Keep It Moving | Wixx Mangutha

Her story is a testament to the power of hard work and persistence


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Wixx Mangutha [EP.67]

[00:00:00] Wixx Mangutha: My husband comes home and I'm like, Oh my gosh, I have to show you this video before I post it. And I'm super excited. And so I show it to him and he looks at me like, This is not the Kenyan flag. And I'm just like excuse me, what do you mean? So I hadn't put the Kenyan shield on the flag.

[00:00:20] [Ident]: Afrika Design Ident]

[00:00:23] Adrian Jankowiak: Hey, Wix, how are you doing?

[00:00:25] Wixx Mangutha: Hi, I'm doing fine. This is such a lovely session. So nice to meet all of you. My name is Wixx Mangutha and I'm a visual storyteller. What that means is I use anything that is within reach to create art.

[00:00:40] So I created something for my intro. Let me just share with you. So, from that video, I used a spoon, I used a glove, I used a mask different lids for cooking pots to create that. So basically that's what I do. My content creation journey started when I was 13 years old. And then I picked it up in 2020 during COVID. So I'm a COVID baby. I feel like that's the time most people discovered me. I decided to start sharing my work a lot on on the socials.

[00:01:22] So my content creation journey has been quite interesting. So when I was starting out, I didn't know where to start because of my personality, I'm an introvert. So sharing my work online was quite... it wasn't something that was very familiar to me and I really didn't want to show my face.

[00:01:42] So when I started sharing my work, I would never show people my face, just my hands. And because of art, and how my hands are, it's hard to tell if it's a lady or a man so most people never knew how I looked and they will just focus on the art, which is what I really wanted. And I would hope that the kind of content I'm creating that people will be able to relate to it.

[00:02:10] Very early in my content creation journey, I realized that most people speak a language that they don't even know they're fluent in. So being able to share what I visualize in my head. Then share it with people and people being able to interpret that in their own way and find meaning in it.

[00:02:29] That was really beautiful to me. So that really kept me going. And then in December 2020... so all this time I haven't gotten a job. I'm just sharing online. In 2020, I tried asking a few of my content creator friends. By the way... So how does the industry work? How do you charge? How do you get jobs? Like I had zero knowledge on that. And most of them were like actually all of us are beginners.

[00:03:01] So when you have the answer, feel free to share, feel free to share the knowledge with us. So I continued creating and all this time, I don't know how to go about it. So brands started coming in and I'll, I'll do a lot of work for very small money, little pay, if anything, it felt like It wasn't adding up because of buying the art materials and the number of hours I was taking to create.

[00:03:27] So it wasn't really adding up. Then December 2020,

[00:03:35] I remember that day so well because I feel that was, you know how everyone has like a moment in their career where they feel like, that's the moment it started. For me, that's 12th December 2020. So I wake up in the morning and I'm like it's Jamhuri Day in Kenya and I have to do something like share some brilliant video, but I have no concept.

[00:04:00] I am blank. If anything, I'm, it's like, I'm going through creative block. This is the time, like, those notes I had previously taken and the ideas I had previously written, I opened that book and I'm like, Aha, I can use this idea. So very early in the morning, it was really early because I think I woke up at like four looking for an idea.

[00:04:22] So by seven, I was good and ready to go to start executing. So before I tell you what that idea was allow me to share with you my stages of creation. So the first stage, I'm sorry guys I had created a beautiful presentation for you and then it just crashed like five minutes ago. I was telling my manager Anoni who's here.

[00:04:43] She was like, what? What do you mean? Yeah. So the first stage is agony stage. This is the concept. Most of my stages, I don't know if you guys know Christophe Neyman. He's an artist and he really, really inspires and motivates me to keep going. So most of my stages are somewhat similar to his. So the first stage for content creation is agony stage.

[00:05:07] So when I woke up that morning at 4am, you guys, I was going through agony stage. In this stage there's a lot of thinking that's going on, a lot of research, a lot of doubt. Feeling like this is the end of coming up with great ideas. Like you feel like what, maybe this is it. Maybe it was only meant to last for a short time.

[00:05:30] Trial and error, tears. And for me, the fact that I haven't studied art in school. It means I have to work a bit harder because I like following the principles of art and animation. So that means like having to learn from YouTube and other e learning classes. So I went through the agony stage and then after the agony stage, the second stage is the fun stage.

