Mark Kaigwa

Posts Tagged ‘Issues’

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.

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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.

The Village Near the Valley

In Perspective, Real Talk on February 11, 2009 at 11:40 am

A while back my church had a mission trip to a not-too-distant  slum/village called Mji wa Huruma. The slum is located in the Runda area. A sharp contrast to its’ surrounding area, with lush carpeted and trimmed lawns, fountains and yellow-bricked driveways.

This is a more humble area, and it’s a village. By village I mean a small community of people who have goings on in, and possibly around, the Runda area. And the dynamic in the village is notable, I would say that possibly 3/5 of the village are children between infancy and teenage years.

Changaa Brewing

The mission was simple: For a week, bring the message of Christ: love, forgiveness and redemption to them.

Forgotten, almost, by their immediate neighbours, the church’s duty was to bring and show love to all, and to bring ties of friendship to the community.

It was business as usual when they first entered Mji wa Huruma, which when loosely translated means the "Village of Pity". An assessment of needs, engaging the youth through sports, and ladies and mothers speaking to fellow ladies and mothers in the village.

However, for the men there was also one unique challenge that presented itself. One of the things that goes on in plain sight was the preparation of chang’aa [chah-ng’-aah] which is an illicit brew that’s made and sold within small communities in varying degrees of strength. When I say in varying degrees of strength I mean strenght enough to kill, strength enough to paralyse, and strength enough to blind a man.

I might rephrase that to say that it doesn’t occur in ‘plain sight’ but rather since it happens at a valley (it must often occur near a river) it’s never really in plain sight, it’s just not hidden from anyone’s attention.

It’s preparation is simple, but very effective. Mastering the age-old technique of distillery, it’s preparation happens by a river. Always. And at Mji wa Huruma it was no different, a select group of men, 4 of them, taking turns every now and again, on an unwritten rota with an unspoken set of rules.

Preparation requires a drum, old oil drums made of iron are preferred in this case, their oil-stained insides along with their rusty charred exteriors are perfect, and they conduct heat well. The drums are then cleaned out, or not. But usually an effort is made to ensure that they aren’t poisonous, but not in all cases.

The oily cask is placed by the river, and stands on a custom-made holder comprised of yet more old iron, or stones, it sits on a tripod of sorts; one that will remain unburned, but can take some heat. Old, metal seat frames are used at times. This is what supports the drum as it’s put upright. Once balanced and supported, the drum is placed a slight angle toward the river.

Below it is what ought to be a perpetual flame, and an array of items can be used, some being more harmful than others such as plastics or other inflammable objects being burned to keep the heat on the base of the drum. From old foam from retired mattresses, to garbage, though wood is of course the preferred kindling of choice.

Next, the drum needs contents, the contents that form this wicked concoction vary, but the staple ingredients are usually water, sugar and yeast. The variables include the oil in the drum and what possibly is the most devastative and corrosive element: embalming fluid. Either embalming fluid, or embalming powder, call it what you will. It’s effect is just as potent.

Oh, and I might just mention, that this is what is known to be in the nefarious potion. No one can know what it doesn’t contain if you catch my drift.

It is usually served in small (or large doses) about a glass that goes for Ksh. 10 or Ksh. 5, 15, 20.

You might have wondered at some point about the police. WE’ll they’re in on it. They come down the hill to the bottom where the brew is being boiled and brewed, and as if to literally add fuel to the fire, they pick up a bribe, give a smile or two and leave. This was witnessed unashamedly by our team.

I did hear, though, in fairness to them, that they came through the place sometime and shot up the drums that make the chang’aa.

As I wrote this post, someone asked me, Mark what is the purpose of posting such information, intricate and detailed as it is?

I answer him in the same way I would answer you if you asked me the same. I write this not so I can condone, glorify or justify the creation of such, but if in some way we can provide a sustainable solution, I know people working in places where it has been hard to reverse the culture of such a mind numbing drink.

What I may not have mentioned here are other examples of people who’ve given more to see people work themselves out of this. The work of another good friend of the church, Dr. Ndung’u who not only pastors and leads a church in Ruaraka, but he also practices dentistry there and treats and heals the physically and spiritually sick, so to speak.

