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Nairobi Half Life Script Writer Seeks Comeback with New Writing


While many have seen a man in deplorable state filmed in Wangige, Potash Charles Matathia, a co-script writer of the 2012 film “Nairobi Half Life” sees in himself a man on the path of reclaiming his place. Our interview with the once renowned writer, whose video a couple of days ago went viral online reveals how he intends to rebuild his future. He has decided that he will go back to creative writing, this time with new themes and styles.

“My name is Charles Matathia. I was born in July 23, 1979. The first phase of my work until the age of thirty three is represented through three key projects: a short Film in Sheng about slum upgrade programs in Mathare valley which I did with Slum TV. It is called “Upgradasion”. The second one is a Feature Film, also in sheng called Nairobi Half Life. It is the story of a boy breaking out in Wangige trying to become a theatre star at National Theatre in Nairobi. He gets caught up in the key themes in my writing: juvenile delinquency and recidivist crime; which is to say that you are stuck as a youth because of identity and a situation where jobs are not available. All you have to do is move from one to the next hunt. There is drugs; cannabis, miraa, and a lot of booze to drink all over Nairobi. Those were my experiences as a university student.

I went to Naivasha Boarding School before moving to Starehe Boys Centre. I was in the class of 2002 at the University of Nairobi where I did an undergraduate degree in Sociology and Philosophy. Later on, I got a job at Kwani? Trust as an editorial assistant. I worked with Kenneth Binyavanga Wainaina and Billy Kahora. It is where I became a professional writer. Wainanina is the one who taught me the most memorable thing about writing; that writing is rewriting. Once you have ten pages, you have to cut it down to three pages. That was my experience working on the book chapter called “Some Gikuyu Words: The Story of Janie Wa Mugo”—a young Gikuyu boy looking for his father in Wangige market. That marked the first phase of my writing. I retired at the age of thirty three to smoke cannabis in Wangige market.

In July 23, 2019, I turned 40 years old. I was in my mother’s house in Kiawanugu. We made a small party. We had a cake and a few chapattis. I declared my interest in coming back. So, I put together my writing. I want to go back where I started. As a blogger I was very successful. I had a very beautiful website by the year 2011 called “The Black Campaign.” I was hosting the blog at Kenya Urban Narrative. It was about a young Kenyan man trying to afford his next drink. What I want to come back to is development of new content and characters. However, I want to shift it to academic works. After the success of Kenya’s Big Screen Sensation Nairobi Half Life, I want to use the movie camera as a teaching aid to express the key themes in my writing once again. I want to focus on class consciousness and character formation. I want to approach it through a teaching Diploma in Early Childhood Development at Kenyatta University.

I will bring new themes from when I went to do a Master’s Degree in Criminology and I was studying social movements. I am coming back with the issues of coalition, consensus, conflict and cooperation in society and how these things dominate thematic concerns in Charles Matathia’s prose poetry. What I was to do with this is that by the year 2023, the poetry will be published as a collection in a short story—three thousand words English essay on materials and methods required making local language movies in Kiambu County. It is based on writings of Ngugi wa Thiong’o and dramaturgy of Wahome Mutahi of Kenya.”

Ochieng' Obunga, a Writer at large, is the founding Chief Editor of Mobile Journalism Africa.

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