Culture

Is The World’s Fascination With Africa Hypocritical?

A couple of weeks back, I happened to get into a conversation of sorts on a page I follow on Facebook centered on a certain meme. The meme in question had an individual announcing their desire to visit Africa, with the other person insisting that the individual be specific on which country in Africa, they would like to visit. Of course our opinions happened to be varied with other page mates concluding that a section of us were simply being overly sensitive.

However, I think we have very valid reasons as Africans to be skeptical about the world’s fascination with Africa. Having been categorized as a third world continent for the longest time possible in addition to getting quite negative coverage by the international media, we can’t sometimes really help wondering whether people from other parts of the world, genuinely appreciate our continent.

In certain cases, the desire by others to visit the continent has been in essence, to confirm whether Africans still lead lives as the primitive people they have since been largely branded to be. Not forgetting the fact that a majority of countries in the African continent have a dark history of colonization and therefore, are still a tad bit distrusting of the intentions of foreign visitors. Not that we feel a repeat can happen but past experiences tend to shape present perceptions.

Africa is a continent made up of several nations with very distinct cultures and ways of life but that has not stopped the rest of the world and especially the West, from failing to acknowledge this fact. Hollywood has often seemed confused and thoroughly ignorant about Africa when basing movies and shows  on the continent. It is always disconcerting for an African to watch a movie or show, that decides to mix two African languages, from two different countries and then try to pass it off as a movie set in one particular African country.

Even more upsetting is having to keep explaining yourself in a foreign country as an African, that where you come from is not plagued by war and disease. The idea that Africans still walk around naked, live in makeshift homes, possess primitive ideas and the likes, has failed to completely fade from the minds of  Westerners who seem to still feel the need to “discover” the continent.

I understand that for foreigners of African descent, their wish to visit Africa has always been to connect with their roots. For us Africans who have been born and brought up in our motherland, we may many times fail to understand this specific need.

Perhaps, we find it absurd that they would just desire to be in the continent, without being specific with which country in particular because for us who come from the continent, we can easily trace our roots. And our individual roots, happen to be centered around a particular locality and not the continent as a whole.

voiceofafrica.fm

Indeed one of the arguments that came up in the aforementioned conversation on the page, was related to this inherent need by African-Americans and people of African descent from the Caribbean, to visit the continent. However, this does not completely erase the fact that our continent happens to be the most misunderstood by many, often basing their view of the continent on hearsay.

Call it inferiority complex, sensitivity or what but Africans are increasingly getting tired of having to justify their legibility to others who are not from the same race or continent. Issues of racism and racial discrimination do not make it any easier for us. It only serves to heighten our skepticism of the world’s interest with our continent.

It should be understood that histories of oppression by others who felt superior to us, have contributed largely to Africans feeling the need to protect themselves from hypocritical intentions. We may argue that issues of xenophobia are perpetrated by Africans to fellow Africans and therefore as an African, I have no right to conclude that only those not from the continent discriminated against us and oppressed us.

Xenophobic attacks such as the ones witnessed in South Africa are deeply rooted on colonialism and the fact that Africans felt divided and denied of opportunities at that particular dark time. I’m no advocate of senseless killings neither am I trying to lay blame on the colonialists at this point in time. However, how a nation chooses to heal from past hurtful experiences, determines the way forward for the development of the nation in future.

I would like to believe that many South Africans have healed but there is still that percentage, that has not completely healed and are therefore willing to incite and attack their fellow brothers and sisters, whom they feel are taking away opportunities meant for them, the original citizens.

As a continent that is forever trying to get to the same level as other continents and many times falling short in the process, our main concern is being genuinely accepted as capable of competing on the same level as other continents. It may seem like a far fetched idea to many but past branding of the continent as incapable has contributed to our wariness. We may many times fail to understand other people’s intentions or might even be right about their hypocrisy, who knows?

Do Long Distance Romances Work?

I used to be very skeptical about long distance relationships until a personal experience recently changed my view. Love is a beautiful thing but my reasons for being skeptical in the past were largely due to the fact that, many men I encountered made it clear that a long distance relationship would not work.

All these men happened to be in the same country as me, but felt that a distance of a couple hundred kilometers from a woman they were in a relationship with, would definitely pose a challenge. I also used to feel that being in an LDR, required an extra huge amount of investment in terms of keeping the spark alive.

Image courtesy of glamour.com

However, my eyes have since been opened to the fact that you can indeed have a successful LDR only if you pay attention to these few pointers;

Communicating via a medium of communication is not similar to communicating in person.

Of course many LDRs start online. Therefore, the initial conversations may be through skype or over the phone or via facebook or whichever other medium of communication, that can facilitate long distance interaction. It may surprise you to learn though that interaction in person may be/can be different when you two eventually meet.

You may quickly discover a significant difference in personalities and/or perceptions which was not quite evident, while the two of you were chatting since you are now able to read body language, see the other person’s reactions and experience first hand how they normally act. So it’s always important not to set your expectations and standards based on your online initial chats.

You might not feel the spark in person.

Meeting someone you have been talking to online is definitely a new experience that might make anyone nervous. So of course all these mixtures of anxiety, nervousness, fear of the unknown, shyness etc. etc. might interfere with that “spark” feeling. Give it time.

Cultural differences.

