Our Man Around Nairobi today is Elsaphan Njora. Elsaphan Njora is a multi-talented Kenyan artist who is mostly known for his acting and spoken word. He is the founder of EOPNATION; which is a spoken word event that is held in Nairobi every third Friday of the month and has been around for the last 9 years. He started writing poetry in the year 2003 and has since honed his skills, becoming one of the artists who are paid to perform spoken word. Elsaphan also calls himself a dancer though he has no dance crew or videos of him dancing other than the spoof video he made with his siblings with him dancing on a table however he can more than bust a move when the beat drops.
Elsaphan Njora’s first appearance on-screen was as an extra in a TRUST CONDOM ad – he admits no one can recognize him though. He says, “My first screen appearance that is recognizable is Briefcase INC.” Briefcase Inc was his breakout role where he acted as friends with his co-actor George Kagwe. Two young Nairobi men trying to hustle through this life.
Apart from art and the expression of art Elsaphan Njora is passionate about his country and his city which can is evident in most of his poems. He believes that a nation is like a kitchen that more often than not has dirty dishes and someone has to wash them and that if everyone did their bit at least we would be able to find food.
- Did you grow up in Nairobi?
Yes, I did. I grew up in Dagoretti Corner and honestly, I can’t really sum it up in words. We’ve never moved and even when I ventured out into the land of paying rent I still found a place in Corner so it is all I have known since I was a kid.
To prove this narrative even further I went to Dagoretti High School until form 2, the first term then I went to Nairobi School. But if I was pushed to give an account of my life in Corner I would say it was peaceful. Apart from some isolated incidences here and there, it was peaceful. Mostly because we rarely left the house and the general laid-back nature of people from this place.
Three siblings all with minds of their own and very individual ways of processing fun, quiet time or even chores. We are friends now but then we preferred to keep to ourselves. One thing I would change about corner is the water problem. It all started with the ‘crisis’ that was then called water rationing and ever since then trucks of ‘clean water’ appeared like weeds. The rest is history.
- What do you love about Nairobi?
That it is home. I could be anywhere else but it would not be home if it is not Nairobi. I usually say whenever someone’s generosity in a lift has reached its limits and I am not yet home; when they ask me to tell them when I get home I usually reply, “It’s Nairobi, I home.” Then I quietly proceed with caution after all this is still Nairobi, if you know what I mean.
- What would you change about Nairobi?
I would change the system of leadership. Maybe not necessarily the structure but the inner workings of the structure. Sometimes it isn’t the players but the style of play.
I actually have an agenda for Nairobi. This agenda has three elements namely: Cleanliness, safety and efficiency. If one day a Nairobian can point out these three in most of what Nairobi consists of that is the sewer system, applications for tenders, police uniforms, and county-owned properties, roads, public transport, water etc. then we would have achieved something to give to the next generation.
- As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
I wouldn’t know about working elsewhere because I haven’t had the privilege of working anywhere else. It definitely could be better and that is why I have decided to do my own gigs. It is my conviction that as an artist I am meant to create. For the longest time, I thought that doing cooperate gigs was enough but it isn’t. I love the pay from cooperates especially if you have proven your worth over time but cars were not only meant for the race track they should also take people to school, camping sites, dates etc. What I mean is that we need to diversify but more so we need to be brave enough to give Nairobi options. Kind of like when you go to buy tissue paper and you don’t know which to pick because there is such a variety.
Artists need to give Nairobi options and consistently. I know people might say that it wouldn’t be worth it because it will never pick up but have you ever seen a creative ‘caged’ (I use the word loosely) by a job they don’t want to do? Well fast forward their lives and you will notice the depression, anxiety and many times self-destruction. We are meant to create and so we should.
For me the power lies in me to make it better or what it could be.
- 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?
Apart from the obvious, I would tell them: Our Lions jaywalk, art is not only alive but it is one of the best places to experience the people, and finally our weddings. No tourist should come to Kenya and not experience a Kenyan wedding. It doesn’t matter from which tribe or tribes, they have to.
If you would like to interact with Elsaphan Njora you can find him on Twitter – @squirecurtis. You can like the EOPNATION page on Facebook.
Man Around Nairobi: Bryan Ngartia