One of my favorite movies with superhero characters is The Avengers. Let me also throw Transformers in that pool, with Terminator, Kung Fu Panda, and the series Samurai Jack (although I am yet to hear about its movie production). Few things are sweeter than getting lost in a childish fantastic dream-world of good guys saving the day. I mean, just think of Iron Man coming to your rescue when the landlord is giving you a hard time. Better yet, think of Thor – mmm..? Not a bad momentary antidote to the stresses of the world, wouldn’t a girl say?
Yet, all that prowess displayed in all that 3D grandiosity is unreal. It is as real as the possibility of Obama stepping down from presidency to claim a homestead in a coconut-leaf thatched one room hut in the poor suburbia of Mombasa. All things are possible but, I am just saying.
Speaking of which, he flew back to the States yesterday afternoon after a weekend in Nairobi, where he mingled and gave a talk in the Global Entrepreneurship Summit – a gathering of leaders of businesses in various industries from around the world. It was a glam moment for Kenya. Kenyans are buff with pride. The nation more or less came to a standstill most of the week with anticipation, and then with the actual events of the day of the Summit.
I have personally been in media blackout, save for social media like Twitter and Facebook. I need to pay for that cable network I have been postponing to for so long. And so it has been a tad challenging in keeping abreast with updates as I would have preferred. Anyhow, I gather President Uhuru Kenyatta shone in the spotlight, and that CNN was oozing ghastly symptoms of a recurring ‘foot-in-mouth’ disease – eeiik!
Anyway, of all the Kenyan entrepreneurs that showed up, I wondered how many belonged to the Film industry. I do apologize and I stand corrected, but the premise I am going with is few to none.
Kenyans are movie hogs. We love a good movie. Nothing like a weekend of movie and series binging. That is our neo-culture. It seems to solve a lot of our problems, mostly emotional – an adequate substitute for the ice-cream tub, though they go best together.
But save for the few Faiba anime advertisements shown years ago, we barely ever hear uproar of applause evoked by a good local television production – just as we trample on each other to catch a good European soccer match at our favorite hangouts, yet still get mixed up on who exactly wears the blue or the green jersey between Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards. And besides those two, not much is known about other local soccer teams, really.
Well, two weeks ago or so I came across this excerpt from a BBC production called the Human Planet. It has a number of eye-opening documentaries about different cultures of the world. One particular segment talked about the Maasai found in the plains and in the semi-arid lands of Kenya. Their culture is mindboggling. I mean, who steals from a pride of lions while they are hungrily tearing at their wildebeest prey? Who, for the love of their own life, walks towards lions with nothing but a couple of bows and arrows, no shield, and probably a mere dagger in their belt, which end up unused?
I watched this piece of film and my jaw dropped wider than Scooby Doo’s. All my superheroes were faded and distanced in shame by the grandeur of these unsung heroic figures. There were zero special effects, no stylist, no make-up, no costume expert and no voodoo. Just men going about their everyday activities, stealing meals from right under the noses of lions – who, on sighting the warriors, scram in sheer terror – straight up sexier than anything Marvel or Hannah Barbera can concoct. Sorry, Thor. Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and the US Army combined have nothing on these guys either.
And where does all this happen? Right here in Kenya! The sad part is, it has taken me two years to learn about this documentary!
I was born and raised in Kenya, and have lived for approximately a quarter of a century, and this is when I get wind of this world wonder, right at my doorstep? The shame! Media blackout or not, this is embarrassing. What are the listed wonders of the world again? … Puh!
The majority of Kenyans are like me. That is why, despite our challenges with tribalism, I cannot for the life of me accept the notion that we should cancel out tribes. Yes, unity is good. It is essential for harmony and development, and general well-being of citizens, but to pretend that tribes do not exist, or to be embarrassed by them, or to attempt to wipe them out completely is sheer folly, and akin to killing a mosquito feeding from your limb with a hammer.
There is so much wealth within our tribes. Our challenge is not to endeavor to bury our heads in the sand so as to deny their existence, but to draw from them for the good of the nation, just as Obama and Lupita are from the Luo community, yet we all bask in the glory of their achievements.
I am reminded that our wealth is in our language – the carrier of our knowledge – and in our culture and traditions. How else would such warriors best pass on such expertise to anyone curious? (Recall the many Greek and Hebrew terminologies in Biology or Theology that first have to be translated back and forth so as to effectively communicate meaning).
Our communities have survived and thrived by gathering and applying knowledge for centuries without end. We therefore deprive and impoverish ourselves by looking down on and by withholding this knowledge from ourselves and from our children, because we end up hindering potential advancements founded on the same. Let us not forget the need to rein in the elusive male role model for Kenyans that we can relate to.
Thus when I looked at this clip I wondered, where my movie makers and story tellers at? What a great source of inspiration! I mean, is it not who Samurai Jack, or Bruce Lee, is: Morans from other (Asian) mothers? Only, the Maasai are a living fact. How about the legend of Shaka Zulu? Have we utilized that legacy at all?
Literature – which includes film – is how all word gets round. We have been acting the way we do majorly by the contribution of Hollywood, and we all agree we could do better. If the wildlife in Kenya positively inspires the world as it did with the Lion King in the 90s, what justification do we have for stopping there? Africa will rise again the day she looks to others much less, and realizes that her wealth is within herself.
Take a peek at the clip. Let me know what you think.
Image from digital-art-gallery.com