“Hello Atieno. When did you come back? I hear you’re back in office” I quipped.

“It’s been a couple of months Denis. What’s up? You want to come by so we can pick up from whence we left?” She responded in her usual jovial and welcoming self.

Atieno Otieno is the Kisumu County’s Director of Communications who’d been on compulsory leave for some months now, and since we had connected on different platforms, I thought to call her up and welcome her back to Prosperity House.

P.S just fo sho. I do not have welcoming rights to that gigantic tower. I’m a writer. I can never make a good usher. I digress.

If you didn’t know her, she would pass for a firm, and inauspicious person but spend a few minutes with her and you will be amazed at her calm and unassuming demeanor. Maybe it is because she was born in one of the informal settlements in Kisumu.

“Denis, I was born in Manyatta to one of the most hardworking parents I know.” She said during one of our meetings as artists and multimedia content producers. It is clear to me that the years she spent in the United Kingdom did not change her.

Atieno Otieno

Which reminds me, I once couldn’t hold back and queried:

“How could you have studied in the UK and not come back with a twang’?” To which she chuckled in response.

“Does Michael Joseph of KQ/Safaricom have a Kenyan accent?” Once an artist, always an artist.

In her days as a student, she won the hearts of many as the best performing artist nationwide for 3 years in a row at the schools and colleges drama festivals. Atieno is a celebrated actress, dancer, singer, she performs poetry too and all these she does with ease like a star in Broadway.

“So why did you stop acting?” I pried.

“Who said I stopped acting? Give me a script Denis and I will be on stage tomorrow.” She retorted and quickly added.

“Sadly Denis, the theatre scene is not as vibrant as it used to be. We also live in tough times and the bills got to be paid.” She added, looking away, with a nostalgic look about her.

You may have seen her during the much-publicized Kisumu Fashion Week’s – Business of Fashion seminar and several media fora in this amazing county.

As chaff in the wind, news spread across town of her compulsory leave and those who know her were shocked at the news.

First, because we finally had a former performing artist at the ‘table’ to amplify our needs and second because she’d just come up with a brilliant idea on how to empower upcoming artists through her Ki-Pawa Programme. The leave was a wet blanket to many an artist and filmmaker.

I recently bumped on a film by her and ditto! It hit me why she was passionate about lifting filmmaking standards in the county.

Facts About Atieno

  • She was a TV presenter for Upambe, an arts and culture show on Citizen TV
  • She produced Kenya’s debut TV fashion programme “The Fashion Show” for 4 seasons
  • Her Children’s show Angels Café won UNICEF world prize for excellence in TV programming for children at the International Emmy Awards.
  • Inducted to the Powerhouse Hall of Fame as Best Female Artist

“I’m glad you are back Atieno.”

“Thank you, Denis. You see, a lot has been said and like they say, a “rumor is nothing more than gossip with a purpose” and the truth is the ultimate power. It always sets one free. I am free”.

“It is well Atieno. Let’s catch up some other time” I concluded with a smile. Still in complete awe of her resilience, her commitment to the arts and hoping that finally we can “pick up from whence we left”.

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
~ Confucius.

Those were my words of encouragement as I bid her goodbye.

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