[00:05:54] So I got into the fun stage at, I think at like 7, 8 a. m. The fun stage is when I get an idea and I'm like, aha. That aha moment for maybe this is it. Maybe this idea can work. So I go out and I buy rice and I also buy food color like for the flags of Kenya, red, black, green, the rice is white, so I didn't need white.

[00:06:18] And then I color the rice and I put out the rice out to dry and then immediately it dries. By this time, it's like 2 p. m. you guys. So, I mean, Jamhuri day is only one day throughout the whole year. So, I'm like, okay, 2 p. m. I can still do it. I can still do it. I still have time to create and post.

[00:06:37] Then now I enter the attention stage. The attention stage, this is the execution phase. So some projects take days, some hours. By this time I had realized it's hard for me, like, to really peg a time on my projects, like, an exact time and be like, it's going to take me exactly three hours.

[00:07:00] Like, it's normally an estimation kind of game.

[00:07:03] So I started arranging the rice and I arranged the rice into this flag thing. And I was home alone. My husband wasn't home. So I set up my camera and I took the flag and I threw it up and then immediately I throw it up and look at it. I'm just like, yes, this is it.

[00:07:20] This is the video. So immediately I throw it. My husband comes home and I'm like, Oh my gosh, I have to show you this video before I post it. And I'm super excited. And so I show it to him and he looks at me like, This is not the Kenyan flag. And I'm just like excuse me, what do you mean? So I hadn't put the Kenyan shield on the flag.

[00:07:44] So it was like, no, a proper Kenyan flag has a shield. So I don't know if other artists are like me, but because I didn't do art in school, this critique thing is really new to me by this time. So it's really hurt my feelings. So I was just like, okay, so I pick up the rice. I separate it again into the different colors, arrange it again.

[00:08:08] And then I pick it up and I throw it up. This time he helps me shoot. So I'm just like, please get the right angle because I don't think we have a lot of time to do this again. So I throw it and it comes out well and I post it and the thing is because of again my shy nature. After posting, I normally put my phone away.

[00:08:31] I don't want to see the post because then I'd feel bad when I've put my heart into a project. And then when I share it online, people don't love it as much as I did. So I share the video and I put my phone away and... actually, I really forget about it till like, okay, I don't have a sleeping pattern guys.

[00:08:51] I sleep and I wake up at 2:00 AM and I have so many missed calls. My phone then wouldn't ring, I mean, as much. So I have so many missed calls. I enter Instagram. The video had gone viral and Twitter, so that was like the starting point for my career. I didn't realize how many people had seen the video till now January. It didn't occur to me how many people had seen it. And so I was just like by the time I was getting I was just like, it looks like I went viral, but no work has come through. And then January comes and Safaricom reach out to me.

[00:09:32] I can remember I was looking for jobs online because I had studied three degrees but I wasn't practicing any of them because I was choosing to give content creation a chance, visual storytelling, yeah?

[00:09:44] But I still don't have knowledge of how the industry works. No one has reached out to me to work with me. And then Safaricom reaches out and they're like, we would like to tell your story. Through Safaricom Blaze, I tell my story. And now after that, now brands started reaching out. And by this time, I really need help.

[00:10:05] Because again, brands are reaching out, but I really don't have, again, the knowledge of how the industry works. Even as they are reaching out, I continue sharing my work because I really wanted my, my name to be mentioned in rooms. So that meant consistency, even though I don't have a way to go about it.

[00:10:24] Then by this time I come across now, my manager, who's my manager now, Muthoni, she's here and she's like, maybe we can try this. Maybe we work together, start by creating a rate card. We create a rate card for the first time and jobs. Now we start taking in jobs. So this is how we work.

[00:10:44] So immediately a job comes in. The first thing I normally do is to create a storyboard for the client. The client gives us a brief, of course. So using the client's brief we take the brief and create a storyboard. So a storyboard mostly is scene by scene. What will I be doing?

[00:11:04] Explain to them. Create the storyboard and the content calendar together. So assuming I'm posting like three videos in a month what will video one entail? What will you do? Again being a visual storyteller, sometimes if you see my content calendars, some of them, I'm not sure some clients understand what it is.

[00:11:27] I mean, when I tell them I'll have to put, assuming I'm marketing what an insecticide. When I tell them I have to put out the insects that I've created outside for it to dry for four or five days. Most of the times the content calendar sounds crazy.

[00:11:46] So over time we have like to break down and even make calls after that and explain to the client what that entails. And before I submit to the client, I have to try out and see if what I'm promising to deliver to the client will work. So goes back to my creation stages. Again, before I get to the actual video for the client, the final video, I go through the stages by myself.