This is a crucial factor that often determines if an LDR will survive or not. If you two come from different countries, go into the relationship keeping in mind that your cultures are different and therefore your values, way of life and perceptions may totally be different. Compromise may be required. Equally, considerations of whether the both of you are up to the challenge of accommodating each other’s cultures have to be factored.

If it is meant to be, it will be.

Normally, we have a tendency of placing relationship expectations and this is no different with LDRs. However, if at all you do meet and feel uncertain about each other, don’t sweat it. Take it easy and enjoy the moments you two spend together. If it is meant to morph into a serious relationship, it will. If it is not meant to be anything romantic, then count your lucky stars for adding you an additional long distance friend.

LDRs need double the work in relationships within the same locality.

The fact that you two are miles, kilometers or continents apart requires the both of you to go the extra mile in making the relationship work. You need to both develop a certain level of trust, loyalty to each other, patience, tolerance and optimism.

Those periods when you will be apart for months and there’s nothing you can do about it because you are both bogged down with work or your respective life demands, these attributes will come in handy. So if you both feel ready to be in a serious relationship, a  huge amount of planning on how you will be organizing your meetings, communicating, solving disputes and working on your relationship is required beforehand.

 

 

Breast Ironing And The Fear Of Sexually Active Pubescents

Just when I had been tempted to think that FGM was the only remaining barbaric practice targeting the female sexuality, I was recently awakened to the retrogressive practice of Breast Ironing. Apparently, some African cultures such as the one in Cameroon find it okay for grown women, to heat grinding stones, spatulas, hammers and what nots, then proceed to press them on the chests of young girls, who are just starting to grow breasts.

The common belief behind this archaic and oppressive practice being that breasts are attractive to males. And so to prevent this pubescent girl from getting noticed by the opposite sex and possibly get pregnant if she gives in to their advances, these African mothers have taken it upon themselves to subject their young daughters to the unimaginable pain, of having their breasts pounded or massaged with these hot objects. The result; traumatized girls, shame in adulthood, malformed breasts, damaged breast tissue and sadly, in some cases, difficulty in breastfeeding their young ones later on in life.

Speaking up against breast ironing practice. Image courtesy of 9jas.com

The disheartening part about this practice is that it is carried out by mothers, believing that they are preventing their daughters from early marriages, unplanned pregnancies, unwanted sexual attention and incidents of rape. In reality, the only thing that this retrogressive practice succeeds in achieving, is promoting the lowest self esteem in women and furthering the stereotype that a female’s sexuality, is to blame for sexual violence or societal ills. These women have sadly been conditioned by their environment to think that by doing so to their own daughters, they are in fact helping them. Perhaps in the hope that they will thank them later in life for it.

I doubt whether these Cameroonian women, who have been subjected to breast ironing and are now forced to live with the negative consequences of the practice, actually thank their mothers for trying to cub the growth of what makes them beautifully female. It should be noted that most of these barbaric cultures sugarcoated as “tradition” and “helping the woman” do little or nothing to that effect. All of these cultures are characterized by one thing in common. And that thing is often to deny the sexuality of a woman by tampering with what was designed for a woman’s own good in that aspect. In the process, empowering the male’s sexuality.

In this breast ironing case, denying the sexuality of a woman and hampering the nurturing role of a mother to her infant. If this woman who has had her breasts ironed by heated crude tools in puberty, cannot be able to breastfeed her young ones and therefore nurture them, then she has been denied one of the crucial roles in motherhood. In addition to being repulsed by the image of her own breasts, flattened and ugly, from what transpired when she had just started to blossom as a woman.

Just recently, I was shocked and saddened by the fact that some young men actually thought that FGM was beneficial for a woman. We often say nowadays that the boy child has been neglected at the expense of empowering the girl child. However, that recent discovery I made on social media when I read a post from a young man encouraging FGM, makes me think that the girl child has hardly been empowered and that the boy child, is currently enjoying the benefits of being male and in a position to further oppress the female.

Breast Ironing and the tools used. Image Courtesy of Daily Express

The female’s anatomy and what makes her beautiful has constantly been considered a threat and something that needs to be kept in check, if these breast ironing and FGM practices are anything to go by. Society has since led women to believe that they are to blame if a man cannot control himself sexually. We have been conditioned to accept some horrific cultures as things intended to help the woman, even though the only thing they contribute to a woman, is causing her emotional and physical scars that are often times hard to heal.

Women have since been made to feel ashamed of identifying themselves as feminists, in the event of trying to speak up against some of these retrogressive practices that interfere with womanhood. A feminist who is trying to help the girl child escape some of these practices that do her more harm than good is often branded a bitter, wayward, male basher. But perhaps it is time that we decided to actually pay attention to what these feminists are trying to preach, in efforts of allowing a girl child to blossom as the woman she was intended by God to blossom into. In certain cases, only a female is better placed to understand the underlying consequences of some of these harrowing practices.

I tend to feel that the boy child is still very much empowered than the girl child. The boy child still gets to experience his puberty without much interference that will cause him permanent scars in future. Of course I’m not blind to the fact that some boy children, are denied the right to being children and going to school in the event where they have to herd the family’s livestock, get forced into being child soldiers and the likes.

