Creative of the Week: Elsaphan Njora
Elsaphan Njora (@squirecurtis) is a is a multitalented Kenyan artist who is mostly known for his acting and spoken word. He has starred in several productions including the TV show ‘Briefcase Inc’ and the award winning film ‘Kati Kati’. He is also 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.
1. Did you always know you wanted to be a poet/writer/performer?
I always knew that I wanted the spotlight and that I wanted to be there because I excelled in either sports or entertainment. My earliest memory of entertaining is when we were playing air guitars with my brother in front of my parents and sister to Esther Wahome’s tape. I think it was the one where she appears on the cover with windscreens for glasses. I have pursued art but the sports bit about me is yet to be fully explored.
2. What is your creative process like?
That is a difficult question to answer because that would need me to observe myself while creating which I don’t because half of the time I am either creating or second guessing what I have just created or editing it or rehearsing.
3. How much do your life experiences influence your work?
I would say it influences my work fully. I only understand the world the way I have experienced it. Whether it is first hand, a second hand experience or that I read, saw, heard or felt it from some other medium.
4. Who are your favourite poets/performers and why?
I don’t have a favourite poet. I think there are many excellent poets out there but none of them fit my description of favourite. I think it is also because I don’t pay much attention to who is new on the scene or had the best performance last time and also because EOPNATION has taken a back seat for the last one and a half years. I can’t say this poet or that poet is my favourite. I have also been out of touch. But I have to mention some though: Teardrops, Kyansimire, Roney Prince, Ngartia, Abu Sensei, Dissi Obanda, Sally the list could go on and on of poets that I respect.
5. What are your thoughts on poetry and performance in Kenya, what challenges have you faced and how do you think we can improve on the craft?
I think we are already doing what needs to be done to improve the art. More and more people are walking away from the comfort of performing at other people’s gigs and organizing their own. That plus the already existing gigs supplies a different genre of entertainment for Nairobians. Spoken word is being accepted in more and more platforms, avenues and events meaning there is a growing appreciation for it.
My challenges so far have been on packaging. How do I package myself in the growing market because I am not growing any younger neither is the poetry scene diminishing? Though I am not currently as active on the scene, I think the poets that are coming up are even better than the ones who were before them.
6. You have put up successful performance showcases, with your most recent one being ‘’Dance With Words’’. What has been the experience of putting these together?
It costs money and I am not very good with money. However I have my strengths and the next show I will put together a more complete team to better cater for where I am weak. Business aside though, it was one of the bravest and best things that I have done in a long time and I am not yet about to let go of that fire that was lit during these shows.
I also realised I am more insecure about my art than I initially thought. It is extremely scary to be at the centre of attention and have the final word. I thank God from the bottom of my heart for 2016.
7. You are also a well-regarded actor with your most recent role being Thoma in the award-winning film, ‘’Kati Kati’’. What has been the highlight of working on this film?
Shooting the film was the highlight. Yes we have won awards, yes we have travelled around the world and yes we have received the recognition but shooting the film remains one my most fulfilling experiences as an actor.
8. What work/project are you most proud of?
51 and EOPNATION.
9. What advice would you give an aspiring performer that you wish you had gotten when you were starting out?
I think I got a lot of advice from peers, older performers and even younger ones that helped me in my journey but if I was to really think hard I would say to let go and just be.
I think I got lost in trying to become something that I failed to just let go of all the thoughts and emotions that did me more harm than good. Go for it. Like stop thinking so hard about whether the world will accept you or not. The world accepts what the world gives and you are part of it.
10. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
11. If you could have starred in any role in any existing musical, play, poetry showcase, film, TV series, which would it be and why?
Any of those roles that paid millions of dollars and won an Oscar.
Check out Elsaphan’s profile and work below.
Instagram – @Elsaphan_Njora
Facebook – Elsaphan Njora
YouTube – Elsaphan Njorahttp://www.mwendengao.com/2017/04/18/creative-week-elsaphan-njora/Creative of the WeekBriefcase Inc,Elsaphan Njora,EOPNATION,Kati Kati