When I set out to interview Maddo, whose commentaries every Saturday using his column It’s a Madd Madd World have endeared him to many, I asked his readers to pose some questions to him. Here is what they would like to know and what Maddo said.
Lucas Kimanthi: Kindly ask Kelemba how he manages to mix creativity and facts. To me his caricatures carry a lot of authority and one needs to “read between the lines” to decode them. Does he research and read a lot or does he operate a research team?
Maddo: It’s imperative that, even as one produces humour for society to consume, one must remain factual. I read a lot and offer what I learn to my audience with a light touch.
Jack Malala: Why are his eyes big?
Maddo: My eyes are not big. They just protrude out of their sockets.
Lucas Kimanthi: Is the red KMT vehicle his only car?
Maddo: Yes. But when my enemies started trailing me, I changed the colour to………. (censored).
Irene Bibi: Something about his eyes…Are they really that big in real life? Tell him he makes my Saturdays. He is a genius. I envy what he can achieve with a single stroke of his pencil.
Maddo: Thanks, Irene. OK, I add a few nanometers to the size of my pair of seers in my cartoons for graphical impact.
Jack Malala: Does he miss MOI considering he was the first to caricature him?
Maddo: No. Though he was a lively subject, Moi belongs to a by-gone era.
Laura Wangari Leila: How was it working with the late Whispers how did he contribute to this awesome columnist
Maddo: The period with Whispers as a team was certainly one of my best times in this business. He taught me plenty.
Sara Bakata: If Kenyan politics were to suddenly become clean, would he still find something to satirize? What is his take of young commentators in his field?
Maddo: If politics suddenly became clean, I’d be out of a job. But no country on this planet can claim to be utopia. There’s plenty of dirt even in the best of democracies and highly developed societies. So, thankfully, I’m still in business.
I have watched, nurtured and welcomed plenty of younger artists into the industry. Many are so good, in fact, better than I was at the entry level those many years ago.
Laura Wangari Leila: Who is following his footsteps in his family?
Maddo: My daughters are pretty fine artists right now. Though they may not necessarily end up in the newspapers drawing tomorrow’s presidents who will come complete with studs, they are focused on careers very close to art.
Patrick Mutahi: What happened to the names he used to use? Crocodiluspithecus etc and cannot remember the rest. Did they mean anything at all?
Maddo: Between Moi and post—Moi era, which are the best years for satirizing the politicians and Kenyans in general?
Whispers and I used to “attack” each other through our individual colums. I called him mleviosis kiparatitis and he hit back with crocodylus niloticus. These playful terms were based on our physical features.
Things change. What was funny in the Moi years may be obsolete now. To remain relevant, an artist has to change too, adopt new trends and address current affairs. Humour evolves.
Greg Turner: Who were his earliest influences as a cartoonist and if he still has his earliest works before he became big, they would certainly be interesting to look at.
Maddo: I still have some yellowed scrap books that I may share with people some day. The comic character, Modesty Blaise, written by Peter O’Donell and illustrated by Romero amongst others fine tuned my mind as a kid.
Nick Omitto: Would he consider using his graphic and photographic mind to mediate for peace in Ivory Coast HE MIGHT be A GOOD SUBSITUTE TO JAKOM- maybe he might amuse Gbagbo to ceed power.
Maddo: Raila got there before me.
Jack Otieno Otieno: Would he caricature Prophet Mohammed eating pork?
Donald Mwathi: How does he view the world and life? Does he constantly satirize them in his day to day living?
Maddo: I have a serious view of the world, its contents and events. That’s the basis of humour.
Irene Bibi: Is there a collection of his works? Something like “Maddo’s greatest works”
Maddo: Coming soon!
Francis Aywa: Has he ever thought of doing a volume of all his cartoons?
Maddo: Working on that right now. Admittedly, it’s taken a bit too long, but plenty of my old stuff is available at my website right now.
Muzi Mutsibuanyi Wa’nanjero: ask Maddo he keeps referring to Kiboswa…….where is this Kiboswa and any relation with him we would like to know.
Maddo: Kiboswa is at the southern tip of Western Province in the now Vihiga County. It borders Kisumu and Nandi Counties, very cosmopolitan place. I partly grew up there and call it “supercity” just to annoy folks in Kisumu City.
Muzi Mutsibuanyi Wa’nanjero: Can he still stand on toes like Michael Jackson?
Maddo: No. I gave up. I don’t want to pop off at 50.
Bobby Buluma: Why not revert to the daily strip? Is he chewing a lock? Where did that dog (kitu kidogo na shades) go to….
Maddo: I wish I could. The spirit is willing but the…
Njuguna Mutahi: Was he really a loader in Mombasa?
Maddo: Who told you that? But it’s true. Worked in the godowns of Shimanzi for months raking in KES 17.55 per day counting tea chests from Tinderet and Kedowa.
Njuguna Mutahi: What’s his fascination with Kondele?
Maddo: This is a very vibrant suburb of Kisumu that I know very well and was a regular to in the 1990s. It was known as the “Beer Belt”. It really fascinated me to hop from one pub to another all in a few square meters.
Njuguna Mutahi: Any faux pas – e.g. can he recall the yellow man incident?
Maddo: Gosh, how old are you? Yes, I drew that famous Jamaican albino ruggermuffin artiste in the early 1990s and stupidly wrote; “if you Kenyans want to be like him, pour sulfuric acid on yourselves”. The protests were loud and deafening. Readers called and screamed at me over the phone. I was also told that Yellowman was so saddened by my cartoon of him. I apologized.
Njuguna Mutahi: Any brush with the law e.g. when he drew something about a magistrate. What really happened?
Maddo: I was put away for a few nights for writing on an empty cigarette pack “this is a bomb” and planting it in the toilets of old Nation House. That was my last practical joke. I am more comfortable drawing politicians and mad matatu drivers.
Njuguna Mutahi: Was the late Wahome Mutahi his ideological mentor?
Maddo: I enjoyed a good relationship with this humour writer and still regard him as my great friend and counsel.
Njuguna Mutahi: Are we seeing more text in his cartoons these days than sketches?
Maddo: Admittedly, there are times that I get so carried away with the sickening ways of politicians and write a lot.
Njuguna Mutahi: Is it a sign of burn out?
Maddo: I have since cut down on that; my editor reminded me that he wasn’t paying me to be a journalist but to be a doodle bug.
Njuguna Mutahi: Has he ever gone on leave?
Maddo: I am a bit like Muthaura – the Head of Civil Service who was due to retire last century. I hang on for dear life. If I retire now, I wouldn’t make much of a farmer. Leave? Yes, I’ve been away a couple of times. It’s only that folks don’t notice because my boss compels me to do produce some editions in advance before going on vacation. There is a time I found myself drawing Madd World while on the beach in Mombasa.
Compiled by Kimani wa Wanjiru