EXCLUSIVE: Unmasking Bikozulu, Kenya's Most Mysterious Writer

  • Jackson Biko, also known by his pen name Bikozulu is a celebrated author whose impact has been felt in the world of media and creative arts. Caricature credits: Yummy.co.ke Facebook
  • Jackson Biko, also known by his pen name Bikozulu, is a celebrated author whose impact has been felt in the world of media and creative arts, which earned him a spot at the 2019 list of Top 100 Kenyans on December 4, 2019.

    He has consistently led the pack of the most accomplished creative writers the country has ever produced, with a unique storytelling style that has won him loyal audiences, especially on social media where his witty pieces are often shared.

    His penmanship has also spilled over to the performance arts, where he is credited for writing some of the best plays to ever be performed at theatres in Nairobi. 

    A photo of Jackson Biko's book, Drunk. Photo credit: beinglynn.com
    A photo of Jackson Biko's book, Drunk. Photo credit: beinglynn.com

    Despite his fame, very few of his fans can put a face to the writing enigma.

    Kenyans.co.ke undertook to unmask the legendary author and pick his brain in an exclusive interview to find out what makes him tick.

    What is the first thing you do in the morning when you wake up?

    I want to say pray but often I forget to pray. I read a book. 

    What do you do for fun? 

    I travel. I read books. I hang out with my friends. Watch movies. Normal things. 

    What’s your favourite movie or TV Show?

    I don't watch much TV. But Pulp Fiction is my all-time favourite. 

    Who is your favourite Kenyan YouTuber or content creator?

    There is no one specific, it's a buffet out there of some pretty decent content. It changes every week. 

    Who is your favourite Kenyan artist?

    I like what Sauti Sol is doing. 

    What was your first job/salary?

    Homes Kenya magazine, writer. Ksh 20,000. 

    Have you ever had a near-death experience?

    No. Thankfully. 

    What is the worst purchase you’ve ever made?

    A muffin. 

    Impact:

    What or who inspired your writing career?

    It's evolved over time and through that time, it's been inspired by different things and different writers. 

    What do you wish you knew when you first started writing?

    I wish I'd started earlier. 

    If you were not a writer, how would you like to tell Kenyan stories?

    Using motion pictures. 

    What has been the greatest literary highlight for you in 2019?

    A 72-year-old man I met at a hospital lobby said, "Are you that guy who writes? My granddaughter reads you." 

    How would you challenge the youth to be more involved in the creative arts?

    Stay hungry. Stay consistent. Stay true even if it's not working. Eventually, something will give. True freedom awaits.

    Mental health is slowly starting to become a topic of national conversation. What lessons, as a country, do you believe we need to learn about mental health?

    That it's like any other disease that can be treated/ managed. That it shouldn't be something to keep in the dark.  

    This year has seen several companies shut down, massive layoffs and companies being restructured, do you believe there is a future for the youth in writing and creative arts?

    Someone - a much older gentleman - once told me, "You young guys keep whining about these times being hard but things will never get easier. The next generation will have to work harder than the earlier one. So strap in." Yes, there is hope. How can we live without hope? 

    What do you think about the current political state of the country?

    Something has to give. It starts with us.  

    A poster of a play scripted by Jackson Biko that was performed in October 2019
    A poster of a play scripted by Jackson Biko that was performed in October 2019

    Things you might not know about Bikozulu:

    Do you read as much as you write?

    I read more than I write.  

    What are your current favourite literary pieces?

    I have always read The New Yorker. I think they have some superior writing there. This is on top of the books I read. I like fiction. 

    What has been the most difficult topic for you to discuss/write about, and why?

    Rape. Because it's horrid. Just horrid.  

    Do you ever read the comments or responses or feedback, share some of your favourite and bizarre comments?

    I do. The real story is always in the comments. 

    Can we expect another book after “Drunk”?

    No pressure, huh?

    What influenced your decision to remain anonymous?

    I'm an introvert. I like to stand back in the shadows and watch. Bright light makes me constipated.  

    Quickfire:

    Laundry or Dishes? Dishes

    Maria/Selina? Maria               

    Sailors/Ethic? Ethic

    Churchill or Eric Omondi?  Eric                            

    Man U/ Arsenal? Arsenal                   

    Maina & Kingangi/Jeff & Hamo Maina

    iPhone/Android? iPhone                       

    Gor/AFC? Gor

    Kibaki/Uhuru? Baks (Kibaki)                                

    Khaligraph/Octopizzo? The OG

    Series/Movies? Movies                                      

    Yvonne Okwara/ Betty Kyalo? Betty. Never met Yvonne

    Text/ Call Text

    Twitter/Instagram  IG                                               

    Smokie/ Mayai Pasua Smokie

    Sun/rain? Rain                                               

    Mutura/ Mahindi Choma? Mahindi

    Coast/Masaai Mara? Coast

    Celebrated writer Jackson Biko was named one of the Top Kenyans 2019
    Celebrated writer Jackson Biko was named one of the Top Kenyans 2019