need to have a 24-hour economy and hygiene levels need to go up in all sectors.
Then this attitude that if someone knows a creative he/she expects to get freebies, discounts, or bargains needs to end. Personally, I don’t take anything for free I always pay upfront before any purchase and I go for high-quality services and products plus also pay something extra on top as a gesture of appreciation and value added to make the creative economy rise above average. Most people complain and are part of the blame game but few give solutions and progressive directions towards making things better.
- As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
Nairobi has two sides. There are possibilities to branch into other forms of art and the opportunities are endless. But getting finances, when you are a startup, is very challenging if one’s doesn’t have full support from family and friends.
Nairobi hasn’t really opened up to concepts in terms of art expressions and styles for things like biro art, and digital art. Mainly because our education system has scrapped off art and considers art as a hobby, not as a profession. This has affected the attitudes and exposure to art.
Nairobi also to some extent works for a ready-made brand, it’s hard for most people to help your brand from the ground up. One must invest tirelessly in people and change with the changing times. Most of the time the ‘middleman syndrome” has really brought artists to their knees because most middlemen don’t have moral ethics in business, they are always taking the lion share of the money. Although luckily enough the internet has brought a level playing field in which one can market their services and products directly to clients and get their fair cut. We have a long way to go as creatives especially knowing our market and differences between price and value of an artist.
- If you had a tourist friend coming in from outside the country what three things would you say to sell them the idea that Nairobi is worth visiting?
The places in Nairobi that I would recommend are unique, special, and wonderful. We have the most beautiful parks in the city, our art spaces, and museums are really amazing.
Restaurants that serve traditional Kenyan delicacies are a mouthwatering experience. Basically, if one is financially stable and has a good income, Nairobi is heaven, because one can afford to go to artistic functions, the excitement and thrill are evolving.