REIHAN - MY STORY
Youngest from a large family with western Kenyan roots I was born and raised in Kibera. My name is Simon, but im also known as Natty Chwani. I am reggae singer with a solid message: "Reggae music is ghetto music... the music of the slum, the healing of the nation”. The purpose of my music is to inspire our community love to listen, learn and live in harmony despite the culture or tribe.
I have many talents. I like rapping, but I know I’m quite a shallow rapper. I’m a writer, a poet and an actress. I like acting the most. I feel good when I act. Like all my life I was meant to be acting. I used to act in the church, or back at school. Now it’s something easy, it’s just a part of my life.
I was young when I started acting, around 10 years old. I was not sure I could be an actress, but my teacher encouraged me. When people were acting, she used to come up to me and give me a good part. She told me she believed in me.
I like acting as a kid. I don’t know why, but people always give me that character. Acting like a kid is awesome! It reminds you of how you used to be back in the days. Crying for no reason, wanting everything,… they want to be pampered all the time. I like to be pampered too! If it’s not acting as a kid, I’m also good at acting as a slay queen. That girl that loves herself so much, and she doesn’t want anyone to touch her. She only wants to be herself. She owns the whole world.
Back in high school we had a class called videography, with a teacher from Spain. His name was Rob. He and other teachers noticed that I loved writing. They used to tell me: “Why don’t you try this and that?” They encouraged me to write a piece. It turned out really well! From that moment on I left the videography club and started writing. Before that, I had not even been aware that I could write. Now I’m just doing it.
Hope and flashback
The flashback thing began when I gave birth to my son. Before that, people used to call me Reihan Hope. They said I was giving them hope. When you’re down, even if I’m not sure you’ll be okay, I’ll try to make you smile. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. But after I gave birth I thought that flashback fit me better. I flashbacked a lot. For example about how I got pregnant. It came so unexpectedly. At the time I noticed I was pregnant, I had already broken up with my boyfriend. It was so depressing. Sometimes the kind of advice you’re friends are giving you are funny… But I chose to stand on my own feet and raise my son by myself. Nowadays I often write poems about these experiences. I give hope to myself.
Important people in my life
The most important person in my life is my two years old son. He’s the only reason why I smile. I work so hard, to earn more. Just for him, so that he can have a better life. I wish that one day, maybe when he’ll be as old as me now, he’ll be able to achieve all his dreams. Not like me. He should not feel down because he was not able to fulfil his dream just because the mother was not able to be there for him. I want him to have a happy life.
Kica is supporting me like a family. Also my younger sister and my coach. My sister is a footballer. I used to play football, too. She knows I’m very much into writing and acting now, so she’s okay with me not playing anymore. She still encourages me a lot.
I believe that dreams come true. This belief inspires me. It’s funny… A person that inspires me very much is someone I don’t treasure that much. It’s my ex boyfriend. Sometimes I’d like to be just like him. He has really succeeded. He has graduated, and he never loses hope. Never losing hope, that is something I want for myself, too.
The worst experience in my life was when I lost my elder sister. She passed away when she visited us. She used to live in the up country. And when I failed to do my national certificate examination. But I’m going to do it again this year.
Another bad experience was when I was pregnant, and I went on stage. The master of ceremony was criticizing my pregnancy and the show I was doing. “She’s growing fat because of arts?”, he said. I felt so bad.
And then, it’s hard when people don’t take arts seriously. They might see you as if you were jobless, wasting your time. If you come home and you tell your mom you want to be an engineer, they will celebrate you. But if you come home and tell her you’d like to be an actress… It’s challenging.
I’ve performed quite a lot of poetry. The official acting just started one year ago. I’ve performed about gender based violence and a parody of the parliament, “Madame Speaker”. I played an MP, a member of parliament. My role was the one of the lady correcting everyone else, because she always felt she was right.
When you get the chance to have a platform… That moment when you’re on stage and you feel like you own it. The audience is not making noise. They are focusing on you, because they want to know what you are going to deliver to them. And then they clap. They don’t want you to go. This is the best experience.
I just want to shine, together with my whole community. I want to be the best actress, to be on the top. Not being on the top to show off, but being on the top and knowing that I did the right thing, and not looking down on other people.
Looking forward to the future, let’s say in 10 years time, I hope I’ll have achieved my dreams. Maybe I should have rectified the mistakes in my past that made me not achieve my goals yet. But now I’ll just go forward. My dreams are to be the best actress and to be a Kiswahili Shakespeare.
Living in Kibera is fun. Because we’re all equal. There is not a big social imbalance. From grandmother to baby… Nobody will tell you: “Hey you, get out of my shop.”, because you’re not good enough. There is nothing like lower or higher social classes. And people here are so welcoming. I really like Kibera. Instead of moving out of Kibera, I think that we should improve the environment here. The day I’ll decide to move out of Kibera, I will not have changed anything. But if I stay, I can change things here. Maybe you only change the life of one person, but you’ll be at peace. I’d like to change the educational centres. Students are all put together in one class, sharing the same board. One teacher is teaching all the classes, and everything is so confusing.
Instead of sitting around and using drugs, arts is so good. If you are an instrumentalist, go learn some more, and the same for all other arts.
I knew Kica even before it officially became Kica. When it started I was still a kid. One day I just joined. I found my way to the office, and now I’m here. It has improved my acting a lot. Before I was just acting to myself, while cooking or doing anything. Now I can rehearse for real. People can correct me, and make the acting perfect.
I wish that one day, people will take Kibera just like other communities. Not just “Kibera is a slum”. People from outside will only see robbers here, and bad things. I hope some day the attitude towards this place will be positive. We will show them what we can do!
My message to the community
Let us all strive to the fullest. And one day we will make Kibera the place that we want it to be. Let’s not move out of Kibera but change it to the best.