Onyango Otieno (Rixpoet)
|Birth name||Eric Onyango Otieno|
|Also known as||Rixpoet, Rix, Rixpizzeh, Erico, Erroh|
|Born||June 15, 1988|
|Genres||Poetry | Hiphop | Spokenword|
|Occupation(s)||Poet, Writer, Musician, Mental Health Advocate, Gender Activist, Podcaster, Trauma Healing Facilitator|
Onyango Otieno (Rixpoet) is a writer, poet, mental health advocate., podcaster, and healthy masculinity ambassador. His work centers on African Masculinity and its role in ensuring gender equality and equity, especially championing for African men’s involvement in sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Onyango Otieno a facilitator of trauma healing circles, managing a safe space for African boys and men who have been raped or sexually abused. He founded a 200-member mental health online support group where members utilize storytelling as a tool for tackling mental illness stigma and hosts the Afro-Masculinity Podcast where he interrogates the complexities of African Masculinities.
Onyango is a 2019 Kumvana Fellow from Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB). EWB’s Kumvana Program congregates 10-15 dynamic African professionals for leadership development and network building, while enhancing Canadians’ understanding of sub-Saharan Africa’s development realities. He is also a 2019 alumnus of The Moth’s Global Community Program that brings storytellers together from all over the world, and a Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Fellow.
Onyango is the co-founder of Fatuma’s Voice Foundation. A forum using debate, open dialogue, and other creative tools to encourage expression, picturing an inclusive and politically conscious Africa, with a voice that will dismantle false narratives and involve every community member in the process of social change. Since the organization was launched on 12 July 2013, it has hosted over 142 themed community forums, hosted 1,420 artistic performers and brought together 15,000 community members, and counting.
He has worked as a writer, digital storyteller, social media strategist, communication and advocacy consultant, trauma healing and gender workshop facilitator with The African Women's Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), Mastercard Foundation, Aga Khan University, Council of Governors, Groots Kenya, International Commission of Jurists (Kenya Chapter), Green String Network, AWAN Africa, among others.
He is passionate about community justice and mental wellbeing for Africans.
Early Life, Education, Career
Onyango Otieno (Rixpoet) is the first born of three children. He started schooling at Noonkopir Nursery School in Kitengela, traversing seven primary schools before sitting for his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams from Makini School in 2002. His father, a teacher, moved from school to school searching for greener pastures leading to their family moving a lot.
He joined St. Joseph's Rapogi High School in 2003 for his Form 1, earning an expulsion after a year at the institution. His tumultuous adolescence, stamped by growing up in a violent home, disturbed the health of his childhood. It was during this time after being expelled that he discovered his knack for poetry as a way of coping with his mental and emotional struggles.
Poetry and Mental Health Adolescent years
His first poem was dedicated to his late sister, Jael Apondi, whom he watched die at five months old. It was the imagination that had she been alive she'd be there as a shoulder to lean on during this tough time that "Rix", as he is commonly known by friends and fans, decided to pen his first verse celebrating his sister. He was enrolled at AIC Athiriver Secondary School in September, 2004. By this time, he had run away from home twice, once becoming a street child in Nairobi Central Business District. Surviving mob justice on June 20, 2004, after being caught shoplifting, Rix became suicidal at the end of that year; 16 years old, fleeing to Mombasa to self-destruct. But his plans were cut short by his thoughts during the journey, opting to find his friends who lived in Malindi, who took him in for a month that December.
Rixpoet then joined Pumwani Boys' Secondary School in mid May 2005 where he sat for his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams, and later crossing to Uganda for his Advanced Level Education from Bugema Adventist Secondary School. It is in these two schools that his gifts flourished, being an integral part of the forming of Journalism Clubs, playing football for the school teams and reading his poems at the school parades. His courage for justice and passion for truth earned him both adoration and torment from the schools' administrations. Rix came back to Kenya in 2009 and joined Daystar University in January 2011.
