The 1986 born Ogutu Muraya is a writer, theatre-maker and storyteller/spoken word artist. He holds a BA in International Relations, is an Associate Director of The Theatre Company of Kenya and works part-time with Kwani Trust as an Editorial Assistant.
His performances have been featured at international festivals, e.g. The Hay Festival (GB), The Durham World Heritage Center (UK) and NuVo Arts Festival (Kampala). He co-produces with Arts and AOK the annual storytelling concert Tales & Stories. In 2009 Ogutu toured with and starred in the poetry-show Cut off My Tongue by Sitawa Namwalie. He has also featured in Living Memories by Al Kags (2009), The Matatu from Watamu that Drove into the Sea: A children’s musical (2010) by Muthoni Muchemi, Spirit of the Nation (2010), a collaborative production mixing music, dance, storytelling, spoken word, and drama created and performed by USA, UK and Kenyan artists. His plays include Are We Here Yet?, What Are the Odds?, Doping, Forgive me Father, Counter Balance and have been performed Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, India, London and New York. In 2012 he was commissioned to translate and adapt William Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor into the Swahili Wanawake wa Heri wa Windsor in which he was also a cast member premiered in 2012 at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London as part of the “Globe to Globe Festival”. In 2012, the production had a successful tour of three cities in India.

A River Never Flows on the Same Spot Twice

I saw a woman gracefully seated
On a rock by the riverbed
She was in her 40s a strong woman she seemed
Calm and peaceful she seemed
I was oblivious of the internal storm brewing inside her
A raging storm with persistent fury and wrath
The kind that shreds apart the very core of her being
She does not blink, she does not speak
She does not move a muscle
Nor does she attract attention to herself
She simply sits motionless intensely staring
At her reflection as the river gently flowed by

I slowly walk up to her but stopped when I noticed
Every aspect of her body language screaming
‘Go away… I want to be alone… just go’
I ignored all the nonverbal cues
Instead I kept walking and soon I sat beside her
Like a cheeky child curious and demanding attention
She gazes at me softly as though
She can hear the thoughts in my head
And she whispers to me the words
‘A river never flows on the same spot twice’

Now what does that mean? I wonder!
Is it a riddle, a proverb, or a saying?
Wait! Maybe it’s a sign
A sign that I should leave her alone
Or it could be she is inviting me to a conversation
Now I’m all confused
My confidence melted with words
She speaks some more easing my self-indulgence
By telling me in a few words her life’s story
I a stranger to her and she a stranger to me
Yet nonetheless she tells me her story
“40 years I’ve lived on this country” She begins
“40 years I have walked, talked on these lands
40 years of creating through dreams
When others saw them as fantasies
40 years giving life meaning and vivacity
Yet it took one day…just one to lose it all
Lose it to politicians drunk with power
And young men drunk with opinion and hate”

As she spoke her tear ducts swelled like a flooding river bank
And tear drops slid on her cheeks and plopped into the river
Her next words she speaks ever so gently
That tenderness of a mother talking to her child
And she says and I quote
“What does it mean this strange language?
The language of one, we are one
For many one represents
Unity, unison, union,
Unanimity, coming together
One voice, one dream,
One vision, one people
For me one means solitude,
single, solo, isolation,
To be alone”

As we parted ways that day
I mused intensely and deeply her words
A river never flows on the same spot twice
I came to a conclusion
That the river was a metaphor for time

Life sucks

Life sucks!
That we line up in the fields for hours
Where the heat is intense
And the dust is immense
To vote for someone,
And for this reason
Days later we watched as fire engulfed our houses
And machetes pointed to our loved ones
We were left homeless, hopeless, and helpless
Yet the leader we so suffer for
Sits at the comfort of his mansion
Watching us on breaking news
On his flat screen plasma TV,
His house is well guarded
His children sleep soundly
Not even empathy in his heart
Just sympathy, as if that will help

Life sucks!
That a man who earns six figures
Would get caught stealing more figures
From a disfigured country
And a commission is formed
Earning a similar figure, their work
To figure out if the man is guilty as charged
But in the end guilty or not
His touchy fingers still walk free
Yet dare you steal a figure that is
A fraction of a fraction of a fraction of what he stole
And you will be jailed awaiting trials
Years later when the judge finally hears your case
You are sentenced to years in prison with hard labor
All because you took an insignificant amount
To kill hunger pains that seemed never ending

Life really sucks!
That I went through the system 8-4-4 they called it
Eight years in primary school
I got high scores and was called to a high school
Four years toiling not to be the tail
How terrible those years went by
I got an A yeah! And two years of tilling land
Waiting to join the land where dreams are made to reality
And one’s future sealed as a doctor, teacher, writer, architect
And all other professions known to man
As my journey in campus begins
My parents, friends and family
Hold their hands praying and hoping
I am not recruited into some sect, militia or gang
As my journey finally comes to an end
I’m stuck like a tired truck
On this tarmacked track
Tarmacking for a job if I am lucky to get
I’ll be working for the B student
Who runs the company owned by C student
Who established his company
In a building owned by the D student

Damn! Life really sucks!
But you know what sucks most than the fact
That life sucks
Is you and me sitting like a sack
Sulking how life sucks
Rise up and do something
No matter how small it may seem
For a saying goes
Evil persists because good sits and does nothing

Monsters don’t have to be…

Dunia ina mambo! Kweli, dunia ina mambo!

Monsters don’t always crepe and crawl under your bed or hide in your closet
They can be the person that lies innocently next to you every night
Monsters don’t have to walk in the dead of night, dark and concealed at late hours
They can be exposed to the elements, living and existing in the light of day
Monsters don’t have to be ugly, hairy with spikes, grotesque creatures
They can be delightful and lovable, smiling and waving
Monsters don’t have to be sinister dressed in gloomy dreadful colors
They could be virtuous fully clad in bright colors of the rainbow

Dunia ina mambo! Kweli, dunia ina mambo!

Monsters don’t have to be radical crusaders killing in the name of a cause
They can be the passive characters who do nothing
Monsters are not always out to defeat and destroy the world
They can be the person building the world brick by brick
Monsters don’t have to be full of vindictive fury
They can be bursting with serenity filled with unspoken secrets
Monsters don’t have to have a vengeful spirit
They can be charitable wining hearts one at a time

Dunia ina mambo! Kweli, dunia ina mambo!

Monsters don’t have to be strangers
They can be that friend that you’ve known for years
Monsters don’t have to come to you wielding a machete, a gun or an IED
They can come to you full of holiness wielding the word of a higher being
Monsters don’t have to have hidden agendas
They can be your government reading its policy in the full glare of the cameras

Dunia ina mambo! Kweli, dunia ina mambo!

“Monsters are real, ghosts are real
They live inside of us and sometimes…they win!”