Kenyan Bloggers Day (Prt.2)

Celebrate Kenyan Bloggers Day Button On June 1st 2006 Kenyans everywhere will be celebrating Madaraka Day. Madaraka Day commemorates the day that Kenya attained internal self-rule following an important milestone on the road to independence. To mark this event I have joined my fellow Kenyan Blog Webring (KBW) members as we blog in unison under the banner ‘Kenyan Bloggers’ Day’.
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While working on the first part of my Kenyan Bloggers’ Day contribution I came across Doodle 4 Google: my Britain.

[This is] a nationwide design competition open to the UK’s 10 million school children. Young people are being invited to design a Google doodle explaining what it means to be British today. The winning doodle, which will be displayed on the Google UK homepage for 24 hours, will be seen by around 18 million people.

[read more the full article]

Doodle for Google began in 2005 and the winner of last year’s competition was 11 year old London student, Lisa Wainaina (pictured below with Dennis Hwang and her wining doodle)

She designed a doodle titled ‘Day of the child’. Lisa’s creative theme and clever incorporation of childhood images into the Google logo contributed to her being named the winner of the London competition. Lisa’s doodle was hosted on the Google homepage for 24 hours for millions of people to see, including her very proud parents and schoolmates.

[Read more here]

Lisa Wainaina Doodle 4 Google 2005 Winner

As I read the 2005 Winner’s name, I felt in me an emotion similar to (but stronger than) the feeling I get when I first notice a stranger wearing a Kenyan T-shirt or carrying a kiondo. It matters not that I do not know the person, or they may not be Kenyan. All I see is a person carrying an aspect of my identity and often they do so with such pride that it makes me want to stop them and say,

“Because you chose to wear/carry X, every person you meet will be exposed to a part of my culture and identity. They will admire the beautiful X you wear/carry. They may even want to find out more. In short you are representing and for that I am grateful’

I have never had the courage to say all the above to a total stranger. Sometimes I wish I did have that courage. Especially since these happy thoughts are often eroded cynicism.

I begin to question the carrier’s/wearer’s identity,
‘hmmm….I bet he/she is not even Kenyan’.

I speculate on their motives,
hmm…I bet they wore X, carried X because the “Ethnic” look is in.’

I conclude that the stranger pronounces Kenya as Kee.ni.a, they have only visited Kenya once on a 10 day package holiday/safari. Based on this I convince myself that the stranger has no to right to lay claim to my heritage. It may be days later before I remember how upset I get when others attempt to redefine my identity and the ways I choose to display it.

Nobody has the right to decide the cultural signifiers that others may use to define their identity and I certainly do not have the right to define another persons’ cultural/national identity.

With this in mind I approach the issue of Ms Wainaina and her outstanding achievement with a certain degree of caution.

I do not know Ms Wainaina and the articles that document her win make no reference to her national identity. I do know however that Wainaina is a Kenyan name.

Actually, that is all I need to know.


Through her name, Ms Wainaina carries an aspect of my cultural/national identity. Through her success she has exposed an aspect of my identity to millions of people. People all around the world will admire her work and will congratulate her on her win. They may even ask about her name. In short she is representing. And for this I am grateful.

As I think of Lisa Wainaina and her online achievements I am reminded of something the Acrobat said in his Kenyan Bloggers’ Day post.

Kenya was not a house we moved into, it was a house which they started building, which we will complete and which our children will furnish. In that sense we mould it in our character. It is a reflection of us. The good and the bad. But it is us.

While his remarks are in reference to the building of a nation, I feel it can also be applied to the building of a nation’s online identity.

A short while back, it was almost impossible to find news, opinions, gossip, facts and stories on Kenya written by Kenyans/friends of Kenya. In the recent months, through the proliferation of Kenyan/Kenyan friendly blogs we have started to shape Kenya’s presence on the net.

The Kenyan Blogsphere was not a house we moved into, it is a house which we are still building, the Lisa Wainana’s are already working on the interior design and by the time her children move in they will be adding loft conversions for our ever growing family.

In this sense, through our blogs, we are moulding the Kenyan Blogsphere and in turn Kenya’s identity on the internet. It is a reflection of us. The good and the bad, but it is us.

And damn! Am I proud of us!

Happy Madaraka Day

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Lisa Wainana image from Doodle 4 Google’s publicity page.

Comments

  1. Now that is a post.

    You are so right. I too felt a sense of pride in Lisa Wainaina because she is a Kenyan child. I too get that emotion when I see a kiondo, or a tee-shirt with a tusker,or I love Kenya lthingy (or something like that) on someone, be it a tourist or a Kenyan

    We are the bricks, the cement, the wooden doors and the flowers (roses) and paintings that will beautify the KBW house (and we will be judged on what people see). We are growing and hopfully in the right direction.

