Category Archives: Uncategorized

LSD and kenyan Artists.

Standard
trippy wheel
This first appeared in UP Magazine’s February issue. It captures an odd experience I had with a painter in Karen. I know it’s not as ‘down and dirty’ as promised but the heroin piece really couldn’t get published, (something about self implication or whatever) so we’re left with me, a trippy hippie and some of the best LSD you can find in this city. Follow this link to buy some acid for yourself LSD Point.


The acid was kicking in; everything seemed brighter, more beautiful and seemed to make sense. I looked over at my host, a wisp of smoke escaped from between his lips as he put out the joint in his hand. I think he was trying too hard to be honest. With his long blonde dreadlocked hair,  he looked like a flower child leftover from the 60’s. Or perhaps more like Shaggy from Scooby Doo. Either way though *Flower” had some great insights into drug use and the creative process.

From time immemorial our race has been using drugs to enhance the human experience, the Vikings berserkers would whip themselves into frenzy on mushrooms and Uni students have been popping Ritalin 10mgs like tiny white Smarties for decades to up their grades. I didn’t seek out Flower because I was looking for drugs to up my writing (so before you ask no I was not tripping when I typed this) I tried to get a meet up with him because he’s a well-known artist who’s constantly ‘on’ something.


“Look man” he said in a long drawn out voice. “So here, man, basically my day is always heavy when I’m making my stuff. Wake and bake as always!” We’re seated on giant Ankara covered cushions in his studio/apartment/parent’s pool house while he rolled what looked like the guka joints, a real fat long one that looked like split into pieces it could make four more. The walls are covered with his own art plus some from artists I recognize, there’s a Jackie Karuti III, Michael Soi and what looked like a Peterson Kamwathi. “I don’t know about these guys,” he says pointing to the paintings on the wall “but I can tell you this bro, if I’m not on something you’ll get some boring shi*t out of me”

hippie tongue

Image courtesy of Ursuladecayart


“All the greatest creative minds have hit something, that’s why half of Hollywood is hopped up on cocaine. Look at the Rolling Stones! I mean I’m sure some Kenyan artists are on it but they just never get caught.” He reached into his fanny pack (yes he was wearing a fanny pack) and pulled out several plastic baggies. He reached into one and gave me a tiny sliver of paper. He handed it to me then took out another and put it under his tongue “See bro, the Beatles were on LSD, the greatest band of all f*cking time! On LSD! Stick that under your tongue and we’ll keep going”

I did and waited.

“I don’t care what the government man says, or all these people trying to hold us down or whatever. I’m not saying every artist should go Tony Montana and stick their nose in a mountain of coke and OD, that’s drug abuse. What I’m talking about is drug use! Taking some weed in the morning to mellow you out, and settle you down, add a psychedelic like special K, mushrooms or acid to open up that creative section of your mind and finally do a line of cocaine so you can pick up that paintbrush, pen or guitar and make some goddamn magic!”

I looked at him, a time displaced hippie living in his parents house in Karen who, despite having grown up in Kenya, still had a lazy Southern drawl, and I tried to figure out how he was still functioning after what I suppose was 3 or 4 years of constant self-dosing. He kept smoking his joint looking at me intensely with his surprisingly white eyes before he turned on his radio.

“We’ll just listen to some music till the LSD hits, and then we’ll head on outside, k man?”

“So what’s the point of it all? If you’re just going to be high all the time?”
“When it hits and you see the world, you’ll understand.”
An hour later we were lying in the grass outside and I kept staring at everything, transfixed. I could hear nature vibrating, feel sound on my skin and if there are gods out there they were speaking right into my soul, telling me all was well with the universe. I look at his paintings now and I finally understand where his vivid portrayal of landscapes and the reckless abandon with which he uses colours come from. I’d never advocate for the use of drugs in the creative process, but I now sure as hell understand it.

Dear Mummy, I’m Out!

Standard
Dear Mummy, I’m Out!
This article appeared first in UP Magazine’s December Issue (Link). I freaked out as I emailed it to the editor for my monthly column but then figured “fuck it” it’s not like anyone online didn’t know I was bi anyway.