Dropping out of University
He had to drop out after a semester because of family instabilities. To keep busy, he'd listen to the university's student radio, SHINE 103.1 FM, and went to campus to spend time at the computer laboratory where he taught himself blogging while connecting with Kenyan poets online. Apart from learning the essentials of social media, it is this period that he came across the Kenyan Poets Lounge Facebook group, in which he'd post his poems every day.
His consistence made him get noticed by the group's founder, Chris Mukasa, who approached him for collaboration. This partnership led the two founding Fatuma's Voice in July, 2013, a month after publishing The Power of Words, a poetry anthology largely by contemporary Kenyan poets. Fatuma's Voice grew into a massive movement across Kenya and continues to inspire many young activists and artists in Africa. His time networking at Daystar University created opportunity for him to work with Dj Mas, co-hosting Friday Flavour in 2012 at SHINE FM 103.1.
Passion for Radio
His passion for radio led him to work at Kenya Broadcasting Corporation's sister radio, Venus FM, producing poetry for a radio drama program in 2014. Rix has performed in all major Kenyan poetry events, including a paramount stint at the Supreme Court of Kenya before Kenyan Magistrates and the then Chief Justice, Dr. Willy Mutunga. He has also graced the annual Babishai Poetry Workshop in Uganda, SpokenWord Rwanda & Transpoesis in Kigali
His poetry is featured in Breaking Silence: The In-depth Words of a Poet Anthology published by James Robert Myers in Ghana, and Badilisha Poetry X-Change; an online audio archive and Pan-African poetry show delivered in radio format, based in South Africa. Rixpoet has gained traction over the years exploiting the effectiveness of social media to share his work, and is a self taught social media strategist, later undergoing an International Course on Engaging Online Media from Radio Netherlands Training Centre. He's plentifully passionate about African feminism, social justice, mental health, family and spirituality. Having experienced depression, post traumatic stressand anxiety at different phases of his life, he is spreading mental health awareness in Africa.
Rixpoet has authored Touring My Mind, a collection of his quotes in e-book format. He says, "Words are living things", heavily inspired by the lives and works of Maya Angelou, Amiri Baraka, Field Marshal Muthoni Wa Kirima, Rumi, Osho, bell hooks, Fela Kuti, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Angela Davis, Yoko Ono, Toni Morrison, Josiah Mwangi Kariuki, Patrice Lumumba, Steve Biko, Samora Machel, Miriam Makeba, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Bob Marley, Mary Oliver, Dorothy Day, Nas, Ukoo Flani MauMau, Juliani, Tupac Shakur, Muhammad Ali, Ken Saro-Wiwa, among others.
His love for music travels way back when he was a young boy in Kitengela. His father would put him on a table, play African Soukous and tell him to dance. He'd grow up dancing on tables to tunes from Koffi Olomide, Wenge Musica Maison Mère, Extra Musica, Kanda Bongo Man, Aurlus Mabélé, Yondo Sister, and many more Lingala superstars. He loves sports and is an ardent football player and fan. Ekklesia Mixtape, is his first music and poetry collection. A production in which he provokes the church institution, highlights issues on relationships, social beliefs, mental health, politics and self-awareness. It involves indigenous voices from Ghana, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia, and South Sudan.
Sexual Assault & Masculinity Advocacy
Rixpoet was raped by their house keeper at 20 years old. He came out with his story in November 2019, urging more men who had been sexually abused to come out from the silence and shame associated with male vulnerability. From the overwhelming feedback that ensued, he created a safe space support group for sexually abused African boys and men, aiming to later build physical wellness centers and safe houses for this often neglected lot. He employs storytelling and embodied practice as healing tools to face and tackle stigma, encouraging men to own their stories and not be afraid to be sidelined by society.
At the height of COVID-19 pandemic, Onyango opened the Afro-Masculinity Podcast in which he interrogates the complexities within African Masculinities. The podcast intensifies conversations on the intricacies of existing as African men, the impetus of their beliefs, perceptions; the historical, structural, religious and socio-political underpinnings of their behaviour.
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