By Amos Kareithi
The restaurant is a market place of ideas, dreams and quick deals as thick clouds of cigarette smoke swirl around the dimly lit room.
Sodas are slowly sipped while alcohol flows freely and tongues loosen, amidst the thundering music.
In this city joint where the old easily fuse with the new as plasma screens display soccer matches live from Europe, romance is measured in liquids and minted currency. An advert on a city street for pornographic DVDs acted by Kenyans. Photos/Martin Mukangu /Standard
An advert on a city street for pornographic DVDs acted by Kenyans. Photos/Martin Mukangu /Standard
There is odour of illicit intimacy, stale beer, sweat and great expectations in the air as the gigantic speakers belch out heart throbbing cacophony.
Our search has brought us here to make contact with an amateur pornography actress, who does not need any dress rehearsals.
Anne, for that is the actress’ name, does not even need a script and she should not expect any royalties from her agent or recording company.
1n 1998, when she was only16, Anne had just strayed out of a secondary school in Nairobi into the hands of a German, Herbert, who showered her with cash and romantic promises. "At that time, I was very naive. I had just started off as a commercial sex worker. I thought it was fun moving out with a white man," Anne recalls.
In a calculated move, Herbert invited Anne into his hotel room in Westlands in Nairobi on a number of occasions before he asked her to bring three men and three girls.
"At first he told me he just wanted group sex and promised to pay very well. Each of the girls was to receive Sh20,000," the actress explains.
After more than six hours of hard sex where Hebert slept with both men and girls in turns, as his camera rolled, Anne graduated into a pornography actress.
The men were paid Sh50,000 each as their roles were described as difficult. After each ‘movie’ was made, Herbert quickly uploaded it on the Internet.
More than a decade after premiering on the screen, Anne says she is now wiser and homegrown pornography filmmakers have emerged.
With the snap of a finger, Anne summons a voluminously built woman, who is skimpily dressed and who has been staring at an empty soda bottle, unsuccessfully trying to attract a male client.
The woman comes and after downing several drinks demands to know whether there is anybody interested in her body.
"We are recruiting some girls who will not be shy when photographed naked. Do you think you can do it?" we pose.
Eyeing each of the team members hungrily, the lady declares that she will do anything if the price is right.
"For Sh1,000, you can photograph me with a still camera. If you want real action my friend, you must give me Sh15,000 for a day," she declares.
The big dilemma
There is serious haggling over the prices and the original figure is scaled down to Sh5,000 after the prospective actress downs two more beers.
Anne says she has acted in a number of films although she has never watched any of her performances.
"I dread the day my daughters will learn that I have acted in these dirty movies. I do not want them to see me doing it," she whines.
But she promises to tell her nine-year-old twin daughters that she is a commercial sex worker when they are in Form Four.
Our investigations reveal that amateur filmmakers have started making a kill in what they see as a lucrative industry.
The boom has largely been created by the Government’s recent scrapping of excise duty on all computer and accessories as well as film making equipments.
"Let me tell you my friend there is a lot of money. If you can get Sh100,000 you will make a kill. The local movies (pornography) are in great demand," an agent who introduces himself as Mwaki says.
Mwaki started off by offering manicure services to women in their workplaces and ultimately became acquainted to the twilight girls.
"That is how I entered the industry. Since I was close to the women, even those plying their trade along Koinange street and other big hotels, I unknowingly became like an agent," Mwaki explains.
Moviemakers in search of actors would approach him for roles. The girls in turn would look for male actors.
Website for PSAT. TV, which claims to offer satellite TV station for porn even in Kenya.
"With a computer, a printer an a DVD writer, you can make as many movies as you want. There are always people willing to sell them," Mwaki counsels.
Some of the filmmakers have been advertising for their DVDs, which are sold at Sh500, for a set of three.
The phone number listed in the street notices does not connect one to the filmmaker but to a trusted agent who, links the buyer to a distributor.
CCI traced one such distributor in River Road after posing as investors interested in buying the movies in bulk.
The distributor, identified as Papa, was mad with us for straying into his backstreet stores, as he admonished the retailer who had taken us there.
He swore he did not know what we were looking for but only softened at the prospect of learning that we wanted about 200 pieces. After paying a deposit for samples, our investigations took us along Mombasa Road in search of hawkers. "Sisi hatuna noma na gava. Tunawachotea pesa na wanaturuhusu kuuza DVD za Watu wazima (The police are not a problem we give them money and they let us sell the adult DVDs," a hawker told us.
While the amateurs are investing in cottage industries, some serious money has been pumped by some shady operatives.
Porn TV station
Instead of selling the movies in DVDs, a company has set up a pay satellite TV station, which says it gives, its viewers unlimited access to hardcore pornography material.
PSAT.TV billed as the first sex station in Kenya announces on its website: "We are a dedicated hardcore adult entertainment channel. Our aim is to find the best pull-no-shots content with great quality porn stars as well as good attention to production quality."
It claims it has spread to Kenya and Tanzania. The channel charges Sh7,500 for a three-month smart card, which translates into about Sh2,500 per month.
The TV station has another package where one is issued with a smartcard and decoder at Sh14,500 for a three-month viewing. The last package is a smartcard, decoder and a 90 cm satellite dish at Sh17,000 plus Sh3,000 for installation for a period of three months.
In contrast, the rookie moviemakers admit that in their first DVD produced on March 25, 2007, in a lodging in River Road in Nairobi, neither the actors nor the cameramen were trained.
"We want to assure our viewers that in our oncoming movies, we will improve on the quality so that you can enjoy," the moviemakers offer. True to their word, their grainy misty productions have been refined and are now being mass produced in China and availed to the masses in Kenya.
But there is no honour among thieves as their well-packaged DVDs have been pirated by use of DVD writers and colour photocopiers.
In an ironic turn of events, the father of porn star in Kenya, a shifty dreadlocked slim character who stars in all the movies, has also pirated some of his works.
The porn addicts too are being conned. Despite posting adverts all over town announcing availability of DVDs featuring actors from different communities and areas, the movies are a collection of rehashed old ones.
Although the cover describes erotic scenes in Dholuo and features the actors in the DVD, the actors converse in Kikuyu.
"The viewers are conned but where can they go to complain? The movies are illegal and going to the police would be suicidal," remarks Mwaki.