From music to acting to writing her latest project, “City Girl” a web series that follows the lives of three millennial women as they navigate the city, Valentine Zikki is one talented individual. I caught up with her to find out more about what makes her tick and the inspiration behind her projects.
1. Who is Valentine Zikki and how would you describe your music?
Zikki is a song maker, storyteller with a guitar and melody, content producer, overall creative and mother. My music started off as Afro-soul but is now evolving into a more Afro-fused, experimental sound. However I aim to achieve a versatile style for a wider audience.
2. Walk us through your musical journey.
My musical journey was prompted by my love for writing and performing poetry back in high school. I started out by playing guitar and composing original pieces a few years after. ‘Fly Away’ was my first record which was inspired by love for the #Nusoul movement & the artists there in. Nneka, India Arie, and Jill Scott served as inspiration for my creations in my formative years.
3.Who/ What would you say is your strongest musical influence?
Right about now I’m strongly influenced by experimental sounds and artists willing to step outside of their comfort zone. Artists like Nai Palm, Fela Kuti, Bob Marley, Falana, The Sudan Archives, SZA are major on my playlist.
The ‘What’ are the elements in life that make us confront our vulnerability. That’s one of the major themes that I’m exploring for my upcoming releases in 2018.
4. Apart from music, what else do you do?
I’m a professional actor and voice over artist. I’ve most recently delved into script writing & content production, with ‘City Girl’ being my first project.
5. Tell us more about your latest project, City girl. What inspired the series?
‘City Girl’ was inspired by the millennial experiences of women in Nairobi. Our stories are unique and fascinating which is why we are hooked to blogs which try to demystify Kenyan women.
I partnered with Neolight Productions and Zakikwetu who were pivotal in the production of the series. We aim to highlight relatable and truthful narratives of African women living in urban areas.
6. When do we get to watch City Girl and on what platforms will it be available?
City Girl will be available on You Tube. Even so, we are currently in negotiations with interested parties who would like to partner with us in engaging bigger audiences.
7. As a woman in film, do you think the Kenyan industry provides equal opportunity for female directors/screenwriters/ leads?
I don’t believe that the spaces were necessarily created to favor a particular gender, (the film industry is tough). That said, my answer is NO. The opportunities availed are rare so it necessitates a disruption of sorts, where female professionals can break through the ceiling and push their work.
8. What are some of the challenges that are unique to women in the Kenyan film industry and how can they begin to be addressed?
When it comes to ownership, few women own the means of production whether films or any other cultural products which make it challenging for women to increase their net worth.
In terms of earnings, women are not paid equally for the same work load so yes that definitely has to change. The industry being male dominated means that many women simply don’t get the exposure they need so as to be empowered when negotiating terms and conditions of their transactions.
Lastly, there’s lack of strong women narratives in film roles, films are being made with few strong women leads or even heads of critical departments that make the decisions about the narrative direction of the stories being told – consequently perpetuating false realities & stereotypes about men and women in the mind of the public.
Of course this has a ripple effect as to how these perceptions reflect on the audiences consuming these products. By this I mean, audiences tend to project what they absorb from pop media in general. We re-live what we watch and what we feed our minds by extension. If we keep re-enforcing stereotypes such as, ‘women should only be passive participants in marriage’ or ‘feminism is taboo’ or ‘women should be punished for their outspokenness’ then that is exactly how the audience will perceive these issues and project them.
There are immense opportunities to affirm intelligent and powerful stories by women in the film industry. Women after all, buy more cinema tickets and are proven to be bigger consumers of vast television content including telenovelas. It would be prudent to stop treating the production process as a boys’ club. We should & can create programmes with the purpose of exposing women to projects that enhance their professional growth and capacity.
Less story lines objectifying women and more roles projecting positive female characters will ensure that the content doesn’t lean one way & will definitely provide a more powerful mantle for women.
9. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from 2017?
To keep pushing and honoring my legacy by becoming even more audacious in the pursuit of my dreams.
10. A parting shot for those interested in earning a living through creative entrepreneurship.
A quote by Alex Haley (author of Roots: The Saga of an American Family.)
“I wasn’t going to be one of those people who die wondering, “What if?” I would keep putting my dream to the test — even though it meant living with uncertainty and fear of failure. This is the shadow land of hope, and anyone with a dream must learn to live there.”