    HAPPY MADARAKA Day MJY

  2. Kui, funny you should bring Lisa up. When this happened last year, I was chatting online to Akiey and was looking up something in google and found that – which I shared with him – and you should have heard us, all proud like we were the parents – I am so glad you brought it back up. We werent quite sure of her identity cos that time, they had misspelt her surname to something a little different (I would have to go to the site and see if its still there). But, the funny kenyans we are, we didnt care – we took that as part of ‘us’ and talked about it abit.

    I do so looooovvve your doodle and yes, I am green (no reference to the colour of our flag) with envy tht you did that – shhh, I must try to pull my creative side – but I wouldnt even register in your radar so perish the thought.

    Today was a day I was proud to be both a member of KBW and a Kenyan – it was a good day, and I thank and appreciate all the efforts done to keep KBW going. It is good, and thanks for this two posts.
    (Isnt it time I went and wrote something on my own blog?)

  3. Great post and a great doodle you have over on your photoblog. Your words ring true about building this blogosphere, it is a reflection of us. Of the role we play in our society. In many ways we are trailblazers. Happy Madaraka Day!

  4. I am really confused because I left a comment on a “google Kenya doodle” but its not over in part1. So the question is where did I leave it?

    Your post is really important as it makes us aware of our prejudices and negatives on seeing our cultures appropriated. I completly understand your feelings on seeing the “Kiondo” and then wondering if the person is Kenyan or from somewhere else – then we start to have feelings of being “appropriated” by other cultures as if there is something negative about enjoying and participating in other people’s culture. I was minded of that today myself. The realities are that we should be proud that people appreiciate our respective cutlures traditions symbols and so on. I think there is a big difference between “appropriating” and “appreciating” or “respecting”. The former is to take over or to take away whilst the latter is to give and acknowledge. Not sure if all this makes sense really.

    I have enjoyed taking part and learning about your country and everyone’s feelings towards Kenya – for me its kind of like being invited into someone elses house which is wonderful and you feel good at the welcome you recieve but still you kind of feel it would be nice to go home too and then you start to miss your own home – but aahhh – we have to live, no?

  5. Thanks for sharing about Lisa W. Didn’t know anything about her. Her creativity is amazing.

  6. Thanks for sharing about Lisa W. Didn’t know anything about her and i must say was very proud to see her work.

  7. When I read your post I immediately remembered Guess sending me a link that evening in late fall ’05 and I too impressed & proud beyond words! Lisa Wainaina does have talent & I felt even more proud knowing she is a representation of what Kenyans are when we let our creative juices flow:)

    Am so lol! at the 21 Questions running through your mind when you see someone with a Kenyan thing on them. I go through that too and at times walk up to them & ask a few Qs.

    That Google Doodle is just too good am oggling at it again, and again. That’s doodled to perfection!!

  8. I’m glad to hear about Lisa’s success. More power to everyone who’s representing us in positive ways in different parts of the world.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] MJY mentions the kinship felt when you see someone in an item of clothing or carrying an object that is distinctly Kenyan or displays something about Kenya. One time while rushing to catch the bus, I heard someone say jambo to me. I responded in kind, and briefly slowed down to exchange pleasantries with the man. It turns out he had spent sometime in Kenya. Two weeks later on a beautiful Saturday morning, I was enjoying the sites and sounds of that same place when this man came up to me and started speaking to me in Kiswahili. All because he noticed me in my jacket. This time round I made sure to engage him in conversation, unlike my previous situation with the other man. This guy was very interesting. Apparently he was in the US on a tour he conducts annually. He had been accompanied by his second wife (the first having been left behind to care for the children). Yup. It was all I could do to maintain my composure! Nonetheless, I enjoyed talking to him. [...]

  2. [...] MJY mentions the kinship felt when you see someone in an item of clothing or carrying an object that is distinctly Kenyan or displays something about Kenya. One time while rushing to catch the bus, I heard someone say jambo to me. I responded in kind, and briefly slowed down to exchange pleasantries with the man. It turns out he had spent sometime in Kenya. Two weeks later on a beautiful Saturday morning, I was enjoying the sites and sounds of that same place when this man came up to me and started speaking to me in Kiswahili. All because he noticed me in my jacket. This time round I made sure to engage him in conversation, unlike my previous situation with the other man. This guy was very interesting. Apparently he was in the US on a tour he conducts annually. He had been accompanied by his second wife (the first having been left behind to care for the children). Yup. It was all I could do to maintain my composure! Nonetheless, I enjoyed talking to him. [...]

  3. [...] Young people are being invited to design a Google doodle explaining what it means to be British today. The winning doodle, which will be displayed on the Google UK homepage for 24 hours, will be seen by around 18 million people.3 [...]