Your name and what do you do?
My name is IBRAHIM CHITAYI. I am a screenwriter, playwright, script consultant and an entrepreneur.
Tell us more about your brand “Ibrachi”.
“Ibrachi” is an idea which came from my high school nickname “chichi” [as a result of my second name “Chitayi”], so when I was ready to have my first e-mail ID, I opted for “Ibrachi” as my login name, which is a combination of my names ‘Ibrahim Chitayi’. I am also known as “Ibrahim’s Kitchen” – this is what happened, Ibrahim’s Kitchen was first an outside catering service which I started in 2013, the same time I launched my screen writing career and because a kitchen produces multiple delicacies – I decided to brand myself “Ibrahim’s Kitchen”, home for a variety of creativity/art. However, there was a confusion with the word “Kitchen”, not in my head but to some, their artistic creativity was only limited to food [who doesn’t like food]. I still wanted a brand which tells my story and showcases my personality. IBRACHI LIMITED is all about creative works, food, retail and support to upcoming talented minds in the entertainment industry.
You are a script writer for Swahili series Moyo, Maza and Aziza, how do you find inspiration to create characters and scenes that people can relate to?
I am the Head writer for Jiffy Pictures, a production company headed by Lulu Hassan and husband, Rashid Abdallah – a power couple with the zeal for a great course. Moyo, Huba, Maza and Aziza success is as a result of great minds and team effort. I value my co-writers Jacob Mwadingo and Zahra Mwangi with great passion. I am thankful for their support, trust and their amazing creativity! That had to be said. Now, how do I find the inspiration…. It all starts with an idea which develops into a beautiful captivating story. The process is not as easy as it may sound, you must know and understand life, to write it. Our experiences, the environment we live in, the people, their stories, what we see, hear, what we read, what we watch on digital platforms, anything that crosses our senses, is what inspires any writer. And then there is the talent, a God given gift, that spark, the only driving force which lures your great mind into thinking beyond measures and creating something magical.
How emotionally involved are you with the characters you create?
Do I dream about them? NO! Do I think a lot about them? MAYBE! Look LIM, I do not want to sound bias but also, I do not want to make an actor look weak on national TV not unless it’s part of their character – if an antagonist must look bad, make him/her worse for the audience to hate and If the audience must sympathize with a protagonist, then make him/her lovable. It is important to always learn how to balance your emotions – characters should not overwhelm a writer.
What was the first script you ever wrote, and what were the challenges?
THE BROKEN CALABASH, a stage play – “an African version of Shakespeare’s ROMEO and JULIET” [Judge’s comments at the Kilifi Drama Festivals]. I was in my fourth year at St. Georges’ High School. Challenges, mmm – what I can remember is falling in love with Nikolai Gogol’s THE GOVERNMENT INSPECTOR, the dialogues in the play just moved me in a special way, there and then I knew what I wanted to do, write with the same amount of passion. And I did just that!
What is the biggest misconception about being a script writer?
Is there any? Writing is a sophisticated form of art, is it a craft? Yes, because writers create something out of nothing. Further, each writer creates something uniquely his or her own. A writer who is an artist is one who not only creates something from nothing but creates something unique from nothing. But a writer cannot accomplish this without having learned the craft. Brilliant writers are, I believe, both born and made. Inspiration is only half the battle. If a writer doesn’t learn to assemble the components, to follow the instructions, then there is the risk that the blank page will be filled with the literary equivalent of hotel art. It may look pretty, but it has no depth and moves no one. And yes, if you continue to perfect your skill and take it seriously, you can definitely make a living through writing.
Mombasa has a lot of unemployed youth, and few jobs that they can apply for. How can a youth identify a skill that they can pursue as entrepreneur?
For any kind of job, you MUST go to school, Education is very important. To perfect your skill, you need a formal guidance. The interest you pick out from a tender age, explore and perfect it. Talking from experience, it is very wrong for parents to say NO to their kids because they want to sing, act, write or play football – first show them the importance of education and how they can use that to perfect their hidden talents. It doesn’t take rocket science to know you are gifted, but it does take patience, self-motivation, consistence and commitment to achieve your best in life.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a script writer, whether in Swahili or English?
Perfect your skill. Most youths are blinded by lifestyle, they wish more to live someone else’s life and fear the process that comes with it or take it for granted. Script writing takes a lot of your energy and social life. You must learn how to balance life, prioritize your needs and focus.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
As a writer, I have helped create opportunities for hundreds of people, I believe with faith and Allah’s guidance, this can happen ten times as much and through me, more focused people will be able to do the same for others. And yes, expect a book from me with all the good, the bad and the ugly, it’s not easy being a writer – a successful one, not easy at all. As an entrepreneur, I have plenty of opportunities lined up, God knows my intention, God knows my struggles and my challenges, inshallah He will take me through all this.
One of my favourite Maya Angelou’s quotes is “When someone shows you who they are, the first time, believe them!” When you create something out of nothing, the aura changes. The change can be negative or positive, pick what is important and leave the rest to garbage collectors. A man is but the product of his thoughts; what he thinks, he becomes – Mahtama Gandhi. Think great, read great books, talk to strong-minded people and you will succeed.