However, society still gets to treat the boy children gently in terms of tampering with their anatomies as men. Circumcision for males is a rite of passage from childhood into adulthood. A badge of honor. Circumcision for females signals the onset of early marriages and is actually aimed at preventing the female from being sexually active or promiscuous to put it that way. In the case of breast ironing, subjecting the female to an unnecessary practice, so that the male can not be attracted to a blossoming female as if the male cannot interpret by himself, that he shouldn’t be messing with this young girl who is just but a child.

I’m in no way trying to bash the male with my sentiments as you can see both FGM and Breast Ironing practices are carried out by women on fellow women. However, what I would like to bring to the fore is the motivation behind some of these practices. Often motivations that come about in relation to the privilege that most males are accorded in patriarchal societies that do not value female contribution. Perhaps a father’s intervention could have stopped a mother somewhere in Cameroon, who had picked up a hot grinding stone ready to massage her hapless daughter’s chest with.

But males you will learn, do not hang around environments where the females outnumber the males in such societies. There are in fact oblivious to the going ons and may not really see the need to speak up against some of these practices, only choosing to openly agree with them if it so happened that someone sought their opinion. And so only a feminist’s voice can come in handy in such a situation, of condemning a practice that should have long been done away with. My heart bleeds for the Cameroonian or African female somewhere who was forced to undergo breast ironing.

 

Why I Haven’t Been On A Proper Date In Ages

Let’s talk about disastrous dates whether first, second or third if you get lucky enough to be asked out on a third date. The ones that make you cringe and wonder why you even agreed to a date in the first place. I’m reminded of my sister’s friend who went out on a date with a guy whom I would like to believe, unintentionally farted at some point. He then proceeded to pretend like he didn’t notice the gross combination smell of cabbage, eggs, beans and whatever foods you might think of, that transform into nuclear weapons of mass destruction, once there is an emission of gas from the body. Needless to say, any forms of attraction toward him from my sister’s friend evaporated that very minute.

I have had my fair share of bad dates, barely there dates and good dates. There are men I met who were chivalrous enough to take me out on proper dates to really nice restaurants. There were also men I met whose idea of a date was, a pretence of requesting I pay them a visit in their homes, in the hopes of getting some from me that night. And they were clueless enough to think that I would believe the visit would be entirely innocent and would only comprise of a dinner and singing of religious hymns before I got escorted back home. There are also men, who for some reason decided to take me out on what looked like a proper date at first in a nice place or setting, only to proceed to behave in the most neanderthal of ways.

I once went out on a date with a guy I really fancied, who decided to spend the entire period, stealing open, obvious glances at an Ethiopian girl’s back in a bare back top. To make matters worse, with the most silliest of grins on his face, he proceeded to mention that he thought the people sitting on the table where the Ethiopian girl was, were students. Now when you take me out on a date and I have spent hours getting ready for you, including doing my toenails in the most luscious of purple color, then you proceed to ogle at another woman, I will be thoroughly pissed. Even more pissed when you decide to trivialize your bad manners. Since when did university students become tourist attractions to be stared at?!

Bored couple on a date. Courtesy of Google Images.

Bored couple on a date. Courtesy of Google Images.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I can barely remember the last time I went on a proper date. It has been a lengthy period of time. Some years, I’m totally sure of that. Of course in that duration, I have been invited out for drinks, dinners or lunches by people, who thought it would be lonely enough to have a meal or drink by themselves and I equally thought, having restaurant meals and drinks once in a while broke the monotony of me sitting by myself, in the house. But I wouldn’t qualify them to be dates because there was no mutual attraction and we were probably feeding the need of having someone else’s company. We were just but two lonely individuals wondering why the odds were always against us in this oh, so cruel, cruel dating world. Trust me, there are many lonely millenials walking around.

Most of the time I have declined random suggestions that were packaged as dates but came at odd hours of the evening or night. Plus I have experienced lengthy periods of time when I have been out of work and therefore, too broke to even think of agreeing to go out on a date. Reason being, that an increasing number of men nowadays assume that you come for a date with your own fare back home. And if you seem like you never carried extra money, then it would be easier to accompany their sly selves back to their houses. So even if I desperately wanted to be asked out on a date, the thought of being broke scared the wits out of me.

Let me emphasize on this, being asked out on a date in a pub or club or to a man’s house or to accompany him and his football loving friends are in reality not dates. So to avoid tainting my image as the girl who is always available and down for whatever shenanigans thrown her way, I have steered clear of dates for a long, long time. Chivalry is pretty much dead in this generation of millenials who have a wide array of booty calls at their disposal. It’s simply the sad reality of how things are. Plus I’m just tempted to think that people are too broke nowadays, with too many needs to even remember how proper dates are supposed to be conducted. Or we simply became too lazy and selfish.

So to save myself the horror of a disastrous date, I would rather let it pass. Which disastrous dates have you ever been on?

Why Online Dating Is Another Form Of Being Lazy In Love

I have logged onto Online Dating sites in the past. I have managed to create an incomplete profile on one. However, I didn’t last more than a day on those sites. One site required that I pay some amount of money in pounds, to be able to read messages from guys who had commented on my profile.

Another site went ahead and matched me with some creepy looking fellows  from my locality. Actually, none of those guys came from within my area of locality. They simply were from the same country as me. So being one with such little faith in Online Dating, I quickly decided that it wasn’t worth the effort. In a country of about 47  million persons as of this year, I couldn’t miss eligible guys to date, so I figured.

