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SNAPPY 7: Elsaphan Njora – Being foolish is the beginning of bravery

Thespian Elsaphan Njora, has made a mark with his spoken word poetry and TV roles. This year he was nominated in the best acting category in the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA) in the acclaimed movie Kati Kati.

Although he did not win, the movie walked away with an award for best movie in East Africa. He spoke to Nairobi News about his journey.

1. How did you get to do the movies, ‘Homecoming’ and ‘Soko Sonko’? – I auditioned for Jim Chuchu for Homecoming and he called me to be a part of some movies which were being made for The Toronto International Film festival. Soko Sonko role came after I went for an impromptu monologue challenge, which I won. It happened that the film director and writer was there and she told me that I would be perfect for the role. And that’s how I ended up being a part of the film.

2. Tell us about the film ‘Kati Kati’? – The film is loosely based on purgatory. The film asks more questions than answers and that is the beauty of the movie; life after death. In the movie the characters died and found themselves in this cottage in the middle of nowhere, and they are there because they are dead… I don’t want to give so much about the movie. The good thing is, it has done so well in the festival circuit and has been nominated and won in different countries.

3. You did a show in 2016 called 51… I have a vision for Nairobi, Kenya and Africa. For the longest time I felt despaired. I am not a politician and I do not have too much money and also I do not have the influence to be able to say this sewer needs to be fixed. So I thought, what will be my contribution, and after racking my brain I came up with 51 in 2013 after celebrating our 50 years of independence. So my resolution was to try and rise a new generation of people who can say “I have done it” and not that “it can be done”.

51 will be a show that has a combination of theatre, spoken word poetry, dance, singing, improve and recitation of poetry where I take on different characters for every poem which will also involve the crowd. The audience will ask questions on why this poem came before the other. Originally, we did not know what to call the style of art show at my 51 shows because it was a combination of many things, but I settled on the name Zaphan.

4. What has been the highlight of your career?Kati Kati. Everyone there was a method actor. We were taken to Tsavo East because the movie is based on one location.

5. What is the most annoying thing being in the public eye? – It is how people are entitled. They think that you belong to them and you not saying hi is being rude. For me that is irritating.

6. What advice would you give a 21 year old Elsaphan Njora? – Be foolish, because that is the beginning of being brave. I feel I was too closed and the world was right in front of me.

7. What is your take on the Kenyan film industry? – A long time ago we had the fireplace where we would tell our stories, but the fireplace has changed and it is now the TV. For the longest time the story tellers have been the broadcasters and they haven’t told our stories. With that, they even haven’t told their own stories. I think has created a resentment for local content. Local content feels like a lower version of content.

To move forward we need to search and ask ourselves, why do we hate ourselves so much? These are our stories. We need to go back and ask ourselves why we are not making any strides.