Everybody’s got to start working from somewhere. The only exceptions are those folks born with a proverbial ‘silver spoon’ in their mouth, meaning they can rely on the family’s fortune and never need to work a single day in their life.
For Paul Mukoma, his working life began upcountry on a matatu where he got his start as the ‘manamba’ (conductor) who called people off the street to climb aboard and then pay the going rate.
That didn’t last long however since Paul knew there were better things in store for him. Nonetheless, back then he couldn’t have foreseen that one day he’d become the founder and Managing Director of the Talenta Institute, a multimedia college based in the heart of Nairobi’s CBD. It’s a school that teaches everything from broadcast journalism, graphic design and animation to digital marketing, DeeJaying, performing arts, music production and sound engineering.
It’s a school, Paul says, that’s meant to fill in the gap between the theory that media students acquire in school and the practical skills that are required out in the real world.
“We also aim to nurture young people’s talents in a wide range of fields,” he adds.
Admitting he personally never went to a media college, Paul says that didn’t stop him from starting a school like Talenta.
“What I’ve seen is that young people need hands-on experience, and that’s what we give them at Talenta,” says the former photographer and videographer who actually started off in the hospitality field once he found his way to Nairobi.
“I’d gotten a good job as a waiter at a leading restaurant in town,” he recalls, having been taught by ex-Utalii College lecturers at the Career Training Centre (CTC). “But I only lasted three months since I didn’t get along with one of the managers.”
Fortunately, that’s when he caught up with his former CTC lecturer named Njuguna who was now a freelance photographer needing an assistant.
“It was Njuguna who taught me photography and videography,” says Paul who ended up starting the Creative Studio in Anniversary Towers with Njuguna. They filmed weddings and all sorts of events. They even started creating content for television.
But then one of their clients wanted Paul to come make music videos for their church. “That’s when we started making videos for Esther Wahome and other local gospel singers,” he says. He won Groove awards working with Esther. He also won accolades making patriotic music videos with Eunice Njeri who sang ‘Kenya Pamoja’ during Kenya’s darkest hours of post-election violence in 2008.
By that time, Paul had already set up his own company called Princecam Media. “I named it that way because I was known as Prince at the time and I was never without my camera,” he explains.
Still friends with Njuguna, Paul set up shop in his friend’s basement at Anniversary Towers. “We had many interns working with us at the time. Most of them were either university or college students that I had to train since they had the theory but no practical skills.”
That’s when he realized that in spite of not having much money, he had cultural capital and saleable knowledge. Princecam had already begun training raw talent in photography, video and editing. But he realized that there was so much more involved in making music videos. Issues related to costuming, hair, make-up and presentation generally led him to see that the whole field of media was far more multifaceted. Thus, the company was rebranded in 2017. And that’s when the Talenta Institute was born.
Currently, Talenta is based on the ninth floor of Ambank House, across from Kenya Methodist University. But from the look of the numbers and the enthusiasm of the students, the Institute seems it could soon burst at the seams. What’s more, the courses being taught in response to students’ demands are growing. For instance, Joseph Ochieng who heads Talenta’s performing arts department also teaches contemporary dance and Joash Ouma is busy teaching modeling.
“One student said he just joined us because he loved the name of the school. Talenta is what he knows he has but he wants us to help him nurture that talent, which is what we’re here for,” Paul adds.