“Well you are one of them believe it or not 🙂 Openly bi in Kenya? Takes courage man. You are paving the future Adam 🙂 keep on fighting!”

It started off with — as a lot of things do — a text sent to my mother erroneously. She forwarded it to me and asked what the content was referring to. Her reaction was anything but surprising, something akin to the five stages of grief. Defined as the framework we use to accept the loss of someone you love. Denial: No this can’t be, my only son can’t be bisexual. Anger: which woman will marry you now; how could you do this to me? Will we ever have grandchildren? The rest followed soon.
The sender of the message, identity still unknown, has no clue the chain of events he/she had set off. How could they? I’ve been openly bisexual on Twitter and Facebook for years and I’ve mentioned conversations with people ranking from brothel owners to barmen in this column where my sexuality was the subject. A bulk of the 4500+ people who follow me on Facebook probably think it’s all a jest or a way to support the embattled LGBTI community, which they’ve convinced themselves I’m not a part of. I could in my mind’s eye, see my mum analysing every single man I was close to and trying to figure out if I was sleeping with them. Were they best-friends or boyfriends?
I of course did what I usually do in such situations, got and stayed ridiculously drunk. I started off quite civilized, Bloody Maries in the morning, but by the time the second batch was mixed it had enough tabasco to reflect my anger, vodka to quell it and a hint of tomato juice representative of the calm I most certainly did not want to feel. I then moved on the the queen of cocktails, the Gin and Tonic, hold the tonic. This began to mellow me out so my late afternoon was consumed by whiskey and the evening by Legend Brandy, a drink of suchs ill repute that it’s apparently drunk when the changaa runs out.
It saddens me to think that getting absolutely shitfaced cleared my mind. It’s as if my brain, liver and kidneys had conspired against me and held an intervention.

legend“Bruh, Slow down. Legend? Really? Here’s why you shouldn’t judge mother dearest,” they said “Who do you think you are looking at mummy with contempt? You who not long ago in high school made fun of a gay boy who is now one of your closest friends. Ye of the homophobic status updates on Facebook and the transphobic tweets. Isn’t her shock justified? Think about it, she’s caught you at least four times sneaking a girl into your room after a night of debauchery at Crooked Q’s; sometimes it wasn’t just one. Doesn’t she have the right to know if she’ll be a grandmother soon or ever? There’s no other siblings for her to place her hopes on as you well know. Or if by some mistake on her part she had caused the duality of your sexuality.”

I really had overreacted, granted some of her questions were ludicrous: Asking if my sexuality was why I changed my career path to journalism, if it’s why i refuse to cut my hair or the explanation for my wanderings around the country. However, these were borne of ignorance and not malice. When I finally turned on my phone the next day, she’d sent a few messages reflecting the final three stages of grief: bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. She hadn’t lost her son, she’s gained a deeper understanding of his nature.

However, having finally reached this chapter in my relationship with mother I figure that next year I’ll stop identifying as bisexual. Cliche resolutions such as giving up alcohol or losing weight are well and good, but I can’t be arsed to bother with, either. Gin is too good and bacon is BAE. However, I will stop identifying as bisexual or pansexual. Not because my sexual preferences will have changed, after all it’s not just a phase, but to lose the inconvenience that labeling causes. Mummy hears bisexual and her mind is assaulted by the mountain of shit mainstream society has created around the world. Pansexual involves hours of just trying to explain what it is and saying you’re polyamorous will have you convincing friends and family that you’re not just a really horny bastard. I feel that just saying, I love people for who they are inside regardless of creed, genitalia, aesthetics, size, age (within reason) or the innumerable things we are conditioned to obsess over when deciding who to love. So come 00:01 a.m. January 1 2016, as I drink my way into the new year and avoid the overtures of the sketchy guy selling pills at the NYE party,I will stop labeling  and stick to loving.

