MAMMITO - MY STORY
I was born the 17th September of 1993. I can’t remember how I came out.
Kibera was my home until I was 22. That’s where I’ve grown up and where I was schooled. I really wanted to grow up and go to a house that has a washroom in it! You know, the problem here is that people build houses and they forget about the washrooms. So you go to a place where you pay. I think I should have my own toilet business.
What I remember about my childhood is playing with my friends and singing in church. I was in a choir. My mom used to be there, and I would see her practice. So I started singing for the Lord early. He’s blessed me and he keeps on blessing me.
I don’t know if I can sing, I’ve never sung publicly. Only the normal songs… The national anthem, happy birthday and Christmas songs. My voice is beautiful when I’m alone.
As a child, I was very lively. Always talking, always singing. If I was not singing, I was being punished for something wrong that I had done. I was just all over there. I enjoyed my childhood. Even though I think my mom did not enjoy it so much! I was so hard to handle! But I used to make her laugh, always. To me, being a comedian was just normal. And also to my mom, it didn’t come as a surprise to her. She knew I was either going to be that, or… I don’t know what.
My mom was a single mom with three kids. Until I was 16, I was the only child. She was working very hard for me. I’ve never lacked anything, and I do love her for that. She’s so hardworking and inspires me to work hard, too. Nowadays that I’m bigger, I understand that if you don’t love somebody, you don’t stay. It has helped me in my relationships: I don’t stay with somebody if I’m not happy. Even though I don’t know my father, and I don’t know why he left. Why did you leave, father? But I also don’t miss him, because I don’t know him. You can’t miss someone you don’t know, right?
Very important people in my life are my mother and my grandmother. And my friends. Some of them I’ve known for a long time, and they are very special to me. Friendship is something that grows with time. There is a friend you can joke to, and there is a friend where you still have to keep it formal. There are just many different types of friends. I have a best friend. We’ve been friends ever since we were kids. She understands me, and I love her! When I go crazy I just go to her and she cools me down. She knows my battles, which is a good thing.
Ever since I started knowing myself, I was a comedian. I did not discover that. It was just there. Since I know I exist. You know there is an age when you don’t know you exist. Since I know I exist, I know I’m funny. That’s my way of getting away with things.
Right after college, I started performing. In my first year of university, I was still acting. Then, I started doing stand up comedy. I used to skip classes to go there, it was a good thing!
There was no time I ever thought I’d be a stand-up comedian. But this is what happened: I was going to take my friends to an audition. They were looking for any talent. One of my friends was singing, the other one was a model. We were all bald. We thought: “Oh, we should write some things and try them out.” Just to be pathetic, or you know, for fun. So that maybe people can laugh at us. I wrote a play that I wanted to do there. But when I went in, I didn’t have anyone to act with. So I just decided to do stand-up. From there on, I loved doing it. That’s how I started doing comedy.
I had not prepared myself, but the funny thing is that I already had jokes. Things I was telling my friends. They would laugh and say: “Repeat the thing you said the other day”. So in the audition, I just came up with the jokes I had been telling my friends.
It was the beginning of my career on stage. I went for more auditions. There is the Churchill show, and I did the audition. They told me: “You need to improve this and that”, so I worked hard. At times I felt bad and cried. I was just weak. And it’s hard when you think there is something you love doing, and it’s not happening. At times it breaks you. But I didn’t stop. I kept on going until they gave me a chance. There were shows where I performed, and I didn’t make one laugh. The first show, it was so bad! I didn’t have the courage, so I was just going through my jokes, not caring about anything. Just speaking them.
I think it’s normal in stand-up comedy that there are times you don’t make people laugh. I just kept on writing, and Oyoo really helped me. Geoffrey Oyoo. I used to tell him what I was going to say, then we’d write and rewrite it, and make it better. He’d tell me: “Now we rehearse”. I’d do that, and he would listen. That’s how our friendship grew and how I improved. It was so helpful. We did this until Kica came into life. Even today, I’m still part of Kica.
There have been quite some challenges. One personal challenge is that I’m very emotional. I’m just one super emotional human being, I love crying. Even when I watch movies, I cry. So it was thrice hard for me because I would be like: “Oh, did you just hear what he told me?”. That’s when my friend comes in, the childhood one. And also other friends. I can talk to many people.