Or perhaps of the projects going on in churches in and around peri-urban areas and areas afflicted by poverty e.g. goat-rearing, livestock farming and even rabbit-keeping which, along with the Gospel, and great follow-up, has seen men deep in the chasm of such alcohol freed and released with mighty testimonies.

It is of worthy note, I believe, that at the end of the mission week, we renamed or rechristened the village, ‘Mji wa Baraka’ which means ‘Village of Blessing.’

I challenge your thinking to give me a way around this practice in some way, something that I could propose.

Your comments and musings are appreciated.

“Ignore-guration Night”

In Poetree on January 27, 2009 at 9:00 am

Surprise!

Celebration

Yoo-loo-loo-loo-lation!

Jovial Suits and Ties Celebrate

Gathering. Getting Close.

Anvils Dropping

Filled with Helium.

They prolong their buoyancy

Time telling ties that

Gravity will prevail.

 

Knives. Rushing In.

Fans Flare

Push Air

Back. Forth

Black Hoarse

Shouts and Pants

Stop to Dance

Yell OoOoOoH

Increase Vocal Exponentially

Inversely Reflect Emptiness

 

Harken. Listen

Dish out slices.

Fish out wishes

Dream dreams

And stitch back

Loose seams

Dark nights and

White daze.

Minority Reports

That my I’s don’t pray

Ok, I’ll stay awake.

 

Balloons fall

Unashamed by the wind

You pick up ribbon

I Drop the pen.

Same Invigilators.

Different Exam.

 

 

© 2009 Mark Wambugu Kaigwa

Jealousy, Envy and other reasons to blog

In Politricks, Real Talk on January 17, 2008 at 11:10 pm

Well, reading several blogs the other day, I couldn’t help but feel a little green… We all got blogs the same time, I remember one morning in the computer lab at Uni, guys logging on to blogger, wordpress, and we all started blogging. As you’d expect the first blogs we’re slightly incoherent, and we still existed in that state of ‘What am I going to write about?’- At this point, I’m sure all the bloggers I started out with have gone on a “ Speak for yourself” state-of-mind but who cares?

I mean, all credit to those who blogged for a while and were consistent… God knows we all need a bit of consistency in our lives. But in retrospect, some of them have gone on to become some of the most read Kenyan bloggers around( Big up guys, at least I get some credit for knowing you) And in my mind, I want to believe that “ Of course, if things had been different then I would be one of the most read bloggers, but as you can see from the previous two paragraphs, I’m not doing myself any favours.

At a recent Kwani? Open mic, Maik (i saw that that’s how he spells his name) Kwambo talked about the effect of having a blog and what it’s done for him as a writer and poet… Needless to say that his peroration didn’t spark the blogger in me back to life. But funnily enough in a random occurrence of both serendipity and pure randomness I met someone on Facebook-And I mean met them on Facebook, I don’t know them- who turned out to be a faithful blogger, who in turn led me to the guy who inspired me and my group of cronies to actually set up our blogs and that’s how I found out that one of the guys I started out with, is now a heavyweight, in the blogging community.

Well, it turns out that after all that, what really set up my affinity to start blogging on my cobweb-filled pages was nothing more than envy. Well, obviously that word doesn’t encapsulate what I really felt, the words jealousy and envy are so…’ evil’. It was more like a good form of envy, a competitive spirit, yet it mad me green. Whatever it was, it’s got me using my laptop for good (and not for evil, whatever that means )

In yet another random occurence, Raila just called his fellow countrymen Kenyans. Your probably wondering to yourself “What’s wrong with that?” but he didn’t say it like you just did, he said Kinyans with Ke as in Key rather than Ke as in Kennedy. Now aside from the linguistics class I just took you through, no Kenyan, in the short history that i’ve learnt has refered to the rest of the country Kinyans.

I want a good president, I honestly don’t care if it’s Kibaki or Raila, or Pastor Pius( I’d rather him, at least he’s been quieter, and has no choice but dialogue coz of his church). I’ll cheer whoever it is every second because as much as we see tribe as the first thing, I tend to believe that I see individuals. And that’s my word, and my first blog.