Has Nigeria Overtaken Kenya As The Silicon Savannah

Standard
Has Nigeria Overtaken Kenya As The Silicon Savannah

nb: This is UP here because I wrote as the Nigerian lady, no Nigerian tech bloggers got back to me when i messaged them to participate

A few months ago UP Magazine was interviewing one of Nairobi’s tech superstars Mark Kaigwa, when he let spill an interesting fact: in his opinion since Kenya was given the label of “Silicon Savannah”, its tech entrepreneurs had sat on their laurels and nothing particularly innovative has come out of the country since. So when we decided to do a tech issue, this was the first question on our minds. It proved, however, more difficult to find someone to argue that Nigeria was now the leading tech country in Africa but eventually someone called Oluwademilade Adeniyi decided to step up. To be honest we don’t know if this is a real person or not, but because she was frank and persuasive in her views, we decided to let her run. The NO was of course easier and Sam Wakoba, the founder of the blog Tech Moran, was happy to go all out and argue that Kenya will stay king of the Silicon Jungle (if it’s ok to mix reductive metaphors) for the foreseeable future.

sam wakobaNO- Sam Wakoba
After a few deals went sour, a number of tech investors in Kenya said the tech ecosystem was full of fluff and entrepreneurs weren’t as ready for business or to tackle risks like their Nigerian counterparts. I disagree. After M-PESA broke records of quick money remittance and financial inclusion, the international media became dead-focused on that, while local bloggers were only writing about apps and app competitions. Apart from M-PESA, the international media had only tourism and terrorism and corruption as their story leads. M-PESA aside, the international media could have reported companies like Craft Silicon, a multibillion software firm, BuyRentKenya, an online real estate classifieds vertical and PropertyLeo.com, another real estate classifieds portal.
Another would have been One Africa Media’s Cheki, an online car classifieds vertical which is both operational in Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria and revenue positive. MoDe, a recent IBM smart cities winner, has been powering mobile micro credit for years before another Kenyan startup called Movas Group joined the flock doing the same. Both Movas and Mode work with telcos across Africa to help them offer credit airtime packaged differently from market to market and from telco to telco. Another Kenyan firm, PesaPal, has expanded in major markets across the continent to power both online and mobile payments. And don’t forget firms such as ShopSoko, an etsy of Kenya, Angani, a local cloud services firm, EatOut, a restaurant search and booking engine and SleepOut, an AirBnB for emerging markets.
Kenya is still huge in tech. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

 

black-woman-thinking.-pf-378x414YES(sort of)- Oluwademilade Adeniyi 
Nigeria has by no means overtaken Kenya as the continent’s Silicon Savannah. It would be presumptuous of me to say so, however it’s only a matter of time before we do. If Kenya has one problem with its tech scene it’s that it’s saturated. It’s becoming near impossible to check online zines and not see some new tech startup funded out of Nairobi’s seemingly bottomless coffers. Nigeria is poised to explode into a viable tech destination that can also translate into steady revenue streams for potential investors.
Nigeria has one major advantage over Kenya when it comes to tech and that is the sheer size of our nation’s population. Additionally the seemingly endless litany of problems is fertile ground for investors looking to fund a startup that won’t fizzle out because of a lack of market. One only needs to look at the portfolios of seed firms such as L5 labs and 440.ng to see the growth potential. Beneficiary startups such as JayOsbie and Ella.ng are looking to muscle out Jumia in the online fashion retail market, no small feat if you ask me.
These may seem like small potatoes however consider the story of Obiwezy, two chaps who did phone reviews and are now running a game-changing phone swap and re-commerce website. Buying used phones online with the benefit of a warranty is a godsend in country where not everyone can afford an out-of-the-box smartphone. With rumours that telco giant MTN is looking to partner with them, one can only assume that more investors with deep pockets will get into the tech game in Nigeria.
Kenyans can have the title Silicon Savannah for now but in less than 2 years we’ll be past you before you can say “Wetin dey happen?”

