I am an odd woman. I am not saying that as some kind of cultivated eccentricity to hide the fact that I could be suffering from a severe lack of being interesting. No. I am really ridiculously odd. For instance, the country has run amok with Chiko Lawi’s misstep and the SGR launch.
Twitter is flooded with calls for people to boot Damian Marley (who is around for a concert this evening)
from the country (idiotic nitwits who don’t even know what’s going on) and others who have their trolling armour on and will stop at nothing to eviscerate poor Chiko. Facebook is full of others who can’t help but mock Chiko’s video. One even pointing out that his actions were those of a mitch. Chiko was inaccurate, unpleasant, inconsistent and just plain wrong. He apologized though and even went ahead to privatize his social media accounts as one is wont to do when embroiled in a saga of such ‘epic’ proportions.
In other parts of the world (read USA) a comedienne has come under fire for posting photos of her holding a fake decapitated head of the current president, Donald Trump. Kathy Griffin
posted the photos, I would guess, in opposition of Mr. Trump’s tenure as presidency. She immediately retracted the photos and issued an apology saying that “She had gone too far”. Both supporters of Trump and non-supporters were unhappy with her graphic photo.
The world has a conscience. A bandwagon of armchair police who traverse the strangely lit hallways of the inter-web where posts without any forethought could land you in a world of trouble even an evil stepmother wouldn’t wish on their unwanted step children. And everyone seems to be in a hurry to join it. There’s always three camps. The one that want to tear down everything is their sights with their pithy savagery, the ones who want to try and appear reasonable and the ones who take advantage of the controversy by spamming the corresponding hashtags to promote their latest two-for-the-price-of-one-and-a-half-promo or their latest blogposts (smiles cheekily).
Then you have folks like me. I am usually so out of touch with the world that I only discovered Tove Lo and Alessia Cara this May! If it wasn’t for my appearing on Twitter every other time, I wouldn’t even know anything until I am confronted by the conversations at work. Really, I barely keep up with “current affairs”. And no, I am not trying to burn my picture as a capable freelancer. I’m trying to make a point I will get to soon.
I listen to music that you wouldn’t find many 24 year olds listening to. I watch series that went out of style in the 80s. I sometimes dress like 1950s California threw up on me and 1970s Kenya tried to clean me up. I have no sense of modernism but I seem to be fairly popular. I mean, I have more than 50 followers on both Twitter and Instagram and I passed 100 friends on Facebook ages ago. I have to be doing something right. Which isn’t just setting a social bar so low.
So how do I cope? What is it that I do that makes me capable of having conversations with peers and oldies and young’uns alike without having to resort to Google the moment they are distracted by a passing horn bill or a new DJT tweet? I come up with anecdotes. And where do I get my anecdotes? From my bizarre collection of course.
I’m fascinated by the unknown, the dismissed and the forgotten. As such, I really enjoy bringing to light certain facets of our lives that ordinarily would have been overlooked. Also, I love looking like I know a lot. Don’t ask me who Drake is currently dating. Don’t ask me about Microsoft’s latest product meant to toss the MacBook Air out of the atmosphere. I find out about those like most people do. Someone mentions it to me and before they can utter those dreaded words, “What do you think of…?” I have already googled the News regarding the subject and crammed what will be necessary to remain a functioning (and wanted) member of society.
What I have is a fountain of knowledge- which makes most people either think of me as an insufferable know-it-all or the most fascinating woman they’re ever likely to meet. This was cemented to me when I went out with a group of friends. Well, it was a friend who brought along a ragtag band of social drinkers. We were walking from Dagoretti Kona to Yaya Centre. I hung out at the back of the pack hiding beneath my headphones listening to Alessia Cara aptly croon, “Oh God, why am I here?” when one of the members of the ragtag band decided to converse with me.
It started with an awkward handshake.
“Hi, I’m Dre.”
“No. Mari. With no E. My name is Kyuk not French.”
Usually this is where I lose most of any potential audience but this Dre was undisturbed.
“So what are you listening to Mari with no E?”
“Led Zeppelin.” My playlist had shuffled from Alessia’s introverts’ anthem to Robert Plant rambling on.
He nodded like he knew what I was talking about.
“Do you rap too?”
“Why do you ask that?”
“Because most times people who wear headphones are usually DJs or rappers or something.”
I suppressed the urge to sigh and walk away. See how hard it is for an antisocial cynic to be let loose?
“No, music isn’t really my thing. I prefer books and movies…”
As we walked on, we swapped favourites. His favourite TV show was Arrow. He’d never heard of mine. His favourite musician was Jay Z. I didn’t even know how to begin explaining who mine are. So I switched conversations and asked him- out of the blue- if he likes art.
“Uh… Sure,” he answered with a wobbly voice. Unable to understand where I could possibly be going with that line of conversation.
And so I began, “The other day I went to Archives…”
The Kenya National Archives is a nerd’s idea of orgasmic nirvana. It’s the lovechild of a museum and a library and a gallery. It houses Murumbi’s collection of artefacts from all over the world and most especially from Kenya. Two floors of photos, paintings and relics that would probably rank in the billions (USD) should they be auctioned at Sotheby’s. Along the ground floor, the left has a shrine dedicated to Wangari Maathai and opposite her photos and a list of her accolades is a shrine to Tom Mboya. Off that, a corridor with African masks and Nigerian art hang off the walls. From that display of Nigerian art, I talked about a stenciled metal sheet which filled up my quota for friendliness that evening.
The piece itself is not the most eye catching. Beaten into the silver or stainless steel panel are stenciled drawings of characters from my class 1 art book. Or worse. But the story isn’t one I would have thought of even if I had the genius of Young Sheldon in class 1. It was about a king who had a four breasted daughter.
He decided to marry off the unlucky woman and the woman agreed but only if her intended wouldn’t insult her breasts and in turn she wouldn’t cook certain leaves. But the husband sadly ended up calling her “you know what” and she cooked them leaves. Them leaves though. They ended up making her turn into a river. And the king was happy that he got a river.
Similarly there is a panel on the other end, painted on a leso where comic book like drawings circa 1800s depict the origins of the Menelik dynasty. They were believed to be descended from Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.
My trip to Archives helped move the conversation to something that was both engaging and didn’t show me to be the freak I really am. Dre was duly impressed and even insisted that he will accompany me on my next trip back to Archives or another museum. Events like those really help me deal with the reality that I can’t be Kenya’s Howard Hughes. Primarily because I’m not a billionaire and also because I am really not a billionaire.
Archives (and other treasure troves) has given me so many stories where I can be able to get away from the pressure of keeping up with latest trends or figuring out what new thing has occurred in the Twitterverse. So, dear friends, forgive me when I start banging on about how the Turkanas used to make shields out if rhino and hippo hides. It’s because I can’t talk about much else.
Photo of Damian: Capital FM Kenya
Photo of Kathy & DJT: E! Online
Photo of Archives: Hapakenya
Photos of Archives artwork: Taken by Yours Truly.