At Mount Kenya University’s Department of Journalism – Kigali Campus, there is a spin master, a radio presenter, an actress, a Master of Ceremony and a dancer. And they all answer to the name Anita Pendo.
Standing almost six feet tall, with a slightly intimidating husky voice and dreadlocks to boot, she has that commanding stage presence that fits her choice of careers like a mortise in a tenon joint.
“It started as a hobby,” says Pendo, 28. Her first gig was as an emcee at an MTN event eight years ago. “My pay cheque was RWF 120,000 (Ksh15,000) per month.”
Now she attracts between RWF 300,00 (Ksh30,000) and RWF 500,0000 (Ksh62,500) per show.
Her rota of past and future events is as busy as the motorcycle-filled streets of Kigali. On February 27, 2015, she was the emcee at the Mr and Miss MKU Kigali Campus 2015 competition. Kenyan musician Jaguar and slapstick comedian Jalang’o were the star performers.
Last year, Pendo was the emcee when P-Square, Diamond and international Jamaican sensation Sean Kingston performed in Kigali. She recalls the P-Square event as one of her best so far.
“It was held at Amahoro stadium, packed to the brim,” she says, not a tinge of stage freight in her voice. The stadium has a sitting capacity of over 60,000 people.
In March 2015, Pendo will be spreading her love to Bujumbura, Burundi, when she will emcee at Moto Concert, billed to be one of East Africa’s biggest gospel music shows. Kenya’s Esther Wahome, and One Nation from Rwanda will be among the performers during this concert.
“To be a good emcee, I strive to understand the performer and the audience before the show. Whatever I say to keep the show moving varies with the event.”
Her emceeing duties mostly take place in the 5pm-to-midnight hours. In between, she divides her time between class (where she is a semester eight student in Journalism and Mass Communication), radio and club dee-jaying, and, occasionally, dancing and acting with Mashirika, a 35-member strong troupe based in Kigali.
Every weekday morning from 6am to 9:30am, Pendo is at Magic FM doing her Magic Morning Show. On Wednesday evenings, she is the resident DJ at Fantastic club. She replays the overnight deejaying routine at City Lounge Pub every Friday and Saturday.
“I’m happy with my achievements,” she says. “I’m already financially independent and I pay my own school fees besides that of my siblings.” She is the eldest in a family of seven.
Question: Doesn’t she raise eyebrows by playing roles that are traditionally conceived to belong to the realm of men? “Well, women, unlike men, can do many things at the same time. We are blessed with sharp minds. Chauvinistic men should change their attitude.”
With the Mashirika troupe, Anita has performed at many high profile events graced by Rwanda’s first lady, Her Excellency Janet Kagame. “Alongside my grandmother, the first lady is my role model,” Anita says.
Future plans? “I want to finish my studies and package myself as an international brand to exercise my talents not only in East Africa but beyond.”