Today on Pearls And Heels we catch up with Abigail Nyaguthii Maina. Abigail Nyaguthii Maina is a creative person who does many things. She describes herself this way. “I am the last born in a family of 5 and an aunty to 12 nieces and nephews. I studied law but my calling was always in the Arts. I joined the theatre right after high school but I wanted to be on TV so bad so I went to a lot of auditions and got a lot of rejections. When I did get a shot it was as an extra.
Frustrated and wanting to prove myself I started writing. I wrote anonymously under an established writer thinking I was getting exposure but later found out I was being exploited. In 2015 I met up with young artists full of passion and a hunger to make a name for themselves and together we formed a production team and produced short films. We then participated in the first Machakos festival and one of our short films got first prize, during that same season I joined The Art Space as the gallery assistant during this period I fell in love with documentary making I found power in people telling their own stories.
Working as a gallery manager and a film producer has me working with young and upcoming artists with so much passion and drive for their craft. I’m fully aware of the bleak situation they are about to face as our entertainment industry is what it is but instead of unloading that on them, I have decided to find ways of getting investment so that these young artists can have a future in what they love to do. That is why I am on the journey I am on today.
What do you do and what impact do you think it creates in your industry or the world?
What do I do? I am a project manager and curator, As a project manager I have the responsibility of planning, procurement and execution on any art project I am in charge of as a Curator. I collect and organize artwork for exhibitions. I also run Replic an online shop where we sell limited art prints of original works at a pocket-friendly price point.
I am also a film producer. I make documentary films. I love telling stories of day-to-day people that will make you pause and appreciate the strength in people you would have normally just passed them by. We all know there is nothing new under the sun. whatever adversity one gets to face every one of us can and will face during the course of our lives. How you deal with adversity is what sets you apart from the rest.
I am also an artist manager working towards curating internationally acclaimed artists as I also help build a sustainable creative economy so that our creatives can have a long and fruitful career. Our Kenyan creative industry as it stands is not only hostile but unyielding to creatives.
2. What thing/s would you change along the way if you had a chance to go back to the past?
Nothing … Well maybe not date some people… but that was some character development so I will leave it in. Ahhh I know, my dressing style in the 2000’s coz ooh my God…
I would change nothing because every single hit, miss and bump I have encountered in my career as a creative or in life, in general, has made me into what I am today.
I believe the best way to learn a lesson is to live it. The key word here is to learn. Do not repeat your mistakes and do not fix what is not broken and may you have the wisdom to tell the difference between the two. We say ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ but don’t test fate as most of the time we survive by sheer luck. Count your blessings learn your lesson and carry on.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to succeed at your current job?
The most valuable skill is people skills.
- Communication skills (be it written or verbal) you will be dealing with people prone to super volatile emotions, and very little patience or time to try and understand what you are trying to put across no matter how important, so you need to know how to pass the need information to avoid miscommunication.
- Planning. This is super important as a lot goes into projects and a lot of moving parts so if you know what to prioritize when problems arise.
- Networking. My job needs connection and collaboration networking will help you go a long way trust me. If I can also add some nuggets of wisdom, you will need to understand how to work with all types of people. You will also need to communicate your boundaries, be able to stand your ground but allow room for flexibility and have patience, in case you forget all this I need you to remember that murder is a capital offence in Kenya because haki I promise you, your faith will be tested to its limits.
What do you love to do, that makes you light up when you talk about it? What about it makes you light up?
My career. The thought of having an artist agency that can give life to creatives careers and sustain them makes me beam with happiness about the possibilities. I have a clear picture in my head of the artist we represent sharing podiums and being included in spaces we have only seen from afar.
What motivates you to keep going?
Sometimes I don’t even know. I do what I love and sometimes it does not love you back, but the possibility of what it can be, even if not for me but for the future generation, is what keeps me going.
How do you define success?
When you get to a place where you live a life not afraid of dying because you have done your level best in any situation, good or bad, that to me is what success is. Knowing your purpose and living in line with your purpose. Everything else is passing wind.
What is more important for you, passion, purpose or both? Why?
Both. Passion without purpose is very misguided. It is like riding a motorbike at full speed without a helmet, it is thrilling but the results might be catastrophic. For your passion to be fulfilled, you need to know your purpose because that is what will keep you going even when the passion falters.
A lot of people like to talk about success but not failure. We are told to embrace failure in our road to success. Is there one time you failed at something you were working on that taught you valuable lessons that you can share? What lessons were those? You can also share what you failed at if you are comfortable sharing.
I have failed a lot and I don’t mind failure. The one thing I failed miserably was becoming an actor. It was miserable but that was the season I got to know my purpose.
Trust me, coming from someone who commanded the attention of people in a room, to being behind the person who got the attention in the room was a humbling experience. I had come from being the best in high school taking our best actress in every role a played. So when high school was over I remember walking in auditions with a mentality of “I am doing you a favour to be here” just to find others more talented than I could be. Do you have any idea how it felt to be a ‘mama bonga 3’ instead of being one of the main cast?
I also learnt that I liked the idea of getting attention and not the actual attention itself. It was never a life for me. I also leant that my gift is in noticing others’ gifts and helping them nurture them hence my starting an artist agency.
Have you ever faced imposter syndrome? How do you deal with it?
I am facing it as I write this. I am getting into the music industry going alongside people who have been dominating this industry for so long and saying to them that I know I will make a difference, yet I have less than they do.
How do I deal with it you ask? It is by affirming to myself every single day that my dreams, no matter how alike they are to other people, only I can see it to completion as I see it. So I wear my big girl pants and do it.
What advice would you give somebody just starting out in your line of work?
Find your purpose. You need a deeper driving force to survive in this industry. If you are coming for the money, please go elsewhere. If it is your purpose and you have a passion for it, then you are very welcome, put on your boots and join us we really need all the help we can get.
Are there specific books or movies or podcasts you would recommend to somebody for them to get a better sense of what success is or what success could be like? This is an auntie moment to pass wisdom
There is one movie that comes to mind “In Pursuit Of Happiness”. Life is not fair, for every success we strive to have, always remember that there are people who are at an advantage to the same success story. But just like the main character in the movie, when your passion and purpose are aligned, the only person who can get in your way is yourself.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I love to travel, meeting new people and learning their culture. I love experiencing new environments.
I love to read. Losing myself in a good book is everything. I am currently reading “You made a fool of death with your beauty” by Akwaeke Emezi, It’s a mess but a very good read.
I also love music. I am taking classes on music production and I will be taking vocal lessons. I want to be able to sing not just carry a tune.
What would you like your legacy to be?
That she was instrumental in helping Cultivate a creative industry with immense and endless possibilities.
If you want to check out what kind of art prints we are selling
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Pearls And Heels: Neema Nasirumbi AKA Nem R