Every Monday we have our Pearls and Heels segment where we feature women and their different careers. Today’s Pearls And Heels lady is Wangari Grace. Wangari Grace, or Wangari The Storyteller as she is better known, is a seasoned actress, performance storyteller and reading advocate based in Nairobi. She has extensive experience performing both locally and internationally. She is a teacher & facilitator of drama & workshops on creative arts in different settings. She has a passion for the performed arts with a special interest in performance storytelling. She is the author of two children’s storybooks, both of which are approved by KICD as supplementary readers in primary schools.
1. Describe your typical day?
I prefer waking up early and having quiet time to myself. Sometimes I work from home or have a couple of meetings with prospective clients. Other times, I have a performance. Depending on whether the gig is in Nairobi or outside, I plan my week accordingly. I am also trying to write a bit more so early mornings are usually devoted to this.
2. What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a doctor. In primary school, my English teacher was convinced that I would be a journalist while my History teacher in believed I would be a remarkable lawyer. Being an artist was not anywhere near my dreams then.
3. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I bumped into performing arts by default and I was not sure if I would be doing it for the long term. In hindsight, I should have taken it more seriously and done a couple more professional courses, especially on the training angle.
4. What would you say are the top three skills needed to succeed at your job?
• Very good communication and people skills
• Ability to think on your feet and adapt to various situations
• A good mastery of language.
5. As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
There are a lot of opportunities in Nairobi. Of, course the traffic is the biggest downside. However, my work is not just restricted to Nairobi as I also regularly travel around the country, performing in different places. Occasionally, I travel outside the country.
6. What motivates you?
Seeing my audience actively participating in the performance and enjoying themselves.
7. How do you define success?
Success is when you are happy doing whatever you do and always looking forward to the next time you do it. If your passion can also pay your bills, even better!
8. Who has been your greatest inspiration?
Cliché, but my mother. She was always an advocate of loving what you do. I also get inspired by different people, even strangers who just walk up to me after a performance and really appreciate what I do and emphasize that storytelling is the most basic of communication strategies.
9. What is your favourite aspect of your job?
Travelling and meeting new people as I perform to diverse audiences. The fact that it is not monotonous makes it very attractive as I am not very good with routine.
10. What would you say are the key elements to being successful?
I believe being passionate about what you do is very important. It keeps you going even when things are not quite rosy. Consistency is also important since that is how you build your brand. You also need to be creative and adaptive to keep up with current trends in your line of work.
11. What advice would you give somebody just starting out in your line of work?
Be very open-minded and willing to learn. Commitment is key. You have to be sure that this is what you want to do. Oral storytelling in the contemporary context is slowly picking up and so you have to be willing to be in it for the long haul.
12. What has been your most satisfying moment in terms of your career?
They have been quite a number. The most recent one is being selected to represent Kenya at the International Storytelling Festival in Tehran, Iran. The selection process was quite competitive as there were applicants from all over the world. I was one of the 11 international storytellers selected and the only one from Africa.
13. What makes you happy?
Meeting people who I performed with ages ago who still remember the performance and tell me what impact it had on them. And my daughter’s cheerful whoop anytime I come back home from wherever.
14. What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
I read a lot. I enjoy spending some quiet time either by myself or with the family. I also binge-watch some of my favourite series when I can.
15. Where do you see yourself in around 10 years?
I want to be established as a Creative Arts consultant and have a couple more best sellers to my name. I also want to have performed in many more stages of the world.