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My name is Futwax, Mr. Kibera 2017/2018, community leader, recording artist and music producer.  I was born in Kibera, January 25, 1995, not in a hospital but in a house.  My mother was in labor pain and there was a neighbouring mother who new how to deliver babies who came and helped.  Getting a birth certificate was hard.  I started in Kibera, it is my home.  I don’t know very good English, not very good Swahili, I know Sheng.     

Here in Kenya, we define mental health problems as stress.  When you have ups and downs, you don’t know what to do, you have pressure from friends, you are confused.  We see it especially as stress.

 I’m a “boychild” – I’m 25-years old, part of the youth of Kibera.  Here in the community we have the “boychild” and the “girlchild”.  We have rights of girls and we have rights of boys.  The system makes many empty promises – it tells us we need to go to school, then we need to go to university and have this paper to get a job.  But after 12-years of schooling, which parents pay the fees for, you just come back here to the community and start using drugs and doing crime.  Politicians also promise to make life better for us in Kibera but never do.  Those empty promises of getting opportunities in life causes young men to develop depression.  

A lot of boys in Kenya smoke marijuana to cope with their depression, to feel energized when they feel down.  They take marijuana today, buy marijuana tomorrow.  But you know, when you continue to smoke marijuana, there is a day you will not have that man to buy marijuana from, you get that hiccup, that feeling that you need marijuana…but you don’t have money to buy it. 

Boys will also drink alcohol and will do things they regret later, like having unprotected sex or giving away their money.    

When I was growing up I had depression and anxiety.  In 2009, my big brother, who was paying my school fees, he got blood cancer.  He died in December 2009 and we buried him in January 2010.  So after that, there was no one to pay my school fees.  I dropped out of school.  When I dropped out, I was worried, I did not know what to do.  My brother left behind seven kids.  As a solution, I started working at the airport cleaning hangars.  That is how I coped, by finding a solution, not by engaging myself in drugs.   

I started music in primary school.  I write, I record, I sing, I wrap, I produce.  I create instrumentals.  I write about a girl in the ghetto, how she cuts the vegetables, how she walks.  I write about how Kibera is beautiful.  Kibera is our home.   

I have joined Kibera Town Centre as part of a team working with youth whereby I am a music producer.  I am offering opportunities to the young talent of the community.  We don’t have many music studios here in Kibera and many youth cannot afford to pay for the big studios.  I’m always here to record them and put their music out there.

Young men here do not like to talk about their feelings because they don’t want to look weak.  And that is what leads to depression.  They are burdening themselves with that pain.  I encourage the boys to use music to express their emotions.  I give them home work, tell them to listen to Bob Marley, write their stories, put them into songs and record them in the studio.    

We’ve seen many things.  We’ve seen many police men who are going and shooting youths here in the community.  They go to houses and rob people with guns.  But if they talk about it, they will be in trouble.  We have many stories to tell you.  

I counsel many boys here who come to me to talk about hardship.  They tell me, “Life is very hard out here, Futwax, so how can I make it?”.  They can see many musicians from Kibera living larger than life, for example Octopizzo.  Before, he was just one of us then one day, things happened good to him.  Many artists here want to be like him.  I tell them that they need to have discipline, attitude, self-awareness and interpersonal relationships.  I can walk in the community and find a boy who was just beaten because he stole a phone.  I will tell him that he does not have to lead this kind of life.  After I talk to these boys, they have a better sense of self-esteem.  I’m able to guide them because I used to be like them.  

There are stereotypes from the media outside of Kibera that effects their self-esteem.  For example, watch the documentary “The Business of Drugs” on Netflix.  These people came to do this story.  Their fixer came to me, I’m just a boda boda driver, a ghetto boy, and they asked me to act in this “movie”.  I did not know that they were going to showcase me as a real drug dealer.  They interviewed two people, me and a dealer in Mombasa.  That person in Mombasa, they changed his voice.  But they did not change my voice.  When people come to see my I’m just a poor boy in Kibera.  I don’t have anything.  These people come and portray us youth as drug dealers – they create a very negative portrayal.  And it causes depression.  Like me, many people talk bad about me.  I try not listen to me.  I keep going, I know where I am going.

When I feel depressed, I go to the studio and record.  I talk my problems into the microphone.  Writing music helps my mind.  I feel like I will never grow old.  When I play the keyboard, I feel like I’ll never grow old.  When I play a certain melody it enters into my lifetime memory and I never forget about it.  And sometimes when I write something and record it, I share it with people and they tell me I should sell them those lyrics.  My music helps people emotionally because I talk about problems in my life that they are going through too.

What makes me happy?  Life you know, like when I wake up in the morning, when I feel good.  When I don’t feel weak.  I feel sad when people talk about me behind my back.  I don’t fight people, I fight for my belly.

My hope is to help the “Boy Child” by creating a training space where we can train boys to do music, photography different arts.