The Fambula Fail

Standard
The Fambula Fail

Long story short I woke up in the banda on Sunday, unsure of how I got there. I suspect a watchman who spotted me wandering from the banda carried me there. A large number of bumps all over my body suggest that he either dragged me or I blackout-walked on full autopilot to my bed.

Fambula (it’s a house thang!) is a celebration of house/edm/fusion music held at irregular intervals at Fisherman’s Camp in Naivasha. From what I have garnered between sips of Whitecap and the occasional outburst of “more tequila!” the choice of music is varied, the DJs hail from all over and the Bloody Marys the following morning are to die for.

At the last Fambula, during a quick conversation with Paniq DJ extraordinaire (who I was always sure was from Mzansi but happens to be from right next door in Nyeri), I asked how he got to be there with his own music equipment. “We played a gig last night and since the equipment was already in the car,” he enthused, “we decided to come join in on the musical awesomeness that usually happens here.” The same could not be said for me; although I was sure the music was going to be great, my mission for the night was to get smashed and to find Dagetari, my longtime high-school crush. The plan was to give her an impassioned speech about why I’ve always been infatuated with her.

Earlier in the week, I’d been harassed by cab guys and saved by prostitutes, so my decadence quota had been pretty much filled by Wednesday morning. However, a failed attempt at not drinking at Creatives Garage the night before, meant I was engaging in a gin and tonic hangover cure from the outset of our little weekend jolly.

Arriving at Fisherman’s was a pretty straightforward affair. If you’ve ever tried sharing accommodation with a group, you know that everything should get sorted out before you get to said destination. How much it costs, how many you are and where said accommodation is. This is exactly what happened, no thanks to me. Praise Bacchus that everyone else in my group had a modicum of sense, otherwise I might have ended up wandering in a circle around my friend’s Pajero or cuddling up with the hippos by the lake.

Fast forward a few hours, two bottles of dry red, enough Whitecap to drown a mammoth, more cigarettes than I can count and many poorly mixed gin and tonics, and I was ready to find the aforementioned childhood crush. So I wandered the camp grounds, trying to find my way to the bar area but unfortunately got very lost. An amazing feat considering the bar was actually straight ahead of me. Eventually, after taking nearly thirty minutes on what should have been a three minute jaunt, I spotted her. She was talking with a guy one of our group later defined as the “ideal male”. Even through the rot gut’s winning fight with my liver and brain, I could tell I stood no chance against this chiseled chap who looked like he came straight out of an African superhero comic book.

I walked, or rather staggered, away, down the stairs and flopped down into the grass facing the lake. The booze was finally winning the long battle that had started on Saint Paddy’s. I was musing over ways to defeat this African superhero, when I heard her shout out my name. I turned and saw her coming down the stairs towards me, arms open. And then darkness enveloped me.

Fast forward a couple of days and here I am, matching with Dagetari on Tinder, so I’m assuming that I probably sleep-mumbled something good. Hopefully nothing to do with the conspiracy with my drunken self to murder the African Adonis who, I eventually figured out, is a friend of mine from years ago.
Photo credit: Julia McKay

Why is The Rainbow Your Profile Picture

Standard
Why is The Rainbow Your Profile Picture

We might as well bleat on the way to work as we shuffle into matatus every morning and join the rest of the herd on the way to work.  We are essentially sheep as evidenced by how many of us jumped at the opportunity to add the celebrate pride flag to our profile pictures. 26 million people (and counting) all over the world have changed their profile pictures in a show of solidarity with LGBT men, women and gender nonconforming people in the states. This however is not such a great thing, because most people aren’t changing it in support but to look cool. To get that little extra bit of validation that comes with looking like you support the right cause and that you’re one of the enlightened ones.

It may sound harsh but essentially changing your profile picture because of the US Supreme Court decision is really not doing much. At least 17 other countries have legalised same sex marriage the last of which was Luxembourg where the prime minister married his life long partner Gauthier Destenay a few weeks ago. Why didn’t you change your profile picture then? Was it because Luxemborg’s gay people aren’t important? No, it’s because it wasn’t cool then. Kenyans and in fact the rest of the world is guilty of bandwagon activism. We ‘hashtagged’ about #StopXenophobia in South Africa and we changed our profile pictures in solidarity with #SupportGaza but in all honesty we never really gave a damn.

