Art is politics; and, it’s the weapon Kuweni Serious uses to, as they say, “fight the evil forces of apathy,” they saw plaguing Kenyan youth in the aftermath of the country’s 2007 elections. Kuweni Serious is a cultural activist organization based in Nairobi, Kenya. Their team includes three creative minds committed to raising political consciousness among Kenyan youth, encouraging them to be active participants in the political process. Rachel Gichinga, Jim Chuchu (of the music group Just a Band) and Mbithi Masya work incollaboration with Just a Band, Ghetto Radio, NiSisi! and Roma Media to create and share creative works that capture our imaginations and inspire us to think critically about unjust political practices and proposed alternatives.
We had the great pleasure of speaking with Rachel Gichinga about Kuweni Serious. She discusses Kenya’s turbulent 2007 elections, which led the team to develop this project. Rachel also shares her thoughts on Kuweni Serious’ creative approach, Kenya’s future in relation to all of Africa and the stake people of African descent abroad have in realizing their vision for Kenya.
“Kuweni Serious” means “let’s get serious”. The Kiswahili word “Kuweni” employs both the collective and the imperative, and this is the sentiment that we’re trying to capture and relay. We felt that it was important to get young Kenyans thinking and talking about their country’s political development, and, hopefully beginning to act as well. One of our favourite contributors, Njoki Ngumi, put it best in her interview when she said, “We are not as powerless as we think we are.” Kuweni Serious aims at letting primarily members of our generation know exactly that.
All of us have a creative background and work in the arts, so it just made sense to use that format as it is one which we understand well, and one that we think our peers relate to with comparative ease as well.
Kuweni Serious has been very involved in mobilizing people to vote in the 2010 Constitution referendum. Why was the new constitution so important? Now that the new constitution has passed, what new opportunities and challenges do you think lie ahead for Kenya’s youth?
Let me provide a bit of context for this first. Kuweni Serious was borne out of the aftermath of the 2007 presidential election. We noticed that we and our peers spent that terrible period online, on Facebook, passing on information and opinions about what had happened/was happening. People were angry, scared, hurt, apathetic—the full gamut of emotions. The common thread there was that people from this particular background (young, educated, with some level of exposure to the world, folks who know what good governance should look like and are therefore particularly put-off by the fact that this is so absent in the Kenyan context) either genuinely cared about the country and wanted to do something but had no idea about how to get involved; or viewed the problem as too overwhelming and too detached from their common reality, and were, therefore, apathetic.