Akisa’s mother says that her daughter has a “precarious history with this country”. Though Akisa grew up in New York, during a short stay in Nairobi her family was caught in the coup of 1982. Fast forward to 2008 she traveled to Eldoret to bury her father and they were caught up in a mob. “Someone’s on the roof of the car, on the side, on the bonnet, trying to drag us out of the car…They were trying to bring the car over on its side” she remembers. The driver managed to calm the situation and they escaped.
Akisa may perhaps have the second incident to thank for her current life here in Nairobi. She explains that “I was very traumatized but it didn’t hit till 6 months later … my mum said you need to go back and make peace with that country”. Akisa made peace by partying with her cousin. A few months later “I came back to reality and I realized I liked it here…it’s been 6 years.”
A journalist, having previously worked for the US Business channel CNBC, Akisa was concerned with ” black peoples’ representation in international media or lack there of”. She found that “It was mostly poverty porn” and that “given that there are 1 billion people on this continent everyone cannot be poor.” She was very clear about the content she wanted to produce and the work she would pursue, “It doesn’t mean there’s not corruption and there aren’t serious issues. It just means that you have to report on the fullness of human experience. People love, people die, people laugh, people cry.”
Her first project was Close Up Africa, a show about ordinary people on the continent, which aired on MTV. Akisa then started her communications company because she believed in “The power of communications in shifting the dialogue, the narrative of this continent. ” Her work covers strategic communications for NGOs, the central question she asks is “How do we tailor it for this market place?”
She also manages Just A Band a group that describes themselves as a Kenyan Funk/House/Disco Band. Akisa says “I think they thought I could best communicate what they are trying to express.” She is excited about the band’s future but says that Kenya isn’t the easiest place to launch as a musician. “Kenyans don’t necessarily celebrate their own like Nigerians & Ghanians. You need to make it outside Kenya and then you’re recognized in the country”.
Getting Kenyans to recognize that the Arts are a serious business is Akisa’s current mission. Her experience as a New Yorker has shown her a city “that thrives on the Arts”. Perhaps her mix of Nairobi & New York may enable Akisa to shape the way.