July 19, 2021

If ingenuity was a person, I am sure he would have been Raeno Lens. This may sound like an exaggeration but trust me it is not and if you have met/worked with him you would probably agree with me too. I will tell you why but before I dive into it, let me begin with a little backstory of who Raeno is and how we met, to begin with.


Raeno has a flamboyant, larger-than-life personality and if you do not know him well you might mistake it with arrogance, at least that was my first impression of him. He kind of had celebrity status in our school and the neighboring girls' school for dancing like Michael Jackson on our schools' joint events. He was always wearing the slimmest, don't-touch-my-shoe trousers in the whole school and he frequently got in trouble for it. Because my personality is almost like the opposite of his, never did I think that we could one day even be friends let alone being my closest creative partner, and a trusted friend. In fact, I remember sharing the idea of bringing Raeno on board with my friend, Joel (who was Extraordinaire No. 02) and he strongly advocated against the idea because he didn't feel someone of Raeno's personality will be a good fit for our young enterprise. I had to veto the decision in favor of having Raeno on the team and I promised to take personal responsibility if it didn't work. The fact that I am writing about him almost 10 years later suggests my bet paid off and it proved to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. Over the years, we have all learned him to be one of the most down-to-earth individuals and have also learned firsthand not to judge people by how they appear on the outside. 

Reano & I documented Robert Pires Visit to Tanzania Sponsored by Absa

We met back in 2012 and he was in fact one class ahead of me. The first day I talked to him I remember I was going to fetch water at the well and I couldn't help to notice him drawing something sitting near the well. I approached closer to see what he was drawing and instantly I was blown away. He was finishing drawing a self-portrait and I thought it was a remarkable work of art. I remember the next thing that came out of my mouth was that we needed to talk later on and that I can help make money with his art. Him being ahead of me, he obviously wondered who this guy is and how in the world does he think he can help me make money while we're both students in a high school located in a very rural part of Butiama District in Mara Region. I honestly didn't have answers on how I was going to help him make money but I was just too excited about his talent and I just knew he had something special. I have always believed that when creative people come and work together, amazing things happen no matter what they do. In fact, many amazing things have happened since then. Let me share with you a few of those things and why I think INGENIOUS is the only way I can describe Raeno... 


The picture above was the first time we had ever used a RED camera in a commercial production. The camera operator that we hired suddenly got sick in the middle of the shoot and had to be admitted to the hospital. Raeno immediately rose up to the task as he has done many times before and continues to despite being the first time he had to operate the RED camera and he killed it. He is quick to learn and isn't intimidated by the unknown.

And this is not the first or the only time. Back in 2014, we acquired our first DSLR on the very day we were supposed to cover an event. He stepped up and did his best without fail. Inexperience has never been an excuse to him.


What do you do when you can't afford to buy a Steadicam? You make one and that is exactly what we did. Back in 2016, we wanted to achieve steady shots for a video we were about to shoot, and together we came up with a DIY design. I think we did a pretty good job all this considered.


After a long, dusty road trip from Mvomero Morogoro on an assignment. From left are Raeno, Luca Swahili & Myself. Circa 2016

If memory serves me well, this project in Mvomero was our first commercial project for a client who wasn't a friend and we were paid less than 500,000 Tshs (our first ever paid job was photography for a friend's clothing line a year earlier). Although the goal has always been to make money through our passion, money has never been the first factor why we choose to work on a project. We have always looked at the big picture. We usually ask ourselves if that project can help us grow if it can challenge us to reach new heights and break new grounds. Raeno has always been willing to apply himself even sometimes without the prospect of earning a single cent. I can't count how many times I have asked him to join me in doing unpaid/lowly-paid projects when we were starting our careers and he was always there okay because he understood that serves our long-term vision.

Obviously, there are many great things I can write about him and I cannot finish them all in one blog post. I, however, was compelled to start this series to shine a light on the magnificent people behind BRAINBONGO with Raeno as the first profile as a gesture of my appreciation to our shared vision and let him know that we appreciate him because he is the true embodiment of the EXTRAORDINARY spirit that acts as our compass to navigate our vision.

P.S. a few years later he decided to make film his primary specialty but still applies his drawing skills to develop storyboard illustrations for our projects. I think it is fair to say I have managed to help him make some money off his talents but I am optimistic that the best is yet to come.

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