Mwende Ngao is a Nairobi based storyteller telling stories through various mediums including TV/film, poetry, non-fiction and fiction.
She has written for various TV shows including ‘Jane and Abel’ and ‘Sumu La Penzi’ and has been published in two anthologies: ‘The Power of Words’ and ‘Fifth Draft’.
She is also a Producer/Director at Matotoya Films, a lifestyle blogger at mwendengao.com and the Founder of KikeTele, an initiative that tells stories by African women for African women.
Mwende Ngao is also the co-founder of Zeda, an online lifestyle women’s magazine.
You seem to have done quite a lot where the arts are concerned: writing TV shows, producing, writing in anthologies, putting on shows and running a lifestyle blog. What has the trajectory of these roles been, and what do you enjoy the most?
I have to say that a lot of this was unplanned. I have been a creative person for as long as I can remember and was in a play or musical or school journal as a child, a factor that naturally followed me into adulthood. Creative pursuits were, however, a hobby in the beginning, so I basically just did what was available to do, hence the jumping from one thing to another. I didn’t view any of it as a career at first, but as a way to express myself. It’s only after a few years of doing it that I realised that I had crafted myself a kind of career and needed to be more intentional about it.
I enjoy the process of creation. Honestly, I think it’s a superpower to be able to form an idea and then take it and create something that is real and alive in the world. There’s also no better feeling than to present what you have created and for people to love it.
You run a lifestyle blog, what kind of interviews do you enjoy doing?
I enjoy interviews with other artistes. There’s something wonderful about artistes sharing their process, challenges and triumphs. I especially go out of my way to interview upcoming artistes in different disciplines who don’t get as much airtime on mainstream platforms. I am a big believer in using the platforms I have especially as an African online publisher, to curate our art for future generations. We have a lot of work to do when it comes to curation of our art, but it’s important that we do it because we are creating a reference point for future artistes and audiences. These interviews and reviews will be treasures when future generations are searching for historical knowledge on our arts and culture.
Is it hard to strike out on your own in a supposedly unconventional career?
It’s difficult and terrifying. I was not prepared for how much work it is, and sometimes when I look back, I can’t believe I made it through some of those difficult moments. It can be quite lonely, but one of the things I am grateful for is that I started out with part of an already active blogging community through BAKE (Bloggers Association of Kenya), so I had enough people to get advice and ideas from, as well as a level of comfort that I was not the only one doing this. I realised it was sustainable when I had way more work than I could handle on my own and started to become selective about the jobs I took on. I also had to hire an assistant. There are still days I panic and wonder if I am on the right track, but it’s usually short-lived.
What can we expect from you next where KikeTele is concerned?
There’s a lot I am up to this year, and I am incredibly excited. I am passionate about curation, so I want to focus a lot more on that. KikeTele is an initiative that centres on women’s voices, so I want to go to the next level and create a space that does just that through art. There are many untapped stories about women in our history and women currently creating amazing art, but not enough platforms to showcase it. I want to facilitate the coming to birth of that.
What do you do in your free time?
I read a lot – mostly fiction by African authors. I also watch quite a lot of movies and TV shows, with fantasy and drama being my favourite genres. I love good food, so I cook and eat out at great restaurants quite a lot. I also enjoy travelling and attending festivals and concerts.