OPTIMUS PRIME 254 - MY STORY
My name is Simon. The artist name “Optimus Prime 254” refers to the famous movie “Transformers”. I love the character of Optimus Prime! 254 is the Kenyan telephone code. So, it’s as if my name was saying: “I am Optimus Prime from Kenya!”
I was born in Kibera and grew up with my two elder sisters. My two brothers were born in Mombasa, but then the whole family moved to Kibera.
I went to a catholic school here, in Laini Saba. In the same place I did my standard one up to standard eight, and then went to high school. During secondary, they offered me scholarships. Not all the time, but I think from form one to form three. The rest was paid by my mom, since my dad had passed away a long time ago.
In my family I’m the only one who went to university. My mom worked in church and couldn’t pay for all of us to go to university, but I was the lucky one. I was very passionate about my studies. In my family, I want to be the one to make a difference. I’d like to be able to raise my family from where we are to a good life.
The most important person in my life is my mother. I love and respect her the most. She’s the one who brought me up until where I am now. Apart from my mother, it’s God. I’m a Christian, so I respect God.
When we were kids, we used to walk without shoes. There were no roads in this place. We used to walk everywhere. There was a place we went to swim almost every weekend. When we came home, we were so dirty! Our parents used to beat us up so bad.
We were playing so many games. In Kibera, you learn to live together with different people, and playing connects. Playing with marbles was something we loved doing. Or creating something out of clay soil, playing football… We were very creative about our games.
Kibera has changed in the meanwhile. I think poverty got worse, and people grew up. Of course it’s not the same seeing a place when you’re five years old, and then when you are an adult. Kibera is not a good place, but at least now I know I can make a change here.
At university I was doing civil engineering and machinery operation. I know how to operate all these machines! The place where I did my internship helped me understand and learn a lot of things. After that, I was enrolled in another internship called “Technicians for Africa”. After I finished, I got my certificate. Now, I’m a certified caterpillar technician.
I love working with the community. I have attended many courses and seminars about community development – how to give back to the community. In a workshop in Westlands where I went during eight to ten weekends, they taught us about financial, physical and spiritual development. Also networking was a part of it.
The actor in me
I love acting. I had started doing stage plays back in high school. So far, I’ve had the chance to perform on many stages. Even in embassies, for example in the Australian one. When I joined Kica, that was when I met other artists and started developing my skills. At the same time, I discovered my passion for spoken word. Together with other artists, we created a song.
Even in primary school, there had been some artistic activities like music or drama festivals. This brought us to the art’s part of life.
What I like about acting is that it brings out the crazy parts of me. There are things you can not always say or do when you’re with other people. But when you’re acting, you can bring out these crazy parts which you didn’t even know they were a part of your character.
I’d always like to bring across a message through my acting. Or maybe even making somebody discover that they like acting, too.
I joined Kibera Creative Arts about two years ago. I’ve learnt a lot here, and I’ve met so many people. They have taught me to play the piano, and a little bit of Spanish. Now I’m teaching some piano basics to the kids. Whatever I learn, I pass it on to another person. Then I tell them: “Make sure you pass it to someone else.” That’s how we can create something ongoing.
In Kica, together with the lady called Synaida, I’m the one in charge of the mentorship program. We try to identify mentors who can come to Kibera and speak to the youths. It’s quite fun.
Achievements and future plans
I’ve been on television. The program was called “Varshita”, it’s a local cast. I still want to grow a lot in my acting, and I’d love to be on screen again. In the evening, we’re usually going for rehearsals with the team, and we’re working on different projects.
In the best case, I’d like to grow professionally and still be able to do my arts. That way I could earn some money to support my family and still not stop what I love doing the most. My dream would also be to open a theatre, where we could train kids on acting. Anything is possible if you are passionate.
My message to the community
Do what you love most, and don’t let anything bring you down. You have the power to do what you want to.
My favourite quote is: “The wolf on top of the hill is never as angry as the wolf climbing the hill.” It means that you are the most powerful as long as you anger for more.