[00:12:14] I buy materials in small portions and if I use this material and this material, will it make sense? And then here's the thing. I realized very early and Muthoni helped me realize this. Just because I went viral with the rice video, I didn't want to package myself as a rice artist. As an artist constantly, you have to keep reinventing yourself and that is something that was so hard for me because then that means even if my one or two or three videos are going to be similar, it doesn't mean three or 10 videos that are consecutive. They should look like each other. Each should look different.

[00:12:55] And then different clients. And I think it's important to understand that the client has different needs. Assuming a client is wants me to sell a service. It's not the same as a client wants me maybe to sell a phone. And that's how it's always been. So try out like a small bit and then I'll create the storyboard and the content calendar and tell the client which sometimes sounds a bit weird. To me, I work with hours.

[00:13:23] So if I tell you a video that can be 13 seconds, it may take me up to 48 days to create. So most of my clients, we've been lucky enough. They come through early on because they understand to work with Wixx. You need to tell her early enough because of the creation stage.

[00:13:42] It takes a lot of time. So after that they sent to the client. They have to approve the content calendar for me to start creating because the minute they don't notice this. It's always the smallest of things that they don't notice it. And after me creating them, they want major changes.

[00:14:01] It's okay. It's fine to have minor changes. But assuming you're telling me to change frame 59 to 65 out of 1500 frames. That means I have to create the whole project again. So you need to give me two more months, which means I have to buy new materials and start creating. So anyway, after I've created the video, we send the video to the client, they approve.

[00:14:26] They're like, okay, we like it. It's time to post. And then I don't know about other artists, but everyone is different. For me the posting, I have learned over time to separate how attached I am to the project to how my audience will see the project sometimes, like I've told you guys, you pour your heart, your time and everything into it.

[00:14:49] Then when you post online. The way I'm telling you, people are fluent in a language they don't know they speak. Some people will be fluent in that language, or sometimes they won't understand the message you are trying to communicate. Again, we learned that very early on. So every time I create content, I have to share it with just anyone that is close to me who is not into my kind of art and see if they understand the message I'm trying to pass across.

[00:15:18] So I'd say what has helped Wixx as a brand to grow is the consistency and reinventing myself every time which is not always easy. It's easy to say it... reinvent yourself, reinvent yourself, but when it comes to putting in the work, it means that I have to do a lot of research.

[00:15:40] I draw my inspiration from the conversations I have with people. So every time I come home, it's the conversations I've had with people. It's the things I saw. It's the stories I heard. So I always note down everything so that when I get a creative block, which I don't know if it's a thing for everyone, but sometimes you might find a client is asking for content calendar that you have absolutely no idea what you're going to do.

[00:16:09] It's those ideas that always come through. That honestly is my journey. On the final point is another thing that has helped is to be relatable to the people and very earlier on, I realized it's not about what I only love. It's also about what the people love. If you're surrounded by Kenyans, what is happening in Kenya? What music is trending? Assuming there's the Naivasha Rally happening, then mark those dates earlier on in your calendar, then start creating prior.

[00:16:44] When I started content creation, it's only until end of March that I realized, man, I can't do it alone. I need a team. Because it got to a point I have to create maybe 12 client videos in a month. And as much as I'm creating client videos, it also means I have to create my own individual content that the people can relate to that I'm not selling anything to them. It's just vibes. Those are the videos that bring the people in. So normally I would be the one to come up with the idea and then try out the idea, go buy the materials by myself, come home, create the project, the ideas, and then after creating I'll be the one to shoot.

[00:17:30] Like the video I just showed you I think it was 497 frames. So I had to shoot one by one by myself. It got to a point physiotherapy was now a thing because my hand will get swollen. My back is killing me. And then it just got to this year and Muthoni and I were just sat together. We're like, I think it's time we need a team.

[00:17:57] And I think my greatest worry was that would this team buy into my dream into my vision and see it as work and because of this kind of art. It's easy to see it like we are playing. It's like child's play. And this is my work and I hold it very dearly to my heart.

[00:18:17] So I got a team, which I'm really grateful for. Got a videographer. So now I focus on the creating bit and I also got one more person to be helping me with creating. So assuming if I'm doing a strata stencil kind of animation, then I would draw the frames and we could help each other like cut out the frames.

[00:18:40] I have also come to realize when you have a team that buys into your dream and your vision, imagine it's okay, like to have a team and allow them into your space.

