It’s another Wednesday and time to meet one of the men who live, work and play in Nairobi. Our Man Around Nairobi today is Bryan Ngartia. Ngartia says that he is a country boy stuck in the city. He is trying to find his way through it, often wandering into film sets and performance stages. While he isn’t busy trying to figure out how life would have been if we’d evolved from cats instead of apes, you might find him running http://www.storyzetu.com, doing spoken word and other strange artsy things.
1. Did you grow up in Nairobi?
I did not grow up in Nairobi. I was born in Timau. A small town literally at the foot of Mt Kenya (more like at the knee actually). I spent my childhood in Timau, Meru Town and Mitunguu. Total up-country boy.
I came to Nairobi in 2010, after clearing high school and was astounded. Of course, I had visited family (three times to be specific), but being let loose in the city alone was something else. I remember getting to town one day at 9 am to look for Alliance Française. I got there at 3 pm. Having gone everywhere but … It has been scary, fun and thrilling really. I’m still surprised that I managed to know my way around.
2. What do you love about Nairobi?
What is there not to love about Nairobi? This place is alive. It growls and sighs and moves right around you. I love the speed at which things move here. There is a certain drowsy pace to life where I grew up like there is no hurry to do anything. Nairobi keeps me on my toes. It is sexy and seductive and an oppressive bully at the same time.
3. What would you change about Nairobi?
Traffic jam. Man! I hate traffic. It is such an ironic addition to a place that moves at such a disorienting pace. I especially can’t stand being stuck when it is too dark to read or when my phone is dead.
4. As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
I am an artist. Performer and writer. I’m in a professional scene that hasn’t been defined by certain norms and rules. It keeps expanding every day. Nairobi is the best place in the country where I could have started. Of course, it is rough and mean. But it has given me access to opportunities and resources I hadn’t even dreamt of. And it’s people of course; this place has helped me surround myself with professionals who challenge me constantly.
It could be better. And I like that I have a chance to be part of making it better.
5. 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 art scene. You won’t believe the kind of beauty that is being created daily in this city.
The Food! Mutura, Smokie Pasua, Chapo Mix, Nyam Chom… I still can’t figure out why I’m skinny.
The cross-section of a developing city. From the grinding congestions in Race-Course, OTC and Muthurwa, to the business backbone of River Road and Kirinyaga Road, up through the rush on Tom Mboya Street, to the abrupt change that Moi Avenue offers, quieting down past Mama Ngina Street, through Kimathi Street, Biashara Street, Koinange Street, to the sleeker parts of town as you head towards Loita Street… Nairobi is everything a bustling civilization should be. And because tourists will be tourists, I’d make sure they keep going till they get to the Nairobi National Park on Lang’ata Road.
If you would like to interact with Ngartia you can catch up with him on Twitter at