BARUA YA BARAZA: Data Journalist, BYSS 10-Year Special From the Curator’s Desk

BARUA YA BARAZA: Data Journalist, BYSS 10-Year Special

From the Curator’s Desk

Greetings, friends:

This week’s newsletter is continuing the tradition of inviting members of our community to write From The Curator’s Desk, and for this edition, I’m happy to hand it over to Paul “Paushinski” Otieno; he’s a creative, product photographer, policy analyst and a member of Baraza Media Lab, one of our day ones.

Please send your guest writing pitches for this section to if you’re interested in being our guest curator on the newsletter, and you have something of interest to share to our community — a trend you’ve noticed or something you’d like us to think about.
~ Christine

Have you read the National Hair Cuts Bill? Me neither. That is because it doesn’t exist yet. But I am proposing one. Chapter 21, I’ll call it. In the bill I’ll propose a basic national haircut, by age sets, for all genders. Tier One, for newborns up to PP2. Tier Two, From Grade 1 to Form 4. Tier Three for matatu drivers, politicians and nduthi guys. And Tier Four the grown up Kenyans. That way if any barber veers off, we send them to Kamiti.

I had an emergency haircut, the other day, to fix a terrible emergency haircut I had just had.

The first one was terrible. Horrendous even. If it wasn’t going to be fixed, I would have stayed indoors for the next four weeks. Or joined a monastery in Limuru and stay there, interceding for Gen Zs and politicians, until my hair grew back. I estimate it would have taken a month.

The barber was ok, ish. The barber shop was the problem. It did not have a mirror. Mirrors are important.

Many years ago I took part in the drafting of what was then the National Youth Policy, and the structural architecture of what is now the National Youth Commission. It was heavy work, even now when I think about.

My team worked on Chapter 6 of the policy: Youth, Sexual Reproductive Health, and HIV/Aids & STIs. We holed up at Whitesands Hotel, with help from the UNFPA and for two weeks, fought for and about that policy.

But as we all know in Kenya, implementation is the problem. Why is it so hard to activate policies that we collectively agree that are good, in good time?

When my Haircuts bill is enacted, it will be implemented immediately and to the full. Bad barbers will go to jail.

My usual barber was not available, last Tuesday. I will never forgive him for that.

I spent the better part of that evening looking for a replacement barber. After checking out five barber shops I gave up. In the morning, I did three more stops before I found a guy.

I said what I wanted and that I was in a hurry. Before I could notice what was going on, a big chunk of my hair was on my lap. I gasped. That’s when I looked for the mirror that would ideally be in front of me. There was none.

Imagine the tension.

As a practicing creative passionate about policy work, I have so many questions about the creative economy. Like why don’t we have a permanent attache at the Executive Office of the President in charge of the Creative Economy? Where do the culture, trade, youth, arts and tourism ministries meet with regards to the economy? What is the Last Mile for every subsector of the creative economy? For a country that is a net importer of subsistence, what are our thoughts on sustainable creative economy? Will the next president come with a new focus and leave us hanging?

There are two things I know about policy work; First, if it is not on paper, it does not exist, and secondly, infrastructure follows policy, always. Not the other way round.

How did I trust a barber who has no mirrors? Why didn’t I notice the lack of mirrors?

There are men who are not bold enough to talk about what they are going through. Me I am different. I will shout it from the rooftops. I was mad. We called my usual barber, he just burst out laughing when he showed up.

Running a country is like running a barber shop.

When we don’t have mirrors, everyone is going home with a brand new terrible designer hair cut. And we will live with that for a while. Lack of mirrors deny us the opportunity to make changes and give direction where needed.

When you don’t have good motivated teachers, the students will cut as the vibes lead. Lack of solid plans, and even ignoring good solid plans, and we’re losing out on not just the good intention and goodwill, but we are stealing away time, knowing very well down the line, and hopefully we find one, a master barber will need to come through, shave us bald so that we can start afresh.

Maybe State House should call those old time master barbers to help them, or even help with innovation.

You know what they say, ‘Mwenzako akinyolewa, chako tia maji.’ I just pray the current barber in this country will have big enough mirrors, and experience, and the willingness to be taught.

Call your MPs and tell them when my bill comes to the floor, they have to pass it. But in the meantime, here’s:

What I’m Reading: Qwani. Keith Ang’ana has an in depth love for all things Kenyan history, and is the Creative Director for the Qwani Sketch Tour. He’s rounded up a few up and coming writers to put together an anthology as diverse as we are as a people. They are an eclectic bunch writing flash fiction, film reviews [they reviewed Oppenheimer], Music and Album reviews. They also do Philosophy, Poetry, Science Self Help, Sheng Culture and Short Stories. They draw inspiration from the old Kwani Trust. You can find them on

What I’m Watching: OGIEK: Guardians of the Forest [How Do We Live In Harmony with the Land? Watch the Ogiek | #SolutionsInsideOut | Tenure Facility (]  by Jackie Lebo, and shot by the Kibera documentary sensation, Ondivow, is a very good one to watch. 

What I’m Listening To: On the podcast front: New York Public Library’s Library Talks. Music: I’m immersing myself into everything new. Especially Rob and the arbantone movement. Gotha. Gotta Tena.
I’m also listening to old Hossana Integrity Music, who recently got Kanjii Mbugua’s Afrobeats Worship into their fold. Praise and Worship. The likes of Marty Nystrom, Bob Fitts, Ron Kenoly and Paul Baloche. I’m old.

My Best,

– Paul Otieno.


Tackling the challenge of accessing media and creative opportunities across Africa head-on. 

At Baraza, we recognize the struggle many face in finding meaningful roles and opportunities in the industry. To address this, we’re pioneering a solution: the Baraza Opportunity Board. Designed as an experimental platform, it aims to consolidate a diverse range of opportunities, from full-time positions, and residencies to freelance gigs and mentorship programs. Preview two curated opportunities below and visit the platform to view the full list. 

Moving Narratives | Prince Claus Fund & British Council

A multi-disciplinary mentorship program, that seeks artists and cultural practitioners recentering marginalized histories or challenging contemporary narratives. Develop your creative practice while exploring historical legacies and emancipatory movements. 

Call for Fiction Producers | Great Lakes Creatives Producers Lab 

The Great Lakes Creative Producers Lab offers a 5-day film development program for emerging producers in East Africa. Through workshops and mentor sessions, it hones their skills and helps them develop their next feature film project.  Open to producers from EA.

View More opportunities here.

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