A Punishment that led to a Career

Githanda Githae grew up in Kenya. Inspired by his culture, he tells stories of African folklore and has a well-earned reputation for elaborate, energetic and high paced storytelling.

For over 10 years Githanda has worked as a professional storyteller in the UK and in Kenya where he is the Creative Manager at Zamaleo ACT - a performing arts & culture organisation.

He has performed at major storytelling festivals both nationally and internationally, including - Sigana International Storytelling Festival, Fabula Storytelling Festival - Sweden and The Leeds Big Bookend Festival. 

We're thrilled to welcome Githanda to Settle next week where he'll be one of three storytellers touring over 21 schools to celebrate the week of World Book Night 2015. We caught up with Githanda beforehand to discover to bring you his story.

Did you always know you wanted to be a storyteller?

When I was growing up in Nairobi - Kenya, my gut feeling told me that when I grew up, I would be a priest, a farmer or a teacher.

This has sort of come true. I love farming - before coming to the UK, I did some amazing farming projects in Kenya. Getting land here in the UK and setting up a farm is very expensive, but if I ever get the funds or win the lottery, I will definitely settle into farming. I'm also a teacher of speech and drama (specialising in communication & performance.) This work sees me prepare students for speech and drama examinations. I also tutor and prepare many students for Higher Education interviews resulting in all gaining places at their preferred institution.

I mentioned I thought I wanted to be a priest... well, well, well, that is another story for another time!

Tell us about your school life? What did you do after school?

I was a very loud student. When I was in year 10, my English teacher punished me by making me memorise a poem that I would perform to the whole school during assembly. She thought this was a punishment? Actually it was where my journey in performing arts began. I was discovered then. I ended up representing my school in poetry competitions and at all the drama and music festivals. With my new found confidence I founded the school’s first ever drama group and was voted in as Chairman. From here, my love for performing and the arts grew from strength to strength.

Life rolled on from there I suppose, combining studies at University in Nairobi and my love of art. I joined the Kenya National Theatre as a freelance actor, storyteller, director, producer, set manager - the list is endless. I also worked for different rep theatres in Nairobi like ‘Courtyard Theatre’, and 'The Phoenix Players’ taking up different roles. My interest grew more and I also worked for television in soap operas and discussion programmes. This was topped up by participating in various radio plays which were broadcasted in the main media broadcasting houses in Kenya.

As part of growing and developing myself in the performing arts industry and teaching, I enrolled in some of the best schools here in the UK, The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and Trinity College London. I have various academic qualifications in communication and performance; these have been accumulated over a number of years. I’ve also been lucky enough to receive awards for my work in both communication and performance.

What are you most proud of?

I am proud of my culture; I love my heritage and my country. I am proud to be among the minority back in Africa who are so deeply rooted to their culture of maintaining oratory/storytelling. I’m also really proud to be my parent’s child. I’ve got a great relationship with both of them. They gave me all the support I needed to be who I am.

Have you had a worst experience?

Experiencing racism and prejudice!

Tell us something people may not already know about you…

I am on a journey of planning and hoping to be the first pioneer to open a speech and drama school in Kenya. I need to leave a legacy in performing arts, Kenya has a lot to offer, but we have no foundation, and my aim is to create that foundation.

What do you love, what do you hate?

I love eating fresh food, no spices, and no processed ingredients … just plain fresh food.

I totally hate and cannot stand untidy people.

More than anything in the world, I love my FREEDOM!

What do you do to relax?

I relax simply by setting aside time just for me. I just adore having my own space and I like my freedom so much! I also relax through my hobbies which include reading, travelling, photography, theatre, politics, writing and storytelling.

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