Lulu Saidi doesn’t remember her mother ever buying them school uniform. “If your uniform was old she would make a new one for you.” She chuckles. She’s a petite girl with bountiful energy. Her mother was a hairdresser who ran a small salon when they were growing up. She later went into catering because she loves cooking.
“My mom’s inclination to the artistic influenced me a lot and maybe my siblings too: My sister is an artist, a painter on top of being a financial analyst, my brother is a photographer, my other brother plays rugby,” she says. “Funny thing is that my parents secretly didn’t want us to be in the informal sector, my dad especially. I guess because when you’re in biashara, there are a lot of sacrifices you make. But I think what’s in you eventually kicks in, because when I finished campus, I always wanted to be a radio presenter.”
She has a nice raspy voice. Not a preacher-voice, but one rich and full of character and lore. So she did radio. She also discovered MC-ing along the way, after graduation from university. She now works for an NGO as a development communication expert. “I think you can be so many things in this lifetime. You have a phone that counts your heartbeat and knows your steps. So why wouldn’t you be so many things?”
She recently discovered pottery. Every weekend, she goes to Ngong Road where men sell pots and she sits down with them to learn about pottery. “I am fascinated at how something worthless like dirt can create something so beautiful like pots!” She says. “I guess I always wanted to use my hands and I thought, why not pots. I thought of making clothes, but I can only stitch a button.” Light chuckle. She’s a laugh, Lulu.
Lulu is from the school of thought that you can, and should be many things in this lifetime, not just one thing. “I think we limit ourselves a lot, because that’s what society asks you. Because I remember when I was in campus, and I was doing International Relations, the question was, “And then you’ll become what? An ambassador? Diplomat? Working in an embassy somewhere?” But that’s not what I wanted to do. I loved the fact that I had the knowledge of the world; why things happen, how things happen. What kind of impact can we make? The world is so vast and with many opportunities but we always want to narrow things down. We always want to go like, “oh…” labeling people. Labeling beings. I am in development communication but I am also an MC and I make pots and who knows what else I will do next year to appease my artistic urges?”
She is a big fan of Maya Angelou because she was so many things. She has always been curious as to her purpose on earth. That’s the one thing that constantly occupies her mind. “ Every time I make that prayer to God to show me my purpose, He pulls me in a completely different direction.” She laughs yet again. “I think one just has to feel, go with where life takes them and still have that goal. You know this is what you want to do, but be open to finding out new things.
She looks at MC-ing as an artistic expression; it’s about knowing people and being “the heart of the audience.” “It’s artistic because it comes from the heart.” She says. “ I never write what I will say up on the stage, I read the audience and I play with them, I draw them out, I am them without being them and that allows me to know what they want to hear.”
What if she wasn’t socialised in the family she was socialised in? Would she have found her artistic heart? She mulls over that for a bit. “I think it eventually comes out. And I’ll give you the example of my mum, who was brought up in a strict family, but ended up being a hairdresser and a dressmaker. I think your artistic side comes out where there is freedom, when there are no boundaries. And eventually everybody gets to that point in their lives when there are no boundaries. So the artist kicks in.”
“Most importantly,” she continues, “this freedom comes from within. Your artistry can manifest itself in anything you do. I think the people who don’t see those boundaries are the people who make that change. They are the people we read in papers who came up with innovations. Because they didn’t see boundaries. They came up with Mpesa, because they thought outside the box. So anybody can be an artist.”
She talks about the GoDown Arts Centre with a lot of affection. She used to MC at the GoDown events until she gave someone else the opportunity to grow in that discipline.
“The GoDown is a place where you can be. First of all, it’s a family − from the guard to the lady who sells lunch. Everybody knows everyone. And everybody is there because they are artists. They don’t see boundaries and because of that, they’re free to do what they want. And I don’t know if it’s a thing with artists, or it’s just the GoDown but wherever you walk in, whichever shop you walk into, there’re like different offices, you’re treated like they know you, like you were there yesterday and the day before that. And you will walk into a studio, and they’ll continue with the art and talk to you like they know you. That’s what I like about the GoDown, it’s friendly.”