Our Man Around Nairobi today is creative Rama Oluoch popularly known as Ramzzy. Rama Oluoch works in advertising and is also an artist. Rama told me, “I don’t introduce myself starting with “My names are…” that’s how you I am Nairobi born and bred I guess. I’m not a man of few words and I love the city life. This is where I learned to express myself in boardrooms as a creative digital strategist and on the canvas as a painter.”
Did you grow up in Nairobi?
I was born in South B but we moved to Dagoretti when I was around 6 years old but because my mom wanted me to still go to school around the hood and people she knew, I started commuting from Dago Center to Plainsview Primary school at that age. Then we moved again to Umoja and finally Buruburu. The moving around helped me learn a lot of people skills because I had to make new friends every time and they came from all walks of life. It taught me how to be street smart, know my way around the city from an early age and that’s really helped me a lot as an adult. Especially when it comes to socializing with people.
I played a lot, back then we had fields we could play on and not too many guys had video games. We made our own toys – Dinga za Wire, we rode tyres, we went on fishing adventures and brought tadpoles home.
What do you love about Nairobi?
I love the vibrancy of Nairobi. I love how there is something for everyone here and how the city teaches and instils a work smart attitude in everyone. I like the culture – music, fashion and arts, we are the hub for most if not all the trends in the country.
As an artist what I love about Nairobi is the experience of meeting different people when I’m looking for the best deals for my material. I like the fact that I can go shopping and come back with an idea of what I want to do with what I’ve bought. The people who sell me the material I work with and the ones that ask to buy what I’ve created are from extreme ends of the city. I find that contrast very interesting.
What would you change about Nairobi?
Definitely the cleanliness and planning. I think the city grew too fast and we weren’t ready. There are so many things that we can do better but we don’t push ourselves enough to. It could be cleaner; it belongs to us.
As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
I work in Advertising and my profession is perfect for Nairobi, it’s a nice place to sell ideas. The only challenge is the traffic, again – planning can be done better. It doesn’t make sense to spend two hours travelling to a one-hour meeting. I know people a lot of times say we can do conference calls or skype to save time but our culture as Kenyans is to always ensure there is a face to face after the call, skype, second call, that’s something we can’t shake.
The challenge as an artist for me is basically the pricing – The canvas, frame and paints are not cheap. I need at least 4 thousand just to put together enough material. I get my frames in Buru buru, paints from Kariobangi North, My canvas in Gikomba, my paints at The Junction or Sarit. On a typical day of shopping for art I see the Good and Hood side of Nairobi. Challenges aside, the takeout for me is I can blend in anywhere I go.
Sometimes on Fridays after work, I stay up all night painting and drawing as opposed to partying… Yes, I am a self-taught artist and the excitement of it just came back to me the other day. It’s that serious! I had quit art for a while when my fears pushed me to believe I can’t make a living off it.
I’m the first born child of the family so that role comes with a lot of responsibility and at the time just saying “I want to be an artist” for a living – even to myself, was a risk I wasn’t ready to take.
A couple of years later when the urge came back I decided to turn one of the rooms in my house into a studio and that’s how I fell in love with the art again and ended up on this awesome blog getting an interview.
Anyway, after I started painting again the amount of words I use in writing reduced, the thoughts I used to share on my twitter reduced as well, I found another way of expressing myself. I’m a creative by birth so I’m a very open person. When I’m not tweeting what I’m thinking I always have a pencil or a brush working on what I’m thinking or feeling.
I don’t think creatives or artists to be more specific are special. The light in humans that pushes them towards curiosity about their surroundings and asking questions as children ever goes off in us, even as adults. Sometimes I feel like adulthood is about compressing the child in you and I fail sometimes (laughs).
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?
Nairobi is the entertainment Hub of East Africa – there is no city in the world that has a National park in the heart of it, that’s one.
There are so many others but what I would tell them not to miss is a ride on a nice boom twaf mathree and do some nyama choma, experience the true city. I think a lot of times we ask people to come to Nairobi and we keep the real city away, they visit and don’t remember anything about the people.
The people you meet (aside from the experience) are what makes your holiday memorable.