Life as an artist is good, even though it has its ups and downs. At times you have your lowest moment, and at times you feel like life is going to work out. Until now, I’ve always been able to overcome difficult times. The emotions that come with it. When you feel that you deserve more than this, we all know that feeling. Or you’re not getting as many jobs as you thought you’d be getting. Then you feel low, you feel bad. Because all you have is what you love. There was a time I was just at my lowest, lowest moment. When I kept asking myself why I was just stuck in this place. It felt like I wanted to do so much more, and that I had to hold myself back all the time. You know the times you are so low that you just want to watch TV? But I overcame it.
Better days came. What was good for me was starting the comedy clubs. Also, my mom helped me a lot. When I was telling her what I was going through, she told me about her personal stories and ups and downs. I realized: “Oh, it’s life.” People don’t tell you how hard it’s going to be in the middle of it all. You feel that people are expecting so much from you as an artist, and you ask yourself: “Can I give them everything they expect?”. Nowadays there is social media, where everyone can tell you whatever they think. I had to learn it the hard way. You get messages from people telling you: “You suck, you are not funny at all.”
There was a time I was trying to please everybody. But I had to learn that this is not possible. That it’s bullshit! I should just be myself and live my life. Now, if somebody tells me I’m bad, I say to myself: “It’s just his opinion. I’m not going to stop anyways!”
Do your thing! A great experience I remember was when once, I was invited to do a show. They wanted me to do it in Kiswahili, but I told them: “No. I want to try it in English.” It was for Kenyans. They know me for my Kiswahili stuff. But I can’t do this forever, even though I’m not feeling it. So what I did is that I went against what they told me and I did an English show. It was not bad. It was fairly good. Backstage, I was shaking, really shaking. I knew I was going out of my comfort zone. I felt: “Okay, this was my comfort zone, and now, this is me.” It didn’t go as well as my Kiswahili stuff, but I did it! I proved something to myself. And people laugh as long as it’s funny, that’s what I noticed. Every time they did not laugh was not because it was in English, but because the joke was not strong. I got a valuable lesson from that.
What’s up now: I’m still working for Churchill. And we’re starting to do English comedy clubs. You should come! My four friends and me, we go to clubs and ask if we can do an English show there. We just started this year. In the beginning there was only one club, and now we already have four of them, in different places. We want people to come and enjoy English comedy. This way it’s more universal, and many people will get you. I want to get out there and be international.
One of my biggest achievements so far hast been travelling. I’ve been to Rwanda, Burundi and Dubai. To Burundi, they invited me. To Ruanda I went just to experience the comedy there. And to Dubai, they also invited us, twice!
There are so many comedy artists that inspire me, I can’t even tell you names. The inspiration for the jokes is life. I love to talk about things that make me happy. If the joke is not funny to me, I’m not going to say it. I must be the first one to enjoy.
At the moment, I’m trying to write jokes in English. It’s a challenge for me, but I believe in it. Also, I was not as good as I am now in my Kiswahili stuff. I’ll just try to keep improving.
I’m living in town now. I was coming in late, so I needed a more secure place. And a place that has a washroom! I have my own toilet now. So I'm not opening my toilet business for now, unless the demand increases.
I still love Kibera. It’s so lively. Everyone here is talking, everyone is making fun. People are passionate about life and the rate of suicide here is so low. Who even has the time to kill themselves? By the time you try to do that, the neighbour is in your house, borrowing sugar or something! You tell them: “Oh hey dude, I was about to kill myself.” - “Okay, but before you kill yourself, can you help me out with sugar?”. I tell you, you don’t have the time! It’s a good place. In other places, you might even know your neighbour. Here, you can’t live without knowing everybody.
I can’t reach every woman or girl in Kibera. But if I’m the best version of myself, then they look up to me and be like: “If she achieved that, then I can achieve it, too.” I’m not gifted in a way that I can tell people what they are supposed to do, but I’m gifted with a talent. So what I hope is that people see me grow and that I can inspire them to be the best version of themselves.
When I come here, I just feel that I’m home. You don’t feel like a celebrity anymore, that’s what I love. I can walk the way I want to, just wear a t-shirt and walk around. One thing I’ve got from here is just to live your life. Everywhere I go now, I just live my life. I won’t try to do something to impress you.
My message to the community: I love you. No, seriously. Just believe in yourself. And do it, whatever it is. Believe in yourself and do it. Believing in yourself is a good thing. You know, I paid my ticket to Rwanda. I tried to find sponsors in telling them: “I want to go to Rwanda to follow my passion”, but nobody wanted to help me. When the time came, I was supposed to go and I didn’t have a ticket. I thought maybe I should pay for myself. I did it and felt so proud. I told myself: “Go girl!”. Maybe people will love hearing your vision, but not everyone will help you get it through. So you have to do it yourself. Do it! You are all the motivation you need to succeed.