[00:18:51] I like my peace and quiet when I'm creating and now I have this family. So Wixx as a brand is growing and that is beautiful to see.

[00:19:00] Adrian Jankowiak: Wixx, thank you. So how now this journey of going from just being a creator to being a director, someone who runs a business. How are you finding people who know how to convey your style of art?

[00:19:15] Wixx Mangutha: I think it's beautiful to watch, honestly. I feel like when I was coming into the space and till now, we are not so many who do visual storytelling and at the same time influencing. So seeing that being embraced, it's beautiful to watch and I hope it keeps growing and growing to a big and beautiful space.

[00:19:38] Adrian Jankowiak: Absolutely. It's about time that your sort of work, your sort of creation was also really appreciated. And thank you for always explaining to people how much time and care these things take. Do you create briefs and storyboards for your personal content as well?

[00:19:56] Wixx Mangutha: Oh, so for my personal content, I'll be very honest with you. I'll use the latest crazy one I did which, which I posted on Tuesday with Crazy Kenna. So I decided for my individual content, I'm going to have crazy fun with it. Cause with client content, of course there are restrictions, like maybe you shouldn't use these colors you shouldn't use maybe this material you shouldn't, you get... but now with my content, I just create as I go. So I don't do storyboards to be quite honest. I just dive in and go because I feel like I've understood it in my head. Because I don't have to explain it to anyone. Yes.

[00:20:41] Adrian Jankowiak: And allows you to flow with it as well, right?

[00:20:44] Maybe a slightly different process. What's a typical day in your life? Do you have a typical day in your life? What does that look like?

[00:20:52] Wixx Mangutha: No two days are the same. So what we do a lot is a lot of brainstorming and brainstorming does not mean sitting in the office and being like, okay, we need three ideas. Let's go shoot, shoot. Okay. That will be interesting to have, but brainstorming for the team means most days you might not even find people in the studio. It's because you might think we are not working, but brainstorming is going out, going for walks at Karura, Aboretum, go for bowling because that's where you get the freshest ideas. So no two days are the same because now when it comes to the creation process.

[00:21:33] Now that's where it's a lot of work. Like when someone is looking at us, they'll be like, now they're working. But work started when we were going for walks, when I was just seated alone in my room looking at the ceiling. That's where most work happens.

[00:21:49] Adrian Jankowiak: Mm hmm. Found myself saying kind of a similar thing as well recently.

[00:21:53] A lot of our work happens in our minds, right? As creatives. Yeah. And it happens whenever maybe you least expect it and something clicks. So sitting in the same place is the best solution for us.

[00:22:05] The question I had as well was in terms of time taken on things. I guess you mentioned that sometimes you pour your heart into something and it doesn't get quite the response and sometimes you create something quite quickly, and it might really resonate with people. How has that balance for you developed and you just acknowledge that sometimes things are more popular. Sometimes things are less popular. What do you take from it?

[00:22:32] Wixx Mangutha: I think I've come to a point where I don't hold my projects like my little babies. It took a lot of work. And then I've also realized when people critique my project. It's the project. That's what Muthoni keeps saying.

[00:22:47] When I critique you and even my husband, when I critique the project, it's the project. It's not you. So it's not me that they hate. So I've just come to realize it's okay. Sometimes people will love what they love and it's okay for people to have different opinions.

[00:23:04] Definitely. Okay. Kenneth, yes.

[00:23:07] Kenneth Kanaabi: I would like to ask you, what's your ultimate goal or vision for content creation in the long term?

[00:23:13] Wixx Mangutha: Okay. So, my advice to upcoming content creators, I'd say, don't disregard any idea you have, no matter how weird you think it is in your head. Oh, my gosh. That is what might separate you like you never know. So just keep going. Keep creating. Just listen to your inner voice.

[00:23:36] I feel like I've shared this on so many platforms, but I used to compare myself so much to other people. And while starting content creation, I was very aware that is the one thing I should never do in this space. So I will say, don't compare yourself to any other content creator.

[00:23:55] You might have 10K followers, but your reach and your engagement might even be higher than someone that has 500K followers. Don't compare. It's not about the numbers. Just be you. I know you've heard this so many times, but truthfully, I mean, it just be you take that wild idea you have and just bring it to life for the people to see.

[00:24:19] Yeah. My ultimate goal. I'd say being a visual storyteller. I hope that one day I'll be able to open a studio that will accommodate all these amazing artists out there and, you know, like create a big studio that will be as big as Pixar. I know it sounds so big right now.

