The Kenyan culture is undeniably predictable, especially our daily Television schedule. For the life of me I don’t know how our forefathers managed really and as insane as it may seem, television has become an intricate part of our culture just as it would be if it happened to be around in the 1700’s or so. In an average family, this is the trend; they all wake up, the TV is reluctantly switched on to the morning breakfast shows as the kids prepare for school and the parents for work , leaving behind an enthusiastic house-help ready to take on the few chores around before that long awaited sit-down. She or he, now quite accustomed to the remote control and the power that it bestows them, switches from channel to channel (most probably Citizen TV) for those upsetting rural soundtracks that the kids don’t want to listen to, as the singers gossip about people like they’re some licensed rumormongers *eish yawa. They then watch reruns of Papa Shirandula or those increasingly mind-boggling soap-operas and it’s a race against time as they wait for wale watoto wa boss. The watoto who have themselves been through some rather unpleasant encounters with their teachers and their meals at school, now find solace in the 4 O’clock cartoons, their harsh reality now behind them. Time breaks down in instances of sibling fights, make-belief cushion castles, bloody noses and bruises and quickly done homework, as the parents now near their homecoming.
As they approach the house, a pseudo-adrenaline reaction takes place as the house help now courses her way back into the house from her neighborhood rumor mills, who chuckle to themselves*boss ameleta nyama leo. The kids do their best to hide their bruises and their guilt as they place their school things where mummy or daddy can see them, for that self-assuring pat on the back, like they were not just fishing dad’s ties from the toilet minutes ago. Everything is as it should be. When Mzee arrives everybody knows to switch back to the news channel because he needs new roughage, new material for that after work political debate with his fanatic friends over tea. These close friends, he has probably dragged around since high school, through college and even through his wedding(s). With the news done, the whole family gets that one chance to enjoy altogether the local program that airs before the Mexican telenovelas. With their ushamba antics and clowniness, these actors have got our country through the toughest of times. And with a new generation of producers, most of the local programs now tackle a lot of youth issues with messages that target this majority of the populace.
We can all fondly remember that first television. We had Greatwall. That name is uttered in respect for it is the founding Father of all of our great TV sets. With its towering antennae that with the slightest movement could bring joy or utter chaos. To its powerful knobs that clicked with every turn, signifying the coming age of a new channel or just annoying static *zile mchelemchele. The first program I can remember was The Bold and the Beautiful and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just me as a 90’s kid. My mother has more distant memories of television than I do when KBC was VOK (Voice of Kenya) and I remember, me and my younger brother asking her how we acted as babies or something. My mother is a delight, she’s explicitly honest and the most chilled out mom in the world and so she’s like, we were watching the bold and the beautiful then your younger brother saw a couple kissing and I think he freaked out a little then asked, Mummy mbona wanakulana midomo? And for me those are the memories TV creates, it packs into compartments our lives through the years, from age to age.
Television for us Kenyans is more of culture than entertainment, airing the National day celebrations throughout the country, celebrating our local artistes and talent, ridiculing unpardonable behavior and just providing that sense of nationality that we want to embrace fully for ourselves. And I love the way a certain media group can air someone’s need for financial aid in the evening news and everybody is on their phones MPESAring like crazy, giving someone a chance to hope again. That’s what happens when the magic box, has magic people with magic hearts, inspiring extraordinary things.
“Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog. Make sure everything you do is so completely crazy it’s unbelievable.”-Roald Dahl