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Cartoonist ‘maddo’ relishes his CNN award win

By Luke Anami | October 19th 2015
Cartoonist Paul Kelemba (right) receives his trophy during the CNN/Multichoice African Journalist of the Year awards party. (Photo: David Gichuru/Standard)

When the winners of the prestigious CNN/Multichoice African Journalist of the Year Awards (2015) were being announced, he least expected to hear his name in any of the categories contested. This is because the CNN awards did not have a specific category for cartoonists.

But Standard Group's Paul Kelemba popularly known as Maddo made history by becoming the first cartoonist to win an award since the the awards were launched 20 years ago.

Mr Kelemba is the creator of the popular 'It's a Madd Madd World', a comic strip that is published in The Standard on Saturday. The cartoon strip is now 26 years old.

Born in 1962 in Jericho, Nairobi, Maddo is a political cartoonist who takes a satirical look at both local and world politics.

Maddo says he was humbled at the ceremony when he was announced a winner for his content, which caricatured sorting out Nairobi's traffic mess.

"I was not expecting to be announced as a winner but just a participant. This is because I participated in a category that was meant for writers and not specifically cartoonists," says Kelemba, whose name wouldn't ring a bell since many people know him as 'Maddo'.

"CNN did not have a category specifically for cartoonists. I entered mine as a feature," he says.

The 'CNN African Journalist of the Year' competition was established in August 1995 to encourage, promote and recognise excellence in African journalism.

In the early 1990s, Edward Boateng, then Regional Director of Turner Broadcasting (CNN's parent company), was travelling around the African continent on business. He got concerned about the lack of respect for journalists and decided to try and help them gain recognition for their hard work and commitment.

The first awards ceremony took place in Ghana on August 11, 1995.

And on Saturday, October 10, 2015, CNN crowned Hyacinthe Boowurosigue Sanou from Burkina Faso the overall CNN/MultiChoice African Journalist of the year.

Maddo, who hardly wears suits and did not deliver a speech, says he missed the opportunity to address the gathering when he was declared the winner as he did not expect such an opportunity at all.

"I did not give a speech. I was only joking when I said my prepared speech was on an iPad that I did not carry along to the stage. But the truth of the matter is I did not expect to be named the winner," he says.

"I missed the opportunity to address President Uhuru Kenyatta and even recognise my wife Eunice and daughter Everlin who were in attendance. This is a regret I will live with for a long time," he says.

Kelemba started his journey at the Nation Media Group 30 years ago where he became a household name together with the late great satirist and writer Wahome Mutahi. The two become household names in the then Sunday column famously known as "Whispers'.

Kelemba then moved to The Standard in 1992 where he runs a full page of cartoons each Saturday.

Explaining how he has managed to remain in the media for this long, he said: "It's about maturity and longevity. One has to be disciplined and focused."

"I don't spend all my time drinking and partying. But instead I take a drink, then go to my house to spend with my family. I have a wife and three children. The first two are daughters aged 23 years and 19 years while the last one is a son aged 13."

A humorist and a great Kenyan artist, Kelemba says he felt greatly honoured to win the award.

"I feel greatly honoured by the award. I feel humbled to learn that my work continues to inspire many other great journalists in Kenya as well as the rest of the world," Kelemba said.

One of the judges at the CNN/Multichoice African Journalist of the Year awards, David Ohito, the Standard Digital editor, described his works as inspiring.

"The work of Paul Kelemba is recognised as a critical content for the media. The content to provoke and make people laugh, humorise otherwise difficult situations and circumstances is unique," Mr Ohito, who was among the nine panellists, said.

Maddo's caricature was unanimously voted the best in the Energy and Infrastructure category by the nine judges.

Kelemba appealed to upcoming journalist to focus more on their role in society for them to succeed in their careers.

"Journalism has been my career for now 30 years and I am still going strong. Don't give give up but strive to always work hard and give the best and the rest shall follow," said Kelemba.

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