Image courtesy of Google

Image courtesy of Google

I find Online Dating to be quite a lazy way of trying to meet potential persons to date. I’m aware of it’s popularity in the West. One person in the UK was gracious enough to explain to me that the reason why he preferred Online Dating, was because of his area of locality. It was a small town, with an equally small population so you literally knew everybody and had already exhausted your options. Online Dating was the only way you could go to find someone.

However, it is a known fact that Online Dating hasn’t quite caught on in the African continent. And for those in especially my country who engage in it, it is largely for ulterior motives. If you were to go the Online Dating route in Kenya, you are bound to meet with many guys online, who are just doing it for fun, looking for a sugar mummy or soliciting for sex.

Most of the women in my country who equally try Online Dating are those who are looking for foreign guys to elevate them. Indeed, there have been numerous cases in the past where Kenyan women met a White guy online, met in person eventually and started dating, only to end up sexually violated, dead or missing. For the few who met genuinely serious White men on the same platform, they only have their lucky stars to thank.

Love has over time taken a different dimension altogether. It is the reason why many people actively engaging in Online Dating, see no problem with sitting at a computer for hours, chatting with someone who is virtually a stranger to them. The most common explanation given for this being that, they lack the time or conducive environment to actually meet someone in their day to day activities.

Men on the other hand no longer have to chase if the Internet can do the chasing for them, by matching them up with women within their localities. Online dating has even made it easier for creeps soliciting for sex to get laid.

I’m very aware of the numerous online dating success stories, but that does not completely erase the fact that, these people were in reality, too lazy to meet someone eligible in person. Online Dating, despite its positives if any, is just but an easy fix for many who do not desire to put themselves out there in the real dating world. They therefore resort to technology that is going to speed up the process for them to get into a relationship.

Nowadays, we no longer value first dates and deep one on one conversations with someone we are attracted to. We do not even care to read facial expressions! I personally do not believe in connections formed via a computer or laptop. How sure am I that the person sitting on the other end is actually a genuine person not someone with ill intentions? How confident am I that if I send him photos of mine, he is not going to use them to create a fake profile elsewhere?

In this generation, we have reduced one another into commodities which can be solicited for, with a few specifications of how we would like them to look and where we would like them to come from. If we finally meet them in person on a date and decide that we do not like how they look or act, we can always relegate them to the back seat and get online once again, to search for another. So in a month’s time, we discover that we have been on numerous dates with people we hardly knew and we call that putting ourselves out there.

In reality, I find this exhausting. If I’m going to be out on dates most days in a week with people I decide I do not like, then I might as well resort to the old fashioned way of meeting eligibles. That way, at first glance and a few exchange of pleasantries, I can tell whether I would agree to a first date with this guy or not. And it is totally free. No payments.

Connections to me, are better formed in the real world. Sadly, we have decided that we do not want to put any effort in our love lives and prefer the easy way out, that is Online Dating. Indeed there is so much we can do to actually meet someone in person. We can decide to go out more, improve on our personal grooming, interact more with others, be more approachable…but we seem too lazy nowadays to successfully achieve that.

We just know that a dating site somewhere, will do all the work for us and we get to sit pretty, as we chat away with someone else, who is equally as lazy as we are. Never mind that you are going to encounter lots of dodgy characters online and suffer unnecessary frustration until you finally, if possible, meet that one person with whom you expect to click.

 

The Bongo Phenomenon: Alikiba and Diamond Platinumz

I was born into a fairly small family. The second and last born of two daughters with a 9 year age gap between us siblings. Which meant that most of the time, my elder sister was away at school while I remained behind. To while away the time, I began developing an interest in music at a young age.

My tastes in music were influenced by my sister who had been a huge fan of the 90s RnB hits from the US and my parent’s love for Rhumba and Soukous. Mum and dad would sometimes listen to loud Rhumba and Soukous music from the DRC on those weekends when they were both home. For a long time, the Kenyan market consumed the RnB hits from the US, before we decided to begin appreciating our Kenyan artistes and playing more and more of their music.

By the age of 10, I knew most of the 90s RnB thanks to my sister by heart, in addition to the new pop ones that came out. I couldn’t quite sing the Rhumba because most of it was in Lingala with a mix of French which I didn’t speak then. But I could identify the ones I liked at that age. I remember my mum once wondering aloud, where I had learnt the music lyrics to many of the songs I sang along to. As you can tell by now, I was gifted in something else (writing), but listening to music was more of a favorite hobby and still is.

Sometime in 2002, Kenyans started being introduced to a lot of Bongo Flava from our neighboring country, Tanzania. At the time, I listened to the likes of TID, Professor Jay, Mr. Nice, Lady Jaydee, Matonya… It was a fresh kind of music that these Tanzanians crooned in the most fluent Kiswahili. It also proved to many, that you could pass strong messages through music. Like I previously mentioned, it took a long time before we began appreciating our own Kenyan artistes. So for a while, Bongo Flava ruled the airwaves together with foreign artistes from the West.

Alikiba and Diamond Platinumz would come a bit later into the Bongo Flava music scene. By then, I was a high school kid and by my estimation, I think these two guys began making hits at about the same time or slightly later for the younger, Diamond. Over time, Alikiba and the then Diamond, who had began with humble music videos, have evolved into two major acts not only in East Africa, but the rest of Africa as well.

