Monthly Archives: September 2010

Kenya’s Creative Fire: A Conversation with Rachel Gichinga of Kuweni Serious

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.

Can you tell us where the name Kuweni Serious comes from?

“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.

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“When you close your eyes, you can see far.” –Kenyan Proverb

Asa helps us close our eyes.

Like a bird, take flight: Kristen Nicole discusses how and why women of color and creatives can make the most of Twitter

Kristen Nicole got her professional “tech” start with 606tech, a Chicago-based blog focused on the local tech scene.  She became a full-time blogger when hired as the first employee at Mashable, a leading Internet news blog. After two years as Mashable’s lead writer and field editor, a brief stint in San Francisco and a short time contributing to VentureBeat and AllFacebook, Kristen joined SiliconANGLE with fellow, former Mashable-ite, Mark “Rizzn” Hopkins, and John Furrier (founder). Her work has also been syndicated across a number of media outlets, including Yahoo! News, The New York Times and MSNBC.

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Kristen co-authored the book The Twitter Survival Guide and her new book, Tweetie Girl, will be released soon.

Here she discusses the importance of social media and net neutrality, her experiences in the tech world and how women of color and creative thinkers can make the most of Twitter.

You have been an avid social media user for about 12 years now.  Have you always been technologically savvy?  How have you seen the social media scene change since its earlier days?

I wouldn’t say I’m the savviest, but I’ve always known my way around a social network.  With a fairly strict upbringing, social networks became outlets for me to learn about other people in other areas of the country or world.

Black Planet was one of the first social networks I really got into—I’m still very good friends with some of the people I met there, though it was years before we ever met in real life.

Social media has changed in many ways, but it’s stayed the same, too.  The acceptance of social media as a typical form of correspondence has shifted social structures—it’s brought about a new opportunity for learning and sharing.  In many ways, that’s introduced a springboard for acquiring knowledge.  Being able to tap into a social network, and pick up your personal learning journey where someone else has left off, is a process that’s enabled a lot of individuals creatively and financially.

Having an online system for sharing and inspiring each other will ultimately better the human race.

But in other ways, social networking hasn’t changed—it still provides a platform for sharing and corresponding with each other.  The intent behind the sharing is the same, but the vehicle for doing so is more efficient.  Social media will always be a reflection of our existing nature, so the ways in which social media changes are merely effects of the greater shift.

As a media analyst and writer, you know a lot about the cyber-world.  How do you see black women represented out there?  Are we online?  Do you see us making the most of social media?

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