My stats alerted me that 35% of my readership is on Saturdays at 12 a.m. What can I say? I have established a legion of party-poopers and I’m strangely pleased with that. 😉
So, for the juice,
… I established a reserved dynamic with a handful of creatives- the newly dread-locked and inked pile whom I deconstructed in the last post. ‘Reserved’, in the manner that my involvement had a hunch. One appearance to a show here, and a token purchase there, and more frequently an opportunity to observe human behavior. And with time, I even learned to just smile when wished ‘love and light’ as opposed to enquire.
This curious bunch turned out not to be a bunch so much as a colony. Every circle, every event, and every seating space I occupied was dominated by a fleet of fashionably bummed out, culturally charged, and deliberately dressed dudes and chicks each pitching a spiritual conviction and a soundcloud link. The new (nu) face of Nairobi had a headwrap and budding locs… and a healing septum piercing.
The social observer in me was tempted to label this a case study in cultural globalization. It appeared as though the city was experiencing a hybrid shift and was struggling to negotiate global youth trends and perspectives into a homogeneous, Christianized and colonized framework. It’s replicated all over the world, but here is my specific beef with its manifestation in the creative industry where I live.
1) LACK OF AUTHENTICITY
Flocks of recent dropouts appeared to embrace the same inspirations, at the same time. Each cluster named itself a collective and made certain to employ spacey synthesizers, hazy melodies, a dashiki, and a breathy female voice speaking of energies and spaces mid-song in Solange’s voice. :p The women wore headwraps and face paint, while the men photo-shopped a gold crown on their EP cover, each focusing their activism on black oppression in America, “blackness” and “melanin” many of whom, have never stepped out of the continent and will never tackle the issues we face in their art forms. Of poverty, of HIV, of corruption. It’s cool. It’s all done in African American vernacular with a chance of UK grime slang. The delivery can be great, and it can be terrible. But an audience that feels that the more obscure to look at and listen to, the better, will likely snap their fingers indiscriminately.
2) THE APPROVAL OF SUBSTANCE ABUSE
Events are incomplete without the supporting role of marijuana. Marijuana as a fragrance, marijuana as a pictorial prop, and marijuana, of course for the state of arousal. Am I speaking out against it? No. But of course one might wonder why art can’t speak for itself, why talent can’t manifest itself, why events can’t carry themselves, and why a culture cannot thrive on its own without a substance backing!
3) THESE ARE PRIMARILY WEALTHY KIDS (THE HYPOCRISY)
This culture is informed heavily by the Internet. By kids who have the access to transmit global trends into Africa, which translates to a privileged minority leading the pack. This minority dons a culture that is highly Westernized – and by that, I mean, appropriates African American culture. This segment of people is upper-middle class, and inaccessible to many Kenyans, yet fronts as a counter-culture, an underground, an anti-systemic fringe. However, this underground only eats at vloggable restaurants, could never set foot in a slum (except for the backdrop of a photoshoot) and doesn’t speak it’s local patois (Nairobi sheng) and does not produce art that is palatable for consumption by its local youth; the lower middle-class. This is a case study of Pan-Africans who only drive German cars and drink European liquor.
4) ONLY A HANDFUL MAKE A LIVING
Access to wealth leads to the accessibility of cameras, professional makeup, production systems, leads to a saturation of the expertise in this subculture. And I say ‘expertise’ rolling my eyes. Saturation makes it difficult for talent to stand out, or even be identified, clearly leading to an overall derogation of quality in these industries with this specific generation. I’ve come across so many photographers, make-up artists and music producers, that I wonder how each of them makes money! There’s no heavy money-incentive however, because these are kids who have everything catered for, and may or may not be doing what they’re doing for the long-haul. Many nu youth appear so comfortable working for exposure, or ‘art for art’s sake’ that I frequently wonder about the artists who make art for bread; and how they navigate these waters.
5) “LOVE AND LIGHT”
Until somebody stands up to unpack it for me. 🙂
That said, I know GREAT artists in this city, many of whom curiously deviate from this prototype. However some manage to be great even within these circles. And power to you. And love and light, and whatever…