April 18, 2018



Three things only I would wake up crazy early for; travel, a shoot, or someone important dying.

I woke up crazy early yesterday. Crazy early for me is 5 a.m to be in town by 6.30 because with Nairobi mornings you’re either really early to something or really late. I could not afford to be late to my own shoot.

Shooting this documentary about gQ Dancers has been in my to-do list since sometime in July 2016. Last year I sort of shelved it because the spirit to do it had waned and I felt like I needed so much just to get started that the lack of resources would have bogged me down and killed the project along the way.

So I left it to simmer, hoping somewhere within me that the drive to make the documentary would come once again. I was right to wait. Sometime in February this year, when Gladys (who was at first the sole subject of my documentary) informed me they (gQ Dancers) were staging a show at the Kenya National Theatre, and their reasons for doing so, I knew it was time.

Gladys Njihia, one of the five gQ Dancers


I did not have a DSLR but I had a new phone which, upon purchasing sometime in December 2017, I had told myself was an end to my excuses of not having a camera. I was going to shoot the documentary entirely on phone if that was the only camera I had, but by heaven I was going to fucking shoot the shit out of it! And that was what I started shooting with before, a week after, I managed to get a DSLR-owning friend of mine on board, with the agreement that he would have the title of Associate Producer. He graduated to Producer because he whined about it and because I’m hogging his camera for the duration of the shoot.

Now there is a way my body and mind work. After a major project such as Too Early for Birds (which is ALWAYS absolutely draining), I usually need a week or more of doing nothing but sleep, eat, watch something interesting and go back to sleep again day after day- sometimes even forcefully. This hibernation period serves to reset my mind and also, tire both body and mind with so much inactivity that it begs for some action. That is how I get the fire to go into my next projects full steam.

Director, Edu Ooro speaks to Wendy, one of the dancers to feature in The gQ Experience


This time though, the timing of all my projects fucked me up big time. Let me explain.

When last year ended and I was planning what projects to throw myself into in 2018, I knew one thing for sure; I was going to make only two films- no more- a documentary and an animation.

The animation I wrote sometime in January and talked about to anyone and everyone who asked me what I was upto. I was super psyched about it! That is how I got a character designer and set up timelines for the animation. We started working on it a few days before Gladys informed me of their show on April 19th and 20th- and gQ instantly became the subject of my planned 2018 documentary. My film side of things was now clearly set. Trouble was, I didn’t have 11 months to comfortably schedule each project. I had the first 5 only to do both, because life takes your enthusiasm and uses it to paint a whole freaking house when you only had enough for one fucking wall!

In March, one film was already rolling and I could not afford to stall its momentum, and the second one which had popped up, had timelines set in stone that I had to take full advantage of.

Aggie, the assistant choreographer to Edu Ooro


So here I am with an animation to oversee, a documentary to shoot each day I can, a monthly nude photo shoot that is way overdue ,a project to blog about weekly without fail and the planning of Too Early for Birds already taking small pieces of my life. And all these things set to come to completion in July. ALL OF THEM. Oh, and did I mention my sad financial status?! It’s so sad it’s hysterical!

Shit has been rolling though; quite well actually. Surprisingly well. I had to extend the animation timeline. I really wanted to have done it in time for the Zanzibar International Film Festival, but I know I cannot rush it without making something shitty. The documentary though, if I play my cards right might be done in time for ZIFF and that is what I’m working towards whether or not it will be nominated (hopefully the former because ZIFF!)

I haven’t had a proper hibernation period since December and sometimes, my mind feels like it will give up on me. My body absolutely hates me especially on mornings I have to wake up early to get as much action from the dancers’ rehearsals as possible. But the beautiful thing is that I feed off of the dancers’ energies when things get draining. They arrive at the dance studio way earlier than I do, and sometimes I find them curled in leftover sleep waiting for fellow dancers to arrive. And yet when the director comes in, they shake off their fatigue and dance like they had all the sleep they needed.

And they do this daily!

Getting feedback after their first run

Yesterday I woke up with them and I totally hated it. Some caught quick naps during lunch break then went back on stage for a second full run of their show tomorrow. A second full run with the director demanding even more energy than the first. And each time my body complained of exhaustion and asked if could we just go back home to sleep already, I thought to myself, What right have I to say I was tired enough to go home, when all I was doing was holding a camera and pressing the record button?!

I stayed till both my cards ran out of space. I left them still dancing at 6pm.

Cindy, one the featured dancers at rehearsals

Today they’re back on stage. My body and mind said no yesterday night. Not when I have to be at peak creative condition for their show tomorrow and the day after. I need to know exactly what footage to get for the story and it will not do to be so exhausted that I just point and mindlessly shoot. Not on two such crucial days.

So here I am, taking a break today, in the sweats I slept in, Lokua Kanza singing away, a few dirty dishes in the sink and a drizzle outside. I am learning to take time off whenever I can and not overcompensate or apologize about it. Not to my sister, who is housing me and does the 8-5 grind daily, and certainly not to myself for truly needing the rest. I am learning to trust my creation process and give my body and mind the rest it demands before I push myself too far. Heaven knows I cannot afford to burn out now or any time before May 30th. Because the ZIFF deadline beckons and June heralds TEFBrazen which means TEFB takes over my whole life as it does every time. My mind and body need to be ready for that!

So today, I rest.


Made of Sand
Not Dura, but Alaminadura

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