AMERICAN THEATRE

Not the Same Old Song and Dance

I GREW UP IN MOMBASA, A SMALL CITY ON THE Kenyan coast, where people speak the Bantu-Arabic trading language called Kiswahili, along with English. Local women walk the streets in black abayas and deras next to tourists in shorts and tank tops; beach boys loiter on the sand, and the sounds of taarab music continue to fill the streets of the old town, where my grandfather was born.

Mombasa feels like a different landscape from the rest of Kenya. And for many of us, Nairobi, the inland capital city of Kenya, has always seemed a distant dream. In fact, I didn’t know much about Nairobi except that my father worked diligently in the transport industry to ferry goods from the Port of Mombasa to the inland. I hadn’t spent much time in Nairobi until January 2019, when I joined the team of the NBO (Nairobi) Musical Theatre Initiative.

My path to the NBO MTI began when I first left Kenya almost five years ago on a full scholarship to attend New York University’s Tisch School for the Arts. I remember thinking to myself that I had made it: Here I was, a girl to immersive theatre like

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