Tanzanian Crooner Alikiba. Photo courtesy of Google Images.

Tanzanian Crooner Alikiba. Photo courtesy of Google Images.

I remember us being introduced to a young Ali Kiba singing the single, Cinderella back then. He was a pretty simple guy obviously trying to make it in music.

He would later on go on to produce a few more hit singles before disappearing for a while from the music scene altogether. When he next showed up, it was obvious that Alikiba was a changed man!

In came a polished, more sculpted Ali Kiba, with high quality music videos and even greater music. It wasn’t long before I decided that I really liked Ali Kiba as a musician. I mean, it was hard not to miss those abs in his music videos. His voice was equally a component of his music that I admired. Being signed to Sony Music Entertainment Africa eventually, went a long way in elevating Ali Kiba’s career.

As for the then Diamond, I remember him for Mbagala. It was the first song that introduced me, in particular, to this guy.

Tanzanian Crooner, Diamond Platinumz. Photo Courtesy of Google Images

Tanzanian Crooner, Diamond Platinumz. Photo Courtesy of Google Images

He seemed like just a normal next door guy and I didn’t really like his choice of shooting the song’s video, in the middle of an obvious rubbish dump. He looked nothing then like the polished Diamond Platinumz of today. But like Ali Kiba, he possessed the most beautiful of voices, a bit more mellow than the former’s and it wasn’t long before Kenyans took notice.

I once walked into our hostel’s kitchen while in campus, to find one of the lady caretakers who was an elderly woman,watching one of Diamond’s music videos with a mesmerized look on her face. She quickly pointed out to me that she liked the guy and how he sang. Recently, my own mum would seem highly interested in the Salome hit remake of Diamond’s featuring Rayvanny. She went on to ask me incredulously, how I could miss that beautiful voice.

Indeed, Alikiba and Diamond are the kind of crooners, who can reach all age groups with their music. However, in recent times, Diamond Platinumz is touted as the biggest act of the two.

Going by his personal life, he has got a pretty socialite and savvy businesswoman who is older than him in his life and who has already borne him two children. Plus his PR Team seem to really know what they are doing. Definitely, these things have kept him relevant in addition to his consistency, collabos with numerous African artistes and obvious talent.

There equally happens to be a rivalry feud between Diamond Platinumz and Ali Kiba in the Tanzanian music scene. Some of these feuds in the music industry according to my reasoning, are fueled by the comparison fact and especially if you are in the same genre of music.

Diamond and Ali Kiba happen to be two music artistes who have constantly been compared to each other. For sometime in the past, Ali Kiba did not seem to be getting it right but Diamond was the quicker of the two in revamping his image. Plus these guys were a kind of representation of the Bongo Flava evolvement. If TID had still been active in the music scene he could as well have been compared to Diamond and Alikiba. It is something that sadly, the two have none been the wiser on how to handle.

However, the direction that Ali Kiba’s music has since taken in recent times, was pretty smart on his part. I also consider the consistency of these two guys to be amazing. It’s something any aspiring musician can look up to and try to emulate.

Why Our West African Brodas Will Always Be Appealing To Kenyan Women

I must admit that this is a topic that has fascinated me for a while. These West African brodas( that’s how they pronounce brothers there for those who are wondering) who land in this beautiful country of ours and within months, have managed to successfully date this Kenyan damsel, who had proven outta many Kenyan men’s league for ages. What is it about these men that makes Kenyan women go gaga and agree to settle down with, after the entire society had already written them off as “too old” for marriage? Talk about classic stereotypes.

Please note that after interacting with Kenyan women who are married to or in relationships with West African men and careful observation, I came up with the below list of reasons;

1.West African Men Are Expressive

A Nigerian man in Nigerian inspired attire. Photo Courtesy of Google Images

A Nigerian man in Nigerian inspired attire. Photo Courtesy of Google Images

West African men are quite expressive. From the way they talk to how they dress. One time I was at the Hub in Karen with some of my relatives and this obviously, West African guy that for some reason looked like someone I had seen before on TV or a magazine, was in all white. From the African inspired shirt, to the trousers, to the sandals. In his company, was this tall, svelte, fashionably dressed lady in jeans and heels whom I had no way of telling if she was Kenyan or equally West African.

Now Kenyan men are going to bash me for this, but you rarely get to see a Kenyan man in all white and sandals and still make the sandals look fashionable in addition to looking damn good! Our Kenyan idea of a man being extremely smart is the official suit. Blame “this official suit looking good” mentality on the British colonial influence, but it has taken a long while for us to see Kenyan men play around with color and other styles that are still dapper. Trust these West Africans to dress in all these bursts of color and still look manly enough, for Kenyan women to literally feel like throwing themselves at their feet.

A West African man will not feel less manly, for expressing himself to a woman about how much she means the world to him. Every woman, not only Kenyan, would want to hear it from a man she’s with that he loves her to the moon and back. We have our own cultures back here in Kenya, that frown upon men expressing their emotions and perhaps prevent our men, from going all expressive about their feelings. I don’t know about the West African culture, Ghana and Nigeria and the likes and what they think about an expressive man, but their men are not about to shy off soon from adorning their women with expressive declarations of what they feel about them.

2. They are providers

I’m not trying to imply that the Kenyan men are not providers. As a matter of fact, just so you know, I have never dated a West African man. I have only interacted with a couple. However, the West African man came to Kenya and took provision to a whole other level. Of course there are those West African men who have landed in Kenya while making money in unscrupulous ways, to be able to throw it carelessly on “trivial” things like spoiling Kenyan women silly.

Kenyan women on the other hand have a reputation of being materialistic. We all get lumped in the same category of golddiggers even though some of us, might have no interest whatsoever in the materialistic things a man has to offer. Kenyan women equally have an East African reputation of being aggressive if the number of single women, successfully raising their children on their own while catering for the childrens’ every need, is anything to go by. Plus there’s a new crop of men who simply refuse to provide for whatever reason.

So it’s not like women generally latch onto men for money purposes. However, the feeling that a man can actually provide for your every need and feel no strain nor complain while doing it, is quite refreshing for a woman. And this is where our West African brodas got the script right. They will provide and provide to their maximum abilities. And especially if he is an upright, law abiding citizen, a woman can’t really complain, can she?

3. Their culture is fascinating

African Print Fabric. Pinterest

African Print Fabric. Pinterest

There’s a fascination with West African culture in Kenya. I mean, we consume enough afrobeat music from West Africa already! Do they listen to our Kenyan music themselves? I have no way of telling. It’s a different culture altogether from their accents, food, names, how they dress, how they act. Even the West African man’s physical build is slightly different from the Kenyan man’s. Different is sometimes fascinating to a woman. It’s a mystery that a Kenyan woman would like to unravel. So coupled with the other two reasons, I believe we are still going to witness many Kenyan-West African unions in future.

Thoughts? I can take the stones thrown at me 😛

We Need More Positive African Stories

I’m becoming addicted to watching  CNN. Nowadays, American politics, the war in Syria (as if that’s not depressing enough) and small bits of pieces of News from Europe dominate the channel. A couple of nights back, I was watching the African Voices segment on it and it was refreshing to see Africa painted in a positive light.

There was this Rwandese guy who is a designer and designs really cool, African print bowties among other items of clothing. We saw him drive to the market to buy vitenges(African print material/African batik fabric), visit the barber shop to trim his Patrice Lumumba inspired look and go for a morning walk. And I was happy that the world was seeing a different side of Africa. Not the usual depressing news of war, starvation, terrorist attacks,  political coups, poverty, retrogressive cultures, illetracy and what nots.

Internet Sources

Internet Sources

That’s not all Africa is made up of. The negatives and unprogressive life. I know by now that the Middle East is starting to get pretty tired of all that negative reporting of the continent. The African continent equally got so tired of it a long time ago, that an African would not hesitate telling off a foreigner, who still views the continent through the misguided lense of the Western media. And I think CNN is starting to move away from the stereotypes and depressing stories of Africa. Kudos to them!

There is alot about Africa that the world needs to know. It really irritates me when I encounter individuals on Facebook groups, who still think that Africa is lagging behind in the 20th century, when the rest of the world is so 21st century. You need to open up your eyes to what this continent has to offer, other than what you have over time believed is the real thing.

A lot of foreign news reporters will mostly visit the marginalized areas of Africa or the slum areas or conflict areas and do stories about those. Their intentions may indeed be pure as they would like to bring these issues to the world’s attention. However, most of the time, these kinds of stories only serve to mislead the recipients, who may lack the zeal to dig deeper about the African way of life.

Africa is a progressive continent. There are developed urban areas, improved infrastructure, up to date technologies, learned individuals, talented individuals, exposed individuals. It’s not all about animals and living on trees wearing nothing but a flap of skin to preserve our modesty. As a matter of fact, I believe some of the well dressed individuals come from Africa.

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

What many people from the West may not know is that aside from the Maasai culture in Kenya, there are more than 10 other different cultures from the 43 different Kenyan tribes.

For the longest time possible, Western media really concentrated on the Maasai community. And with good reason, don’t get me wrong! This is one of the communities in Kenya and Tanzania that has upheld most of its original cultural practices pre-colonial times. It is a rich culture that tends to fascinate the West and people not from the two countries.

However, it would surprise many that other communities in Kenya despite the Western influence in their way of life, still carry out their respective cultural practices to date. Take this personal encounter, for example. I’m sometimes a storyteller, so bear with me on this.

A friend of a friend was getting married sometime in 2013. So as is synonymous with my country, we do a traditional wedding first before the White church wedding that is Western influenced.

Internet Sources

Internet Sources

I happened to tag along. Now in her community, the girls have to be covered from head to toe in two pieces of a lesso (wrapper) for the hubby-to-be to identify who his wife-to-be is. In our midst, there were two girls who had the same skin tone and similar looking feet.

One was of course the lady getting married. And we had this hilarious moment, advising her to tie a colored band on one of her toes and alert her fiance about it via text, before we came out so that he doesn’t get confused and fined, for picking the wrong girl.

So the older women covered us up, all girls about the same height in the lessos and we were guided outside where the ceremony was taking place. Believe it or not, the hubby-to-be seemed a little confused and nearly chose the girl with feet that resembled his wife-to-be, despite the colored band he had been alerted to earlier missing on the girl’s toes.

I mean, these are some of the cultural practices from other communities in Africa, that the Western media can do stories on other than the usual. Just to show how over time the African culture has blended in with the Western culture.

If you thought illetracy ruled the African continent, you should take a look at the highly talented graduates, from many of our universities. People who come out of campus not with a job mentality but a vision to be self employed and despite whatever financial constraints they may face, strive to achieve their goals. And many times, if they are committed enough to their dream, their efforts pay off.

We do appreciate the genuine curiosity of foreigners who would love to truly know about our continent. But just don’t lump me in the athletics team in campus overseas, just because you assume being a Kenyan, I can automatically run. Not all of us Kenyans have the ability to do long distance running and that’s because we are equipped and talented differently. We possess a diversity.

Being from the African continent and proudly so, I would advice anyone seeking to do an African story to intergrate himself or herself with the African society. Visit the developed areas, watch how the African carries his/her day to day activities and trust me, despite what we may face as a 3rd world continent, you are going to get beautiful, positive stories to tell the world about us.

The Kenyan-Indian Connection

Nairobi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta after their press statements at State House in Nairobi, Kenya on Monday. PTI Photo by Kamal Singh (PTI7_11_2016_000128B)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta after their press statements at State House in Nairobi, during the PM’s visit to Kenya. PTI Photo by Kamal Singh

The day before yesterday therebout, I chanced upon a post by a local media station on Facebook, claiming that the Kenyan-Indians had requested to be recognized as the 44th tribe of Kenya. So I was curious to read the comments and the vitriol that spewed from Kenyans could not be masked in the comment section. I’m not sure if the Indians among us read those comments and what they felt about it.

As I have already mentioned before on my blog for the sake of my foreign readers, the Indian community came to Kenya in the 1890s to aid in the building of the Kenya-Uganda railway. Many opted to stay and bring their families after it was completed. So when we are talking about the Asian community, as we like to refer to them in Kenya, we are talking about 3rd and 4th generation Indians who only know of Kenya as their home.

It may surprise you though, that the Kenyan-Indians upheld their culture and still practice many if not all, of their Indian cultural practices to date. It may surprise you further, that many Kenyan-Indians have chosen to get married to their fellow Indians and stick to their close knit way of life. To the other Kenyans, this tends to come off as snobbish and probably racist?

It’s not something we openly talk about but when given a chance, Kenyans can really talk ill about the Asian community. This was evident in the many comments I scrolled through on the Facebook post. Many of the bitter complaints arising from the kind of treatment metted unto them while working for Indian bosses, who have a reputation of being hard to please and too harsh for their liking.

In essence, I think Kenyans would really appreciate it if their Indian brothers and sisters chose to intergrate with them. I also think that the foreign culture of Indians in general greatly confuses them. It is a culture that is rich and Kenyans would love to understand it but fail miserably at it, with the level of silent suspiscion between the two groups that simmers just beneath the surface.

My childhood best friend in the 8 years of primary school happened to be a Kenyan-Indian. I have equally worked for an Indian boss. Therefore, when I talk about the Asian community, it’s not out of bitterness or a need for vindication. It’s basically to bring issues to the fore, that have for a long time been swept under the carpet yet they affect our Kenyan society.

Trust me, there are many Kenyans of African descent who have worked for Indian companies and bosses and have a long list of complaints regarding unfair treatment. But why is this so? Methinks colonialism and ancient Indian culture played a huge role in contributing to this kind of sour relationship between the Kenyans and Kenyan-Indians.

During colonial times, of course the Black Africans were at the lowest on the tier. As a result of their skin color and culture considered primitive by the colonialists who had their own hidden agendas, the Black Africans were looked down upon and suffered many injustices as a result.

The Indians were of course lighter with silky hair and therefore not really prejudiced against as much as the Black Africans were. They were of course not considered to be of the same level as the European colonialists, but they were placed somewhere in the middle, above the Black Africans.

It should also be noted that the Indian coolies who came to offer labor in building the railway line, landed in Kenya at a time when colonialism was just taking root. Coupled with their ancient caste system that grouped individuals in society according to their social standing, it was inevitable really for the Indians not to look down upon the Black Africans.

By Independence, the enterprising Kenyan-Indians already had a presence in many economic spheres. Not so for the Black Africans in Kenya who had been long suppressed by the colonial system. Indeed one of the first president’s agendas was to eradicate illetracy among mainly the Black African community.

It is however unfortunate that the preceeding generations of the Asian community in Kenya, held on to what their forefathers believed in and passed it down to their own children. The Indians chose to stick to the familiar thus limiting their interaction with the other Kenyans in society.

At my time in primary school, I would still see Indian kids from different classes, opting to form a large group of friends despite their age differences. The memory is still vivid in my mind when my Indian friend once tried to include me in one of these groups.

One Asian girl in particular, carried on speaking in Gujarati despite my apparent lack of understanding and my friend’s obvious struggle in communicating back in the same language, thus opting to reply in English. It was the last I would agree to tag along. However, there were and are still those Kenyan-Indians, who do not mind interacting with the Black Africans as was evidenced by my friend back then.

I think the thing that irks many Kenyans the most though, is the fact that we have heard of stories where if an Asian got married to an African, he/she would be considered an outcast by his/her family. This was quite evident in the My Bukusu Darling saga, where an Indian girl in Western Kenya fell in love with her father’s employee, an African and moved in with him.

It was evident that her parents did not agree nor approve of it and many Kenyans doubted the union would last. It is not everyday we get to see an Indian marrying a Kenyan of African descent. True to the majority’s doubts, the union between these two individuals did not successfully weather the family storm. Quite soon enough, the marriage broke.

This and many other misplaced beliefs between the two groups is what makes genuine interaction nearly impossible. Over time, Kenyans have equally developed an attitude toward the Asians, that further hampers hopes of the two groups integrating.

When a Kenyan walks into an Asian owned business/company as an employee with a set mentality that he/she will be mistreated, then justified acts of sternness by the Asians present, will be interprated as acts of cruelty. It is what fuels the constant whines and complaints about difficult Asian bosses and causes others to steer clear of the Kenyan-Indians.

As for the Kenyan-Indians, the mentality that an African cannot be trusted to do a good job, be a good friend or an upright individual, is what creates that level of suspiscion that you can almost feel, when sometimes interacting with an Indian. The superiority complex that still makes a section of Kenyan-Indians, to view themselves as better and of a higher social standing than the Kenyans of African descent further stretches the divide.

The Indians in our midst are an enterprising lot that have greatly contributed to the Kenyan economy. However, some of these backward mentalities, religious and social stances that we stubbornly hold on to, are what makes Kenyans be wary of the Kenyan-Indians and harshly criticize their suggestion of being recognized as a tribe.

Behold, A Kenyan Christmas!

As is Kenyan tradition, many of us will travel upcountry or to smaller hometowns for Christmas. The upper middle class who consider themselves lovers of travel with disposable income, will however head to the coast or to an exotic hotel somewhere in the middle of the wilderness teeming with wildlife and have themselves a wonderful, drama-free Christmas surrounded by a spouse or partner and/or children.

Photo credits: Internet Sources

Photo credits: Internet Sources

For the rest of us headed upcountry or to smaller hometowns this Christmas season, here’s what to expect;

1. An Overflowing House.

A house that once consisted of ageing parents, will soon be transformed into a house teeming with humanity. All the grown children will decide to come home for christmas together with their offspring and hapless spouses, who lacked believable excuses to remain behind. Children from the city will suddenly whip out tablets laden with downloaded games, to which the neighborhood children or children belonging to cousins who never left the locality, will gawk at in awe as these “enlightened” city borns tap away with such dexterity.

Granny will suddenly want to brag introduce her successful children to her church women friends. They will always seem to come trooping in every single evening and struggle woefully to pronounce the city names of the little ones. Names like Tamara, Chantel, Kian, Jason…will prove such a huge task to grasp for these church mamas who are more conversant with the missionary names, Margaret, Jane, Lucy and the likes.

For the hapless spouse, they will only have to endure the inconvinience of a houseful with a most believable smile plastered on their faces, all the while vowing silently to skip next Christmas’ journey to their in-laws.

2. Sharing beds.

Most of the time, the youngest of the adult children who is not yet married and probably still in campus, will be requested to share beds with the children who sleep the worst. Just to appear polite, he or she will probably agree all the while knowing that texting away in the cover of darkness will soon be proven extinct, by these young ones who sleep as if they are in the middle of a swimming lesson.

Mornings will be terrible as waking up with aching and tired muscles and stiff necks from all that kicking and turning of the new bed occupants during night time, will be the order of the day. Plus they risk being dumped by that hot chic or guy who probably has started assuming they are cheating, that’s why they nowadays do not seem to keep up with night time texts.

3. Never ending chores.

With the daily influx of visitors coupled with the increased population in the house, chores will appear to stretch the entire day. The hapless spouse who can whip up some tasty chapatis will automatically be expected to cook two bundles of chapatis come Christmas day.

She will most definitely spend the whole day in the kitchen wrapped in a lesso while sitting on a low stool, cooking chapatis for everyone else in the house. When done, she will probably have a splitting headache from sitting too close to the carbon monoxide laden jiko and lacking in appetite, as the smell of cooking chapatis has bloated her tummy already.

Again there will be utensils to wash, a kitchen to clear, diapers to change for the toddlers who have eaten too much for their little stomachs to handle and tea to make for the older generation. By the time Christmas season is done, many who did the house chores will feel as if they had been to a bootcamp rather than a holiday.

4. Family drama.

Of course there’s that brother or cousin who never made anything of himself and has since decided the world must be against him. Or that sister who started giving birth in class 7 and over 20 years later has 5 children, with 5 different men and is married to a jerk, who beats the daylights out of her.

Those ones will decide to settle scores over Christmas lunch with relatives from the city they think abandoned them at their most vulnerable. The sister will start with sarcastic remarks aimed at a sister, who is probably doing well which will eventually escalate into a bitter exchange of words. The brother will visit the chang’aa den, add some weed to it and decide to smash the windows of another brother’s car. Chaos will erupt. Some will fight, some will cry, some will start packing up in a bid to return back to the city where they came from…

In the end, the elderly man of the house will bring order by threatening to curse anyone who misbehaves and reminding everyone, that they are related by blood incase they had forgotten. Christmas will still be celebrated and grandparents will be happy to see their children and grandchildren and to receive gifts from those who came home for the holidays.

 

For everyone else celebrating Christmas across the world, I wish you a Merry Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!