“Shut up and put it in a blog!” I have often wanted to tell myself that. No, it is not because I write slightly longer tweets, longer than 140 characters, but because I feel that our conversations are undocumented. It is not that we are not having conversations. We do, all the time. Unfortunately, all these conversations are buried somewhere in the privacy of coffee shops and the overloaded twitter streams. There is really never a tomorrow for them.

After the #SomeoneTellCNN debacle, a friend asked me why we are complaining about ‘stories untold’, yet we never really tell our stories. “Don’t you people have blogs?” he asked before I could slide in an excuse of how our publishers are to blame. And you know what? He was right. There is something we are lacking, something that only a few blogs, like this one here (Diasporadical) have going. If someone were to scout the interwebs, not for news pieces, but for social and political commentaries in Kenya, I doubt they would find many. Maybe I am the one who does not know where to look.

A writer I was reading over the weekend tackled the issue of gutless writers of this age, and it resonated. He spoke of the lack of a political dimension in the works of fiction being produced. He was speaking about the American literature sphere, but just like them, we have very many writers in Kenya, but many of us do not write. A certain twitter I follow likes to put this message out there: ‘Writers write’. Continue reading

I have been counting an average of 30 articles that make it to my ‘Read it Later’ every day. When I finally sit in the bus, I read all of them! I have also convinced myself that Sundays were made for Google Reader and Read it Later. It is when I consume all this information that I have been curating all week. Every second, someone puts up a new tweet, a new blogpost, a new Facebook post, a new … and as they come, I consume them. Sometimes, I feel a need to react to each one of them as well. There is too much data coming in. This consumption has over time made my private ‘knowledge’ vulnerable (I think), and day by day, I feel less and less of myself and more of what I have been consuming.

I had this conversation with friends after one of us spoke of this TED talk. It left me wondering about how much of me is me. In this age when there are too many people saying things on social networks and the Internet at large, it is easy for us to become puppets, given the basic drive to know things so that we can be a part of ‘the conversation’. Continue reading

If you read one thing about Africa today, let it be Ikhide’s recent article on ‘The Naipaul in Us’. This has to be the sanest article I have ready amidst the relentless Kony chorus and the already-outdated #SomeoneTellCNN tweets. Ikhide makes you pause and think about how much we are playing a blame game, or whatever sort of a game, ignoring our real problems. As Ikhide writes,

The African intellectual from the beginning has been frustrated by the constant label of “the other” that is implied in how Westerners view Africa and her inhabitants…. We have abandoned the peasants who spent so much to get us an education so we could get them out of hell. We are in pursuit of our own needs, screw the people. Wine glass in hand, we mouth white words to white-out what we view as our frailties.”

No one is denying that the West has actually made us look miserable in the face of (God?). But this is not a beauty contest. This is a question of pretending to engage in economic development while our faces are fixed on a blame-game with the West. It is a hypocritical game where a part of us is trying to be them, the other part is down on knees begging for a little more aid and another part is on a social media banter with them. It is ok, for us to point out the White-man savior mentality, but is it all we are going to be talking about all year? What sets us apart from that person who believes that a bracelet and a few tweets will stop Kony and save Africa? We have problems, real problems that need solutions beyond twitter rants, newspaper articles and blogposts like this one. Yes, it is quite unfortunate that the West always finds a tear on our dress to come sew. It is unfortunate that they have to make themselves heroes out of us. It is also unfortunate that the only narratives that we are exporting unwillingly are the ones about hunger, violence, poverty and the likes. So we get them to tell positive narratives about us- and then what? Is it going to bring down the cost of fuel? Are we finally going to love each other and stop the tribal cancer that feeds on our nation by the minute? Continue reading

If you are like me, you spend a lot of time in the shadows, analyzing others and sometimes even yourself because you really have nothing better to do. In your idleness, you might have followed discussions on twitter like I have. In these discussions, you might have noticed a certain pattern: the groupthink patterns where there is so much desire to harmonize with the popular thought that independent thinking, moral judgment and realistic arguments are replaced by unanimous thinking.

I have seen this happen when people are talking about a brand, or giving general opinion on an issue raised. People will often take different sides, but there is always the popular bandwagon, parked at a corner waiting for passengers to board. This is often the fashionable thought, and not necessarily the right or the wrong one. At the gate are the self-appointed mind-guards. They are the gatekeepers, and often the ones the masses like to follow. What they think is what we think. If they endorse a brand, the group-thinkers will say good things about it. Not to forget, there are of course those who come here independently. The popular belief is not necessarily a place to hide for the lazy minds. There is a good number who board this bandwagon of thought because they believe in its argument. They have taken time to critically analyze the situation and made a decision that this is where they stand. Continue reading

I do not remember the last time I was talking about books, and someone mentioned a play as one of the books they are currently reading. Sitting down over a bottle of vodka with a friend recently, we started talking about the play and the crumbling nature of the genre. He told me of times when he used to hang around the Kenya National Theatre, helping the likes of Francis Imbuga and David Mulwa go through their scripts. They would give you to read first before the play hit the stage or got to the publisher. Then we talked about the only published plays we know from East Africa: I Will Marry When I Want by Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Aminata by Francis Imbuga, The Burdens by John Ruganda. Most of us did not read these plays because we wanted to, but mostly because they were in the syllabus.

