I vividly remember the noise that rent the air during the promulgation of the Kenyan constitution on 27 August 2010, while making rounds at the famous Uhuru Park in Nairobi. The police were having a rough day trying to control crowds that had come to witness the promulgation of the new constitution.
The public address system reverberated high above popular performers and serious-faced hawkers who to them. it was just another day in office, never mind the security, trolleys bearing ice cream and drinks and an exited mass of humanity, decorated by the powerful speeches that read, “We have it at last!” as crowds cheers swallowed the entire capital.
Fast forward to today, six years after that historic occasion, the speeches are now forgotten and just like before, politicians are back at it, the untamed lot. The common citizen, on the other hand, is back to their ‘role’- the voter.
As the election period fast approaches, less than a year from now, the art industry, together with the civil society and Alliance Francaise have organized a series of activities under ‘Hii Chapta Ni Yetu’ to commemorate six years since the constitution was promulgated, with special focus on Chapter Six, which deals with leadership and integrity.
The organizers lined up a series of activities which included exhibitions and performances from various groups culminating to the Hii Chapta Concert on Saturday, 27. Of note would be ‘My Fish my Choice’, a satirical piece which ran throughout the series, depicting how hate speech crimes are resolved in the country and a cartoon exhibition from leading cartoonists like Gado, Maddo, Kham, Celeste, Gathara, Vicndula, Stano and Casso.
The concert started in high spirits with the likes of Wahenga. Wenyeji making the mammoth crowd stand in high applause to greet Kenya’s youngest performer Chris who at the age of five has the gusto of famous South African reggae act, Lucky Dube and impressive skills that would move the crowd. His Guitarist sister Esther 9 and Father Joshua Ouma would amaze the crowds with showbiz antics that made the ‘twitteratis’ forget their gadgets to marvel at the courage on stage.
Other headliners included; an all ladies group-Mabinti, Makadem, Gravity Band, Sarabi and Juliani- who dazzled the crowds with their socially conscious music. As the concert went on, the antics and jigs grew even more astronomical as Juliani and Makadem spun the crowds with what could be described as juvenile energy. Sarabi would bring the floor down and raise the dust with their elaborately mastered tunes that sent the crowd surging to the stage.
Besides the palpitating sounds that awoke the spirits of the city, which had died over the weekend due to the much publicized Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), top poets, Mufasa and Teardrops also stirred the audience with their satirical poetry. Their poetic consciousness came pouring after a cool ten minute discussion between the immediate Chief Justice Willy Mutunga and activist Boniface Mwangi, facilitated by renowned Kenyan investigative journalist John Allan Namu. The panel raised a number of issues amid the din from attendants.
As the concert came to a close, some questions lingered in my mind; will Kenya’s art industry heavily rely on the help of international institutions to raise some of the imminent issues in the country? How far have African countries come in advocating for African cultural expressions? Or has this remained the turf of foreign influence in Africa with the likes of British Council, Alliance Francaise and Goethe Institut which do a remarkable job in showcasing African art?