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Teacher makes movies and music for deaf people

Young instructor says 800,000 Kenya excluded from simple pleasures like enjoying songs and films

In Summary

•Although deaf people can watch normal movies, they will struggle to lipread, a near-impossible task owing to the frequent cutaways and voice-overs from the narrator.

•Murithi's small production company is called Deaf Media K. Today, he has produced one 60-minute movie, four inspirational songs and gospel song covers.

Samuel Murithi produces movies, comedies and music targeting the deaf and sign language lovers.
Samuel Murithi produces movies, comedies and music targeting the deaf and sign language lovers.
Image: ANDREW MWAURA

For the last two decades, Samuel Murithi has lived in sheer silence. Silence at the sound of birds chirping, or busy matatu touts beckoning passengers to board their vehicles.

“I lost my hearing while in standard three through meningitis,” he says.

Murithi can speak, but cannot hear, so you have to engage him by writing or through sign language.

 

He misses simple pleasures like listening to recurrent local music played on radio stations, or watching a movie with no subtitles.

While these are normal for most Kenyans, they are literally unheard of by the more than 800,000 Kenyans who are deaf or are hard of hearing.

Murithi knows the depth of this problem better than many people.

He teaches Kenya Sign Language (KSL) to young deaf pupils at the Mutumo School of the Deaf, in Kitui South.

He also engages his pupils in drama and play festivals.

While the hearing pupils and teachers have hundred of songs and movies they can relate to, the deaf in society have had none.

Although deaf people can watch normal movies, they will struggle to  lipread, a near-impossible task, owing to the frequent cutaways and voice-overs from the narrator.

 

Murithi says most deaf would simply prefer to watch action movies, and football matches because the plots are much less dialogue driven. For music, it is a no-go zone since it is sound driven.

To complement his teaching, Murithi now produces movies, comedies and music targeting the deaf community and sign language lovers.

He produced his first movie for deaf people last year. This means for more than 60 years since independence, deaf people in Kenya never had the chance to watch and enjoy a deaf movie, until now.

“I am sure, not many Kenyans have watched a locally made deaf movie, or comedy skit. However, there is always a chance to see one.” Murithi says.

In 2015, Kenyan rapper Douglas Munyendo AKA Lal Daggy's  produced a rap song, “Story ya machampion”, the first rap song in Kenya by a deaf and mute person.

Nonini did the voice-over  as Daggy incorporated use of sign language.

Kenyan rapper Douglas Munyendo AKA Lal Daggy in his first rap song “Story ya machampion”. Nonini did the voice-over, as Daggy incorporated use of signs.

Murithi's small production company is called Deaf Media K. Today, he has produced one 60-minute movie, four inspirational songs and gospel song covers.

“For music, especially in church, the deaf feel the vibration of the instruments used, mainly drums, and dance to the rhythm. We then sing in sign afterwards” Samuel adds.

He thanks one colleague for pushing him on the production journey.

“I was passionate about singing in sign. Last year in April, I received a request to perform a song, through John, a colleague, in sign but the lyrics were in Swahili. I have never learned sign in Swahili, only English. However, with my wife's assistance, I did a song called "Mingimingi", shot the video and it was released. The journey prompted us to form our own production company, thus Deaf Media K was born," he says.

Movies and music of the deaf carry visual language, and subtitles for clear illustrations and understanding to the audience.

Murithi's latest movie is entitled “When Love Rules”. The story depicts Aubameyang, a deaf man working as a mason.

He falls in love with Janet, the local chief's daughter. He is discriminated by the chief's family, but in years to come, he gets a lucrative job.

The chief is a dedicated administrator who is also corrupt. He strives to eradicate drugs in his area, but his son is immersed in the vice. He later loses his job, and seeks financial assistance and refuge in Aubameyang's home. The movie comes with subtitles, and available on social media through the company's YouTube channel.

Murithi explains that in society, stigma continues to undermine marriages between the deaf and their hearing lovers.

“When Love Rules”, the movie produced by Samuel Murithi.

“The outsiders bring about doubts, quarrels and eventually the end to the marriage. Married couples should strive to remember why they joined their union in the first place,” he advises.

Murithi said that the production cost of one movie can exceed  Sh50,000. Funding comes partly from the salaries of the company directors.

He believes the cost would be more, because sometimes the actors are not compensated because of lack of money. Meals, transport and studio expenses form a large portion in the budget.

Equipment are also hired daily at a cost between Sh3,000 to Sh5,000. Studio sessions average to about Sh10,000 or more depending on how long the sessions are.

By 2019, no concrete data has been published on the exact number of persons with disabilities in Kenya, with officials awaiting the census scheduled for August. However, the numbers are stipulated to rise owing to population growth over the last decade.

According to the 2010 Kenya Disability Survey, Kenya had a total population of 30,076,189, whereby 800,000 were deaf people.

Murithi is grateful to Dr Peter Rwanda, a doctor who assessed his situation and mobilised his colleagues to take him to school about 20 years ago.

He was enrolled at Kaaga School of the Deaf in Meru for his primary education.

The education ministry should make KSL a compulsory subject, both in primary and secondary schools"
Samuel Murithi

It was here that he began his KSL journey through lip-reading and interaction from the instructors in the institution.

In 2007, he attended Rev. Muhoro Secondary School for the Deaf in Mukurwe-ini, Nyeri County. However, tragedy struck as he lost his mother, months in his secondary education quest.

After his secondary education, Samuel enrolled at the Machakos Teachers College, and Kenya Institute of Special Education where he graduated with a diploma in special needs education.

In Kenya today, Signs TV is the only channel that provides a platform to persons with disabilities to share their stories and come up with solutions on challenges facing them.

Incorporation of sign related shows in Kenya would prompt regional recognition and acceptance
, Murithi says.

He believes with enough instructors of Kenya Sign Language, it will have exponential growth among learners.

He urges the education ministry to make KSL a compulsory subject, both in primary and secondary schools.