 

Source: Demotix

I look at my news feed and I see no one actually calling for the legalisation of same-sex mariage in Kenya or in fact a repealing of the penal code that makes homosexuality a crime. There are no hashtags for LGBT rights in Kenya, nor are there any against statements by Guinea’s president in which he says he will slit the throat of any homosexual. Why aren’t we taking this opportunity to call for freedoms for those in our own society who are marginalised? Why aren’t we hashtaggin #GayPrideKenya,  #StopTheAbuse or #GayLivesMatterKenya? Is it because we are afraid of prosecution from the government? No it’s because essentially you don’t care. In fact marriage is the least of the issues LGBT community in Kenya is facing. The years of injustice, abuse, sexual harassment, murder and homelessness should be the reason you change your profile picture. Not because in America the LGBT community can now marry yet so many are dying in Africa in silence.

By all means change your profile picture and help lend a voice to those who have suffered in silence for years and years but for the love of all that is good don’t do it if you really don’t understand why or don’t really give a sh!t.

This first appeared on UP Nairobi.

Barfly: Revolution Starts at The Country Club

Standard
Barfly: Revolution Starts at The Country Club

Five glasses of gin and tonic later, coupled with what must have been more than a litre of bloody mary’s over lunch, decided to slow down. The Bloody Mary’s were a bastardisation of a recipe provided by Columbo, a Nanyuki-based inspector who insists on using fresh ingredients. He would never have approve of my improvisation of his recipe, he is after all Jewish and one of my key ingredients was bacon grease. I was keen to make a good impression later on at Christmas dinner in front of a university friend’s family and their invited guests. Yes, Christmas dinner in mid August with the works; a turkey, Christmas ham, mince pies and a smattering of seafood. The seafood is easily explained, we were after all in Kilifi, right on the creek. Pre-dinner conversations in Kenya have the inane habit of drifting towards our country’s politics and corruption — discussing your golf handicap one second and the next your frustration with your government’s inability to get its act together. Just before dinner, my friend’s father approached me with a rather interesting solution to this, social ostracism.
My hosts were pretty well-off by most standards, although they would prefer to think of themselves as ’comfortable’. They, to my knowledge, earned their comfort by honest means; much unlike some of the people they found themselves interacting with socially. High profile figures in Kenya who’ve been found guilty or have been suspected of corruption, gross mismanagement or deliberate negligence lose their jobs and slip out of the limelight the minute the media hounds catch wind of another juicy story. Later they emerge once again on the board of a parastatal, in a ministerial position or as president of the local Rotary Club chapter. Meanwhile, they and their families will have continuously enjoyed lives of unbridled luxury, earned at the expense of livelihoods, and sometimes lives, of the common mwananchi.

“Writing, speaking and protesting in the streets is getting us nowhere really. What you young guys are doing is great but these people aren’t bothered by a couple of headlines, not here in Kenya. It’s time they were held accountable by their peers,” he said, offering a beer.“Professional bodies and private clubs should have ‘codes of conduct’,” he leaned forward almost conspiratorially as he continued, “ if someone is found guilty or is under investigation then their membership should be revoked or at least suspended, pending review. Think about how wonderful it would be if they were worried about how their actions would affect them and their families instead of some hapless guy in the street who has no idea why his sugar cane is rotting in the field.”
He left me at that and went off to chat and mingle with his other guests and I couldn’t help but imagine the scenario in my head. Found guilty of sticking his grubby fingers in the Constituency Development Fund? Ban him from the golf club indefinitely. Nearly collapsed an airline through deliberate mismanagement? Don’t let her park her yacht in the marina. Ran over someone with his car and bribed his way out? Stop tithing at his church! No one should be spared, even their kids will eventually come home one day and ask why Mummy and Daddy don’t take them to lunch at Nairobi Club after Sunday Mass anymore. The sins of the father/mother shall be visited upon their children until they dare not sin anymore.

