Tuesday, June 19, 2012

POWOJune 2012: Lessons in Kenyan Timing

For a long time, any time keepers in Kenya will find themselves having to waste the very time they keep in an attempt to help others keep theirs. It's a sacrifice many an agent of change finds themselves having to make. Greater good and all.

Having had enough of keeping time, especially with morning events in Kenya, I try to be logically late. If it says 9 am, then any time before noon 9:10 to 9:20 am is usually a safe bet. When you have no idea how to get to Pawa254, however, and your only connection of State House and anything YMCA is the men's hostels next to the University of Nairobi hostels, things obviously begin to get a little interesting.

Add to that mix a free-spirited pal of the femininely wily kind - whose idea of 'am awake and ready' is 'give me 90 more minutes to act out the entire season of America's Next Top Model.' Just like that, 9:20 becomes 10:45.

Google maps, anecdotes and lack thereof them later, we check into Pawa254...

The Pawa254 Ubuntu space where the #POWOJune2012 was held, Saturday 16th
The colourful warmth of the space hits you first, then you turn left and accost a life-size Obama staring you down. The draperies let in ample light onto the bright polished linoleum, as an undergrowth of graffiti and fancy hair about yay high begins to materialize. Creatives, Simon says...

On stage sits a gathering of bravado and brainpower so intense it could stoke up an atomic bomb. For the sake of clarity, NSIS, that was a joke. An explosive one, I might add.

Panelists (L to R): Room Thinker, Okoiti Omtata, Maddo and Muki Garang.
Seeing as Inspector Bauer is now possibly on his way from the NSIS HQ, I'll try avoid the tickling time bombs and get down to the lessons POWOJune delivered...and, I might add, leave the cyber before they track me down.

Kenyan Timing Lesson 1:

Thinker would probably reiterate the above comment, and add that if you're going to blog anonymously, you might as well forget about telling your friend that 'I am Yule Mbois...na usishow msee...!'

So if you're gonna use art to protest, remember that there are certain risks that come with it, risks that you must be prepared to deal with. Online, it's easier to protect your trail, but as Boni put it, offline you need to be street savvy and realize that while 'we need more offline protests than online protests', ukishikwa, 'co-operate. The police can beat you to a pulp when there are  no cameras'.

Cartoonist Maddo, had his own taste of the safety stick, or lack thereof it, with an email from one ataq'kenya430@gmail.com (AK43), stating, among other things, that 'your termination is imminent.' The contract AK43 was referring to here being life. Notice the lack of insurance after life.

Kenyan Timing Lesson 2:
Okoiti Omtata is one wise and passionately driven patriot. You could sense the conviction he had in a better Kenya, endlessly oozing the sort of ideology that justifies the phrase 'Science is organized knowledge, wisdom is organized life.' Just off the top of my head, here's a couple:
  • The right to choose [leadership] implies the right to reject it.
  • They [Kenyan leaders] have the cake and the knife. It's about time we took back one.
  • We do not fight [for a better Kenya] so that we can become the oppressors. Emancipation, and not liberation, is what
  • You can become Kenyan by losing direction...
  • We are spectators in our own tragedy. They say that it will take a certain degree of madness to change the world.
  • Only a hungry Kikuyu will fight a hungry Luo.
  • When spider webs unite they can tie a lion
  • Carpet bomb every heart in every hut [until change 'devastates' us all]
  • Why take the people of Bondo to Nyeri for cultural weeks and vice versa? Who will get on a bus [in a state of election violence] from Bondo to take the war to Nyeri?
The list, clearly, is endless. Omtata also spoke of a newly formed party, the Justice and Development Party. There's a more exhaustive piece on POWO's site.

Kenyan Timing Lesson 3:
Let me, in the interest of your time, now explain why these are Kenyan Timing lessons. Because this was a FREE forum. State of the art facilities. FREE food...ok one of the three is a lie, but the point is, I thought the event was to start at 9am...and got there at 10:50. I was lucky, judging by this piece, to realize that the event had only just started when I got in, what with Muki Garang's Maisha Yetu being on screen when I got there.

Moral of this lesson? I got there, in my mind, one and a half hours late for the event. The last time I attended POWO, in May of last year, it was at the iHub, and started at 9 am, hence my confusion. Notice 3 things, though.
  • Kenyan timing is all about a lack of initiative. To be on time. To do more than simplistic slacktivism from the safety of our keyboards/ pads. To quote Muhammad Ali (or the right-side wall of the Pawa254 conference hall, not sure which) 'he who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life...'
  • I still showed. Why? Because I simply could not afford not to.
  • You could have shown. Question is, why did you not? Next POWO's on August 18th. 
Clear that space. The amount of insight that simultaneously pours into you at POWO is worth the 2 or so hours. It's exactly the sorta environ creativity demands...and so does change.

Above and below: Powerful shots from Pichamtaani

Raya Wambui captures the audience with her affective poetry...
Boniface Mwangi and Ndanu

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