And if you were born in the ages of the fishes and the dinosaurs, you will know the joy of reading Othello by W. Shakespeare and how much fun Oscar Wilde was. And if you had a chance you might have held in your hands a copy of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. Continue reading

There is this thing that the job market provides artists. It is called exposure. This exposure is an equivalent of what the general job market in the country calls ‘experience.’  I dislike this word- exposure, unless it is referring to nakedness. I dislike it because it is what most people are riding on to exploit young artists, and in this case writers who are struggling so hard to earn a penny for their writing. I have talked about this before, but I will talk about it again because I have witnessed so much of it in the past few months that I just feel that I need to.

There is really never an excuse to use someone’s work to make money and fail to give them a little something for their effort. I mean, it is only fair to give Caesar what is his. Unfortunately, most publishers will often feel that they are doing a writer a huge favour by giving them a platform to be published. I do not refute that by the way. To have a platform to be read is not an easy thing to come by. It is a big opportunity first, money aside. It is for this reason that on behalf of all writers that have been given a platform, I thank you. However, it also helps when you think beyond this- that this writer has rent to pay, he or she has to board a Matatu to town, there is airtime to purchase, there is data. There are so many bills to pay! Continue reading

In one of these 5p.m coffee dates, a friend told me how much of beggars the Kenyan citizenry is becoming. He spoke of the little handouts that we are accepting to sell our dignity, our patriotism, and opportunities that might have turned out greater for us. My friend shared an experience where he once wanted to help out a group of young boys with boda bodas on loan so that they can make money from it instead of idling in the market. When he called them in for a meeting, and after listening to him speak, this is what they had to say- so what exactly is in it for us and for you? And how much are you paying us for attending this meeting?

There you have it. They needed to be paid to be helped-the culture of small handouts that has made us beggars and seekers of one-minute solutions at the peril of our own country, of a better future. These men were more concerned about a two-hundred shilling note maybe for a quick drink, and less concerned about the bigger and long-term opportunity to make money for themselves. My friend did not want to help people who aren’t ready to be helped- so he folded his bags and off he went. Continue reading

One of the things that would make me happy right now is receiving a decorated declaration of love in form of a handwritten letter. I have not received a handwritten letter since high school. There is an intimacy in the handwritten words. An unaltered correlation between the words and the person that wrote.

I am worried that the greatest disease of language is not the XaxaXema conundrum. It is yet to come. And it will be the inability for our kids to learn their own handwriting. In this age of the cell phone, text messaging and printed assignments, who will ever find a need for the pen in coming years? What, with machines that can listen to your voice and type for you without you lifting a finger? Why struggle curving letter B with kids while you can just teach them where to find it on the keyboard? Continue reading

“Yes, I am categorically certain that it is unequivocally incontrovertible that I recurrently employ gargantuan and multifarious terminology throughout the progression of otherwise ingenuous assertions with the intention of facilitating the manifestation of the opinion that I am of extraordinary and superior astuteness.”

Is my intelligence showing?

I like to use the above sentence I came across while reading about reading. Does it make you want to pull your hair out? I know I am not the only one that has fallen prey to the ploy of big words. There is a way certain people say things, leaving us thinking of how much of intellectuals they must be! He is so smart. Have you seen the way he tweets? Have you read his blog? Do you see the words he uses in there? Such big words! Such a smart person!

I do know that there is a very high relationship between language and intelligence. I however do not know which way to look at it: You are intelligent because you have an excellent command of language or you have an excellent command of language because you are intelligent. The chicken or the egg? Continue reading

There is this thing people do more often than other things. They talk a lot. I for instance am eating of the same piece of cake I am just about to preach against. There is just too much talking around, too many words to listen to. Speaking junkies! But not much doing being done.

I will use a writer as my punching bag here, because a twitter might subtweet me, and I might die. People tell us that the pen is mightier than the sword…and that a word spoken or written can be the medium of change. I agree. I have never underestimated the power of a word.

But I have wondered about the role that our writers play as far as change is concerned- change being the only thing that Africa as a society is yearning for. Is word on a piece of paper enough to bring a revolution or is there something more that can be done beyond the writing desks? Becoming a little more participatory in activism beyond just our political and socio-economic commentaries on a piece of paper or a blog? Continue reading