Feb 18 2011

Dedan Kimathi’s Legacy (54th Anniversary)

On 18th February 1957, Dedan Kimathi was hung on the grounds of Kamiti Prison and his body tossed into an unmarked pit presumably to destroy any chance that his followers may seek to make a shrine of it. But ideas need no shrines and Kimathi’s name survived those of his executioners. Those who had idolized him heard of his death via radio or through the lips of a gloating prison guard while sitting in one of Kenya’s numerous detention camps.

How alone they must have felt behind the barbed wire in some arid corner of Kenya. How far independence must have seemed. How hopeless their situation must have felt now that such a potent symbol of their struggle had been executed.

What was Dedan Kimathi’s crime? Take your pick. By the time Justice O’Connor passed his sentence three months earlier, Kimathi had been accused of everything from murder and arson to theft and leading a banned organization.

But was he guilty?

Well the answer depends on whether or not you recognize the legitimacy of the laws under which he was convicted.

Yes he may have killed and stolen and done all those things that are incidental to war, but he did so with more legitimacy than the colonial government and its African confederates (none of whom would ever be prosecuted for their comparably worse atrocities) could ever claim. Not to dwell too much on jurisprudence, but it is a fact that the laws which Kimathi is said to have broken also institutionalized racism and forced labour. If you defend their legitimacy, why not defend the Nazi’s 1936 Nuremberg Laws or dismiss the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising as terrorists? You wouldn’t.

What self-respecting man in Kimathi’s shoes would have acted differently?

That we remember the name Kimathi in our streets and monuments today as well as in contemporary fashion and music suggests his  legitimacy in the eyes of a majority of contemporary Africans  remains unchallenged.

This is especially true of us African youth increasingly unwilling to pay our dues and patiently wait in line for our dinosaur leaders to offer solutions. We shall seize the future by force!

Chief Nyamweya

18.02.11


Dec 10 2010

How Emergency #4 became a Webcomic

When we went on a production break to explore how to get Issue #4 “The Snake in the Grass” to print, I must admit, I had stars in my eyes. That’s not to say I did not expect challenges. I did. However, the challenges I expected turned out not to be challenges, and the things I took for granted turned out to be problematic.

For example I imagined that finding a publisher, especially given the irreverent nature of Emergency, would be our biggest problem. Not so. Publishers, it turns out are a lot more pragmatