Mark Kaigwa

Posts Tagged ‘Banter’

Kuweni Serious – Waking a Sleeping Generation of Kenyans

In Perspective on December 15, 2009 at 12:13 pm

Young people in Kenya are no strangers to controversy, it must be said. The perpetrators of Kenya’s post-election violence in the last elections used the youth to execute their agendas.

It’s about time somebody spoke up and like Obama will tell you, there’s no better time than now.

Introducing Kuweni Serious ~ Swahili for ‘Get Serious’


They have some serious points of view for ‘young people’ seeing as they are the firebrands of a sleeping generation.

Kenya’s youth have largely been characterized as hedonistic generation of brand-obsessed youth, moving from party to party in the night and congregating on Facebook during the day – using TV, music and brands as our badges, our ID. We’re the Moi generation – the ones who grew up on the now-defunct “Maziwa ya Nyayo” school milk. We watched our parents root for and obtain multi-partyism, and we watched the country shrivel up and almost die under years of Moi’s rule.

And they are not afraid to call out the issues that plague young people in Kenya today.

We’re detached from the affairs of the country, they say – picking our addictions (which one will it be? Drugs, sex, TV, alcohol or God?) while the country burns. Perhaps it is true – what would you expect from a generation who are continuously referred to as “tomorrow’s leaders” in a country where people like one Mr. Kibaki have been in government for as long as Kenya has had a government? Tomorrow never comes, so we might as well carry on with our lives and forget about politics.

Here’s one of the videos on Kuweni Serious featuring George Gachara of Picha Mtaani of which needs a blog post from me too. He speaks candidly on the role of the media in Kenya, and his prediction of what will happen in 2012.

So as you can see, there is a debate that ought to be going on, young person to young person. More on Gachara’s interview here. Note: Youth in Kenya is anyone under 35. Kuweni Serious are trying to put a spotlight and include thought leaders on what we really ought to be thinking about, seeing as youth continue to be the majority of voters in this country.

It is perhaps only when our country was set on fire that we began to see how deeply politics affects us. A few months later, we were paying hitherto-unheard-of prices for fuel, there was water rationing, and power rationing, and then food started to run out. Only then did many more of us realize that we can’t hide forever in the company of the Lil’ Wayne’s and Prison Breaks of this world. Perhaps it is only when our comfort zones were threatened that we realized that our leaders, our “Honorables” are self-obsessed, thieving, murderous idiots. Honorables, indeed.

Blinky Bill, member of Just A Band and overall inspiring dude is honest when asked why he thinks we’re a whining nation, and why he thinks we keep voting in the same old people into Government.

Which moves us on to the real question on youth. Staring it face-to-face and asking people what matters.

And so we at Kuweni Serious – we’re a bunch of kids ourselves – have decided to go out there and find out: how do Kenya’s youth feel about all the chaos around us? Are we proud to be Kenyan or are we secretly wishing we could get green cards and disappear forever? Where shall we raise our own kids? Are we happy?

Convener of the National Youth Convention, Emmanuel Dennis, gives outspoken insight into why we can’t give up on this nation and why the youth seem so apathetic and detached from politics.

Food for thought.

We intend to seek out all the young people out there who are trying to make sense of all this, the youth groups, the activists, the people who read the news and get so annoyed that they write angry status updates on Facebook, the students, the guys and girls who’ve just landed their first job and have been hit hard by the realities of the economy. We want your opinions, we want your stories. We don’t know what we’ll find, we might step on a few toes, but we’ll do our best.

Join Us. Kuweni Serious.

And there’s plenty more where all this came from including a poignant piece by Njoki Ngumi, as well as interviews with award-winning photographer Boniface Mwangi, journalist Abdullahi Ahmed and more. Follow Kuweni Serious on Twitter and Join them on Facebook too.

As Obama said – The time for change is now.

29th October 2009

Kenya’s youth have largely been characterized as hedonistic generation of brand-obsessed youth, moving from party to party in the night and congregating on Facebook during the day – using TV, music and brands as our badges, our ID. We’re the Moi generation – the ones who grew up on the now-defunct “Maziwa ya Nyayo” school milk. We watched our parents root for and obtain multi-partyism, and we watched the country shrivel up and almost die under years of Moi’s rule.

See No Evil, Taste No Evil, Shave No Evil

In Perspective, Real Talk on May 11, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Every week I head over to Mbugua’s for my ‘cut’ it’s one of the highlight’s of my week. I usually arrive anytime between 8 and 9 PM.  clip_image001

The fluorescent glow seeps through the chicken wire of Mbugua’s barbershop onto the South B’s macadam road. And like flies to a flame, there’s always activity in the busy nano strip-mall of shacks and hutches. As you already know, Mbugua has his place right next to Sam’s. I tried to be diplomatic, going to Sam’s every once in a while, especially when I saw that Mbugua’s place has one or two customers waiting. But great stories and a guaranteed laugh locked me down at the ‘Good Look Barbershop’ for life.

It’s funny because Sam’s is actually a better looking barbershop. It has a better sound system, Mbugua didn’t have one for a while, and the collage of 2 inch-thick boards that separate them don’t do much as soundproofing, so if at Mbugua’s you have the pleasure of sharing Sam’s sound. That’s changed recently, with Mbugua getting his own sounds, but his dreams are still a while away. It’s always interesting trying to have a conversation in between two wanna-be sound systems. As if matatus weren’t bad enough. It makes either for an amusing conversation, or a frustating shouting match.

clip_image002So each week I step into his cozy, yet awkwardly leaning barber chair I ready myself to hear what a week he’s had, and what the latest is. This particular time, I found Mbugua at the video library next door to the butchery playing ‘poker’ with a couple guys. (In Kenya people know ‘Crazy Eights’ as ‘Poker’) I take one look at him and thought ‘Wow, things must be going well for him, he’s put on some weight, his face and his cheeks are looking a whole lot rounder’. I watched the game as he ‘ate’ their proceeds. I went ahead of him to wait for him at his place as he wrapped up the game. I hear an outcry that Mbugua has to come back because this guy has no money left. Mbugua had pocketed a cool Ksh. 800 ($10).

Mbugua arrives with an awkward smirk on his face. I took a closer look at his face, and saw some disparity. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something looked off. I asked Mbugua how he’d been, and staring at his face through the mirror in front of me I realised one side of his face was swollen. He still had this smile on his face, so I didn’t ask, but it was hard not to stare. There was no visible bruising, so I became curious to what might have caused it.

" Mzeiah huskii meno yangu ilikuwa imenisumbua.

(Man, you wouldn’t believe how my tooth was killing me)" He said. "

Sikuwa nikikula, natafuna na side moja.

( I was barely eating; chewing with only one side of my mouth)"

I proceeded to laugh, he says things in such a farcical way I couldn’t help it. It didn’t take long for me to realise this was a bit of a serious moment, but he’s never to be taken too seriously, so I laughed again.

I told him I thought he was doing well for himself, putting on weight. He chuckled. Mbugua said he’d not been able to sleep for nights and had trouble eating, as his face got swollen, and the pain got worse. He found himself in a quandary between removing the tooth ‘kienyeji’, which amounted to removing it himself, or going to a dentist. I kept bursting into laughter as he continued to narrate his experience to me.

" Nilishindwa kulala. Siwezi lalia uso side hii

(I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t lie down on the swollen side of my face)" He said.

He had to lie on one side of his face at night, he said. And his mouth became so hot, he had a big jug of water next to where he lay on the floor, waking up every 10 minutes to take another mouthful to cool him. My laughter at this point almost cost me another haircut, he almost made a ‘mistake’ so I decided to hold it in as he continued the story.

"Eh, sikuwa veri. Asubuhi  Asubuhi nikachukua ma-painkillers na bado. Naskia tu kichwa ni ka inalia ‘pu-pu-pu’"

(Man, I wasn’t in great shape. In the morning I took some painkillers and I still wasn’t good. I felt like my head would throb ‘pu-pu-pu’."

He later realised that he had to go to the dentist and proceeded to book an appointment with one. I asked him what kind of dentist this was, he didn’t say much. But I was pretty sure it wasn’t some loony with a couple syringes and some of those ‘toothbrush branches.’ You know, some kook with some mwarubaine for anaesthesia and other ‘herbs’ with a ratchet/secateurs for ‘tools’…Scary.

So he got the tooth removed, and Mbugua was quick to tell me I hadn’t seen anything yet. Things had looked far worse the day before. I quipped asking if his head felt heavier on one side. He gestured that his clippers could make a couple mistakes on my head to make it ‘heavier on one side.’ I went silent. For that moment.

He said it was better now; he had become a bit more used to the meds. But for his unlucky clients the day before, he was feeling much drowsier from the first doses of the medicine. It also didn’t help that he didn’t have a mirror up. ( So the clients had no idea what he was doing)

"Kwanza huskii niliget customer mwingine hapo mpya! Hajainyolewa na mimi. Nikamskiza mastory, nikamweka kut poa.Karibu nimguze maskio. Si ningeitana. Hao wengine hata walisema hawajali, wataniamini tu."

(Can you believe I got a new client? (with no mirror) He’d never been shaven by me. I talked some stories with him and gave him a good cut. But I almost sliced his ear, aww man, I would’ve had it then. For the other (customers) they said they didn’t care. They would trust me."

I could imagine going, getting a shave, and trusting him without ever seeing the finished product. I’d trust him. I wouldn’t think twice about it. Don’t know how the new guys felt about it that day.

This is probably the edited version of his travels, but it was such a hilarious story I was compelled to share. I continue to witness to Mbugua one step at a time. He’s a bit of a showoff and doesn’t hesitate to tell me that he has a sugar-mummy or his total disinterest in marriage. So it’s all baby steps. Baby steps.

See no Evil. Taste no Evil. Shave no Evil

Penguins by estherdh

 

Photos by Oaxania, Lotor-Matic and Esterdh

The Barbershop Professor

In Perspective, Real Talk on February 24, 2009 at 12:07 pm


Originally uploaded by DanieVDM

I coined a saying, though I might not be the first to have come up with it “There’s a professor in every barbershop.”

As many as there are stretchered couches that the pyschiatrists and therapists will have you lie on to tell all your problems and dilemmas, there are barber chairs and stools and seating arrangements in barbershops across the neighbourhoods of Nairobi and this African continent.

Ng’ang’a is my barber-barber. I might do you well to explain just who a barber-barber is: A barber-barber is a man (or woman, these days) who cuts hair and beards as a trade, and has cut a particular customer’s hair for over 10 years. Like I said, Ng’ang’a is my barber-barber. This man has known me longer than I’ve known him. From hi-t0p fades to ‘Jordan’ to Afro trims, from blowouts to curly-kits and those hair-gone-wrong days he’s been there.

I haven’t been to Ng’ang’a’s for over two years, but it doesn’t erase the fact that he’s been my barber-barber for over 16 years. Giving stories as he cuts my hair, barbers seem to have a savoir-faire that’s pretty darn good. And they need it to stay in business. I have countless recollections of telling Ng’ang’a all that was going on in primary school, all the thrills and spills of pubescent life, not realising he was actually becoming a confidant in some way.

Ng’ang’a’s was always the place to be in the large neighbourhood, and he moved shop like two or three times, the clientele always remained faithful. Even as his prices went up 200% as he accustomed himself to the new ‘relaxing routine’, that dominates barber-world of haircut, wash, massage, and a rubdown to the head, clientele remained faithful.

I can be said to be one of the ones who just moved on. With a barber-barber you don’t move on, you just ‘take a break'; it’s strangely like a marriage. No one knows how to cut your hair like he does. Regardless, when he changed to incorporate the ‘relaxing routine’ I changed too. I like all that jazz, but keep it under 100 or 200 bob for me, it’s just a haircut!

Needless to say I’ve found another barber, and if you read about Mbugua and Sam’s breakup. I went to Sam’s yesterday, since Mbugua’s was a little busy, if you consider two people in line busy. I was only going for a cut-which is where he doesn’t cut the hair, but the edges of the hair along the forehead, down to the ears and round the back of the head. Thinking about it, I don’t know why it’s called a ‘cut’ then…Anyways, he did a good job.

It was our convo that really got me sure that there is a professor in every barbershop. He always has a story, an analogy or in most cases an allegory -hence my referral to gossip above- to keep the exchange flowing. With me we talked many things, among them death, and passing on, as you’ll find out more in the Thank You post coming soon.

And if you pick up a phone call in there, it’s likely you’d be grilled or teased (depending on how the barber feels) and the second-hand speech will be used against you by all means.

I’ve been to a couple different barbershops in my days, I’d say, but in life, it looks like you can’t really have that many ‘barber-barbers.’ If you think of it like a marriage, you want it to all work out the first time, and hopefully things get easier, and hopefully better with time.

Gents, are you taking lectures and discussions with your ‘professor’? Ladies, is this true for salons? Wouldn’t be surprised if there were similarities.

Mbugua Gets a Good Look

In Perspective, Real Talk on December 29, 2008 at 8:15 pm

I had the honour of christening my barbershop in South B ‘GoodLook Barbershop’ this evening. My barber- Mbugua was one of the hundreds of people affected by the government’s amazingly orchestrated demolition scheme in South B.

Destroying all standing structures on the ‘Road Reserve’ their tact was simple but effective. Tuesday whilst collecting occasional bribes and mingling with the residents they hear the familiar jibe “We’re coming to bomoa (demolish) you guys next Monday, you know.” Amidst banter, negotiation of kick-backs, and such.

They came that very Friday, and didn’t leave a single standing structure, save for the Container turned Shop outside Zanzibar Lane, and the Butchery – They had to really jitetea ( plead their case) with meat that would go bad, fridges, and other amenities. So they stood, and I came that evening to find my barber Mbugua gone, his partner barber Sam gone and Mbugua’s mentor, and probably the most popular barber in South B- Kinyash gone.

Sad, and with a gruff, hairy face I went my way. I enjoy getting cut at the barbershop. It’s a social thing I guess in its own way, with witty discussions and all the repartee of a salon, this is the testosterone-filled equivalent.

So, it broke my heart the next morning to come and find Sam and all the other people affected by the demolition. They had a little protest march. I got glimpses through the white gates of Zanzibar Lane. I met him at the matatu stage and I told him to stay strong. I promised that if he set up again that I would pass by and ‘promote’ him and Mbugua- they had been partners at this barbershop for little more than 8 months. But Sam’s brother is the one who owned the business.

He gave me his phone number. And with a meeting tomorrow where I just had to look the part, not alongside all this gruff, rugged and manliness crawling over my chin and jaws. It’s too distracting to the common mwananchi, but it’s a great disguise with all the attention I seem to be drawing from a popular billboard right now ;)

I came this evening, they had electricity, but alas, Mbugua and Sam who were the tag-team that formed ‘Lucky Barbershop’ were no more. They were together but in separate shanties. A shrewd lady had actually demolished her own wall, built up shanties and was to rent out these kiosks to the previous owners, at twice the price of the rent.

She was now renting it out at Ksh.7000 a month, that’s around $90 a month. Meagre it may seem, but imagine paying that from when you paid around $30 a month. It was a leap, but like in any business, Mbugua and Sam stuck to their individual guns and would stick it out.

So I pass by Mbugua’s and it’s barely complete, he just got the electricity done, two fluorescent lights strapped hastily across the mabati roof. It’s 8:30 PM, the eerie light bathing the piles of sand and ballast outside his barbershop. I see the words ‘Barber’ painted in a fading red, probably the something oxide used that morning to make sure edges of the mabati doesn’t rust.

And I get my cut. And yes. It’s a good look. But in between our conversation there’s the feeling that he’s going to have to really compete with Sam on this one. I haven’t been into Sam’s, but I can even feel that Mbugua’s clippers aren’t as sharp. My hair doesn’t give him any problems, but if I had nappier hair I wouldn’t be smiling. Sam’s also has music, the radio plays and leaks into our stall. It’s got some bass so I know he’s got something decent on his side.

I look at Mbugua’s side and I see a speaker with wires showing while it sits on top of a wood base around a foot and a half off the ground. ” We’re going to do it big this time,” he says “I’m going to get a DVD (LCD Screen with a Video CD Player) and I’m going to play whatever my customers want.” So if I’m feeling a little mellow that day, he’ll play me some blues as I get my cut, or some reggae to ease my soul after the troubling day.

Good Look is on it’s way to looking better. Let’s hope it works out for him.

Mbugua’s got dreams, and God know we all do.

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