[00:24:40] But that is my dream, like have all these animators come through and we create like movies and short films. A studio that will accommodate people and we wouldn't bring each other down like we'll just allow ourselves to dream and execute.

[00:24:58] Adrian Jankowiak: And you have us following and excited for whatever that studio releases. Go for it. Absolutely.

[00:25:07] Wixx Mangutha: Thank you.

[00:25:08] Adrian Jankowiak: Would anyone else like to jump in here with a question? I'm not seeing faces, so we'll go by feeling. Feel free to unmute yourselves. Something that you said is don't disregard any idea you have, and that's kind of really what we try to do when facilitating, when ideating in design, right?

[00:25:28] Someone says something, And then instead of saying no, we say yes and, right? Actors do the same in improv. You keep building. What if the flag was made of rice? Yes. And what if I dyed it? Yeah. Yeah. Actually, we used raisins. And da da da. And something might actually come of it, so there never is a bad idea.

[00:25:47] Yeah.

[00:25:47] Wixx Mangutha: I've seen a question here from the NDW team. The question is, how do you balance paid project versus self initiated projects? At that times when paid projects don't fulfill your purpose? Have you had to turn down some projects and why?

[00:26:03] I've been lucky enough. Honestly, I feel like I get along with my clients. And the brands I've worked with cause some of them I'll give examples cause like Fanta, it's now been three years working with them being a Fanta brand ambassador and Samsung this year is two years working with being a Samsung mobile brand ambassador. Have I had to turn down some projects?

[00:26:28] Yes, we've had to turn down some projects. I think as a brand, you should know yourself and understand yourself. Maybe there's some brands that don't go with your brand, like for Wixx. Wixx is a family brand. So maybe the brands I've turned down maybe alcoholic drinks, because I feel like because of the kind of content I create, most people even show their kids my content.

[00:26:54] So I feel like if I, if I work with an alcoholic brand, then there might be a bit of a disconnect and I also don't drink. So it's all about knowing yourself and knowing what works for your brand, which I feel like that's a whole other world that I had to, to learn about branding. It's in how you even walk, how you talk, how you present yourself, all of that.

[00:27:20] It's branding and it doesn't come all of it all at once. It's a process. Yeah. Thank you.

[00:27:26] Adrian Jankowiak: Thank you so much. We really appreciate your time today.

[00:27:29] It's a real privilege to have you on. And personally, like I said, really look up to your work. So have you got any closing thoughts you'd like to leave us with?

[00:27:39] Wixx Mangutha: Yes. I feel like my closing remarks for all interviews, all talks are normally the same, but I'll repeat. One, compare yourself to no man. Be in competition with yourselves. Strive to be better like the Adrian you are this year, I hope has grown from the Adrian that you were last year.

[00:28:02] So that's one don't compare yourself to anyone. Two, go after your wildest dreams. That is how you're going to be the best version of yourself. Don't let anyone put your ideas down. You're the only person who truly understands that idea, that vision that you have for yourself. And finally my hashtag, my philosophy is normally, we keep it moving.

[00:28:26] So what that means is it doesn't matter what you're going through just because you're having a bad day today. Don't let it spread to tomorrow and affect like the whole week, the whole month, the whole year, like one step at a time. We keep it moving.

[00:28:42] Yes. Thanks for having me. That's a fun session.

[00:28:45] You too.

[00:28:47] Adrian Jankowiak: Thank you. Cheers. Enjoy your Saturdays.

In today's episode, we're joined by a familiar face in the Kenyan social media scene, Wixx Mangutha. Wixx is a visual storyteller, utilizing anything within reach to craft her art. With accolades like the Best Animator award (WIFA) and the Pulse Art Influencer award, she has collaborated with major brands such as Coca-Cola and Safaricom. Wixx shares her journey and the invaluable lessons she's gathered along the way.

What makes her narrative particularly intriguing is her ascent in the art industry without any formal training, bridging the gap between formally educated creatives and self-taught artists.

Her story is a testament to the power of hard work and persistence, especially resonating with self-taught creatives. Tune in for insights and inspiration from Wixx's remarkable journey!

This is the 37th episode under the ‘Shifting Narratives’ program supported by the British Council SSA Arts.

Episode Credits

Produced by Nairobi Design

HostAdrian Jankowiak

Producer, Shorts & Artwork: David King'ori

Music: Ngalah Oreyo (@ngalah_oreyo) and Mercy Barno (@merc.b_)