Rama Oluoch, 32, is a self-taught painter, artist and creative digital strategist with an ear for music and an eye for good design. Known as Ramapithecus (@RamzZy_) on Twitter, he has a large following online, including YouTube, where he runs a vlog, The Green Calabash, with his partner Shiko Nguru. He shares his story:
On your LinkedIn page, you describe yourself using the words ‘Head in the boardroom, feet online’ tell us a bit about that…
I am business-minded but in a creative way. Most of my work is online so I don’t shy away from that. I am part of online culture whether it’s memes or just the conversations people have. I used to think you had to enjoy something to do it. That’s until I worked as a freelancer and saw the back-end of business. Sometimes you have to do tasks you don’t like to get ones you love.
As a self-taught artist, what is your artistic journey and what kind of art do you create?
I do a lot of painting – digital and traditional. I’ve been sketching and painting since I was a boy. Art, to me, is a method of expressing myself regardless of the format it is presented in. Being a self-taught hobby artist in terms of process is always looking for new methods to see the world in different way. A lot of my inspiration comes from personal experiences: whether it is traveling, going through my ups and downs or just using my imagination.
Which other artists inspire you and who would you love to collaborate with and why?
I never went to art school so I draw my inspiration from the world more than anything. I’m inspired more by life. I think art is just what I do as a result of the inspiration. As far as collaborations, maybe on a film. That would be my dream.
How long does an art piece take you to complete from coming up with the idea to actually painting or drawing till final execution?
That usually depends on how I’m feeling. When I get commissioned for art pieces, I usually ask for enough time so I can come back and review them then correct what needs correction. I’m a perfectionist, that’s my weakness.
How did you generate such a massive Twitter following?
Just being myself fearlessly, even when I am wrong – whether I am sharing my own experiences or just giving an opinion about what’s happening in the world.
What do you believe people who avoid/dislike Twitter are missing in that particular platform?
Instant News. ‘Hot tea’, and intelligent conversations (if you follow the right people). The time zone difference and how open the platform is means most times we find out about things happening locally before we watch the news at 7 or 9pm. Other times we find out about what’s going on in different countries when people from those countries are sleeping.
What are the pros and cons of social media, in your opinion?
The first pro I can think of right off the bat is how much access we have to new information when we follow people who like to share knowledge and their expertise on different subject matters. The biggest con would be how addictive it can get when the likes and retweets take centre stage and you forget why you joined.
Do you think that your prolific presence online has contributed greatly in terms of sharing your art and earning a living through digital and new media?
It has. A lot. I got into my career (advertising) through Twitter. Since I’m a perfectionist, I haven’t sold too many paintings on the platform but that is in the works. I’ve always been afraid to start things I can’t sustain. More art is coming this year, no pressure though.
What are your thoughts about Kenyans and their consumption and utilisation of Youtube in terms of entertainment?
It’s a growing platform and it is coming up very fast. The more people install home WiFi, the more YouTube becomes a normal channel for accessing information and entertainment in video format so it is a pretty exciting time to be in the digital advertising field.
What do you think is the hardest thing about romantic relationships?
Learning to be yourself around someone who you also want to be themselves. I think how much of yourself you have to sacrifice is the toughest bit. Happiness is an individual responsibility, I think, but people only link up to be happier, not to be happy. When you expect someone to be your happy... well it usually never works.
As a relatively young father to two children, what would you say is the difference between raising a girl versus raising a boy is in these new times?
Raising kids who will believe in the possibilities that exist beyond their traditional gender roles, especially when everyone is so ready to tell them, “Boys/Girls shouldn’t do that.”
As a parent what are some of the lessons you hope you can pass down to your children to carry into adulthood?
I would want my kids to understand the value of respecting human life, apathy and just having that spirit of giving.
What is the biggest lesson fatherhood has taught you so far?
It has taught me a lot of patience and also made me more expressive emotionally. I don’t know how to act like a cyborg when my daughter gives me a hug or my son says, “I love you Daddy” in a toddler accent.
In many cases, people tend to focus on age difference within a couple, especially when the numbers are higher on the lady’s part. Has this ever been a factor for you and your partner Shiko?
Age has never favoured a lady, I think. That’s why we (often) joke about women being 25 for 5yrs. I don’t think the difference in age is a big deal. Maturity doesn’t come with age if you’re looking for someone to start a family with. Shiko (a year older) could’ve been the younger one and nothing would have been different so to us it is a non-issue. And we have 11 days of the year where we are age mates. That’s interesting!