Exclusive private schools in Rift Valley and Nairobi’s outskirts should reject applications for admittance if one or both of the students’ parents has been found guilty of breaking the Code of Conduct.
The first few victims of this new form of justice will serve as warning signs made from severed heads on poles outside a village called ‘corruption’. “Social death to all ye who enter!”.

 

members-only
Soon they will be on the phone to the chairman of the Bird Watchers Society, the Wine Appreciators Club and the Rotary Club asking why they were taken off their mailing lists. The revolution will not be televised, it will happen in board rooms, ball rooms and over Sunday brunch at the club. The kawaida mwananchi will no longer have to stand alone in the face of corruption and general buggery from the ‘upper echelons’ of society.

Barfly: Musings on The House Husband

Standard
Barfly: Musings on The House Husband

We’ve often considered it, but never out loud and most definitely never to the previous generation, born just before or after independence. If they can’t get over the concept of a President from a different tribe, then evidently they’d shit bricks if they found out some of their sons were seriously considering being house husbands or stay at home dads. Gender roles in modern day society, especially around urban areas, are slowly being eroded; hearing about a male nurse no longer instills giggle fits in twelve-year-olds and the female matatu driver is no longer such a novelty that she gets the prime spot on the 9 o’clock news.

The subject of many pub conversations and fireside chats is the role of women in the homestead. Should the role of primary caregiver remain with his royal hubbiness? is it possible to flip the traditional roles and have her bring home the bacon? Aside from an aversion to washing dishes, I did think I could pull it off, sit at home, invite James over for a glass of whiskey before lunch (it’s four o’clock somewhere in the world) and gossip about who said what on the ‘Kilimani Husbands’ Facebook group. Before my wife/ husband/life partner got home, I’d hide all the used glasses turn on the telly to something mindless like Tim Njiru’s TV show and complain about immigrants getting into Kenya. Sounds like the perfect life not only would my responsibilities be more than halved, but I’d have more time to experiment in the kitchen and on my writing. Being a kept man sounds like…well, Fun. Aside from the obvious blow to the male ego that comes with being a dependent, it sounds like a pretty sweet life. Of course stereotypical living situations created and perpetuated by a media obsessed society that glorifies the Kardashians and vilifies the not-so-famous lady in the short skirt, would think that early morning drinks and lazing around make up the bulk of the housewife’s day, never taking into account running the household proper, figuring out why the tap in the downstairs bathroom doesn’t work, balancing the house books, running endless errands — from finding a vet for Simba to getting the right gluten-free flour because one of the demons you birthed and love so much  developed an allergy to gluten and his body doesn’t care that ‘gluten-free’ is an alien word to most supermarkets in Africa.
Considering all this, office life isn’t too bad, either. I feel like I’m less likely to pull out my hair if my editor cuts off an entire paragraph than if my daughter comes home with headlice and the conviction that only homeopathic solutions will be used in her hair; “It’s great that Chimamanda convinced you that chemicals are bad for your hair sweetie but Daddy doesn’t have time to go out and look for lavender, tea tree, rosemary, geranium, lemon and ylang ylang. You’re getting Johnson & Johnson’s and you’ll like it!”
See we always figure that getting time at home with no official work designation will be the easiest thing to do. We lie to ourselves that we’d have more free time to figure out how to make a banana daiquiri that doesn’t taste like ass and not more time to learn how to fix the plumbing in that damned downstairs bathroom since Njoro, the plumber, wants to charge Ksh 5000 that you don’t have and an article in “Home and Living” called it an ‘easy fix’ (which of course was a gross over-estimation of your wrench wielding skills). I feel like coming home to a drink after a long day at work to relax would be better than having a never ending work day at home that essentially would drive me to drink more than I normally would out of stress. Being a kept man (or woman, for the ladies in the house) is great in theory, but in practice I think I’ll stick to trying to create a more balanced household where everyone is involved in the house stuff and not just little ol’ me who just wants to maintain the tipple all day long.