One of my all time favorite poems is “Song of Lawino” by Okot p’ Bitek. In the poem, Okot captures beautifully how the African culture is eroded in favor for the Europeans’. Published in 1966, the poem is about Lawino who is married to Ocol. Both Lawino and Ocol are from the Acholi tribe (A Luo subtribe) in Uganda. Ocol is educated and has converted to Christianity while Lawino has done neither. Ocol, because of his education now despises Lawino and goes ahead to marry an educated woman of his “caliber” by the name Clementine. Here’s and excerpt on how Lawino describes Clementine;
Brother when you see Clementine! The beautiful one aspires To look like a white woman ……………………….. Tina dusts powder on her face And looks so pale; She resembles the wizard Getting ready for the midnight dance. She dusts the ash-dirt all over her face And when little sweat Begins to appear on her body She looks like the guinea fowl And she believes That this is beautiful Because it resembles the face of a white woman ....................... Sometimes she wears The hair of some dead woman Of some white woman Who died long ago And she goes with it to the dance What witchcraft!
Lawino then juxtaposes this with her concept of beauty:
Ask me what beauty is To the Acoli And I will tell you; ……………….. Young girls Whose breasts are just emerging Smear shea butter on their bodies The beautiful oil from Labwor omor, You adorn yourself for the dance If your string-skirt Is ochre-red/you do your hair With ochre
The point I’m trying to make here is that beauty, together with concepts like “natural,” “success,” “morality” etc are not inherent features, in other words, they are things we are taught to see; beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and the beholder is always a student, a student of the culture and times within which he lives. These are concepts whose meaning keep shifting depending on the prevailing culture. Today, the culture is driven by capitalism, hence the beauty industry. Ever asked yourself, why do we need a beauty industry? Who really benefits from the existence of such an industry? And if you were one of those behind such an industry, what would you do to make sure you sell as much product as possible? As you think remember this, real power is not seen, and the best way to keep someone in prison is to not have them know they are in prison. Nipeeni answers fupi fupi.
Let’s now talk about the concept of “natural,” is Chapati natural? is Fanta natural? Everything we see around, including us, are made from materials found on earth, so where do we draw the line? My definition has always remained, whatever nature has allowed to exist is by definition natural. If gayism is possible then it’s natural, I know the bells in some men’s brain are triggered :-). . It may not be good but that doesn’t make it unnatural. If plastic can exist then plastic is as natural as you; both being caused by a human being. Unnatural is a term used to describe what the prevailing culture is trying to discourage, but in itself, the word is empty. Climate champions use it to push their agenda. Capitalists, with no shame, slap it on products for more profit.
In today’s terms, success is related to overconsumption; in other words, how much more do you have over and above what you need. So for example, if your house has more rooms than you need, you are deemed successful, if your car consumes the most amount of fuel, you perceived as successful. Success today is based on how many useless things you can accumulate. I use the word “useless” here seriously, not as a pun. You really need to be seen as having as many useless things as possible. Like a Golden watch, or a platinum necklace, or a big farm, don’t worry, they got me on that last one too, I think it would be awesome to trip and fuck among goats in some hacienda in Laikipia. Ask yourself, why are products being shoved down our throats like that? Everywhere, billboards, social media, T.V they are displaying new products, new versions of old products, vintage version of new product, it’s exhausting. They have succeeded in creating status anxiety where if you do not have a product you feel incomplete. They make it feel like if you do not have airpods you are going to die, you either buy them or just go and die. Have you bought them? Stop reading, click on that link and go buy them.. Hey look, Nyashinski has bought his, are you still sitting there without it? and even before you decide whether you can afford it, there comes another one, Do you vape? only legends vape, are you a legend, no?? What the fuck are you, be a legend and go smoke. Wueehh, pia hii generation yetu tunajaribu!
Concepts are a factor of the prevailing culture, and to avoid being pulled in all directions you need to understand that they are empty of meaning and as such are susceptible (kissungu kubwa lassima) to exploitations. It’s Marcus Cicero who said, “he who doesn’t study history goes through life like a child.” There you go, study history, learn your culture, put your damn life in context, don’t sway like a gay flag in every street.
In other news, today marks 3 years since I started this blog. The main idea was to capture my thoughts as I age, so my boys and my grand children, and generally those of a different generation could use it to put their lives in context. I hope those brats will appreciate this. Anyway, so far the journey has been intellectually stimulating and for those two readers I have, I hope you’ve been stimulated too. It’s a privilege that I’m able to do this with you and I appreciate it. I hope we’ll keep doing this till one of us drops. Don’t be sad, just buy me beer!