Dr Zippy Okoth is a performing artiste, producer, director, actress and author who has produced various films and plays. She opens up about Love, marriage and divorce
What is the play Side Chick Wife about?
It is a stand-up comedy about to be featured at the Kenya National Theatre. I named it the Side Chick Wife because that is different from the side chick. A side chick knows who she is. A side chick wife does not know who she is. She is in-between. It is a very confusing state of affairs. The show revolves around dating, marriage and cohabiting in Nairobi, a city that identifies with many cities in the world. This is a story that many men and women can identify with.
Nowadays, couples opt to cohabit for long before getting married. I am not sure if it is the men or women who are afraid of committing. They get their first child but there is no commitment on whether one is a side chick or a wife. You get to a point and start asking what you are in this relationship. You cannot introduce him as your husband, or your partner. There are so many grey areas. Women are afraid to ask because the man might pull off yet there are bills to be paid and children are in the mix.
‘Side Chick Wife’ comes after ‘Midlife Crisis’…
I did the feature film in 2020. In 2018, I produced Stranger in My Bed and Strange Voices, as well as Agatha: A Hopeless Romantic. All these productions revolve around love because love rules the world. It is a subject of interest for many. After releasing ‘Stranger in my Bed and Strange Voices, people wanted to hear more of that and so I put the two parts into one book and Oops Zippy: The Diary of a Divorced Woman’ was birthed. Stranger in My Bed was about my first marriage and what led to the divorce. Strange Voices was about what followed after divorce. Losing a marriage is like experiencing death because you have lost something important that you thought would last forever. You are stigmatised, and people do not know how to label you. In English, divorce sounds sweet but in mother tongue, it does not sound as nice.
Did your divorce shape your career in theatre?
Not quite; my career in theatre was shaped along the way. I studied drama and theatre at Maseno University, then I went on to study gender and development studies. Later on, I pursued a PhD in theatre arts. In both my master’s and PhD studies, I focused on drama therapy, and that is where a lot of my acting comes in. It is more of self-repertory theatre, where you as the victim performs and while at it you can heal and the audience can identify with you. Theatre is my life, I have embraced theatre ever since I was a child. I left Maseno in 2005 and that is when I started doing music.
Are you still involved in music?
I started teaching theatre, and thus it was easy to relate to theatre because it is what I lecture every day at the university. Most of the work I do involves theatre musicals.
Is that how you joined the afro-fusion Kenyan First Chapter project?
I was among the finalists of Spotlight on Kenyan Music. I was in the Second Chapter. The First Chapter had the likes of Makadem. I was with Sauti Sol and other musicians, and it was quite an experience. Thereafter, I released an album called ‘Tugo Lona Nindo’ and then got married in 2008.
Tell us about your ex-husband... Was he a musician?
He was in the military. Music and guns fusing is not very good sound. I will tell you why I am a hopeless romantic: I was on the cover of a magazine and he looked at the photo and decided he had to meet this girl. That man looked for me until someone I went to high school with told me about him. It started as a friendship and he was nice when we started dating. We eventually got married but sadly, it did not end well. Ours was a physically abusive marriage. We tried, but it did not work.
What is Oops Zippy: The Diary of a Divorced Woman all about?
The book chronicles my love life. It is a detailed account of my falling in love and out of love, infidelity and physical abuse. Divorce is like death because after my divorce I lost friends. When you leave a man you are ‘dusty’ because life is hard but after a year you start to shine. There are those friends you will lose after you leave that man because they know your ex-husband and do not know which side to take. Then some do not want to be associated with you because you are divorced. Some women do not want to associate with you because you are now ‘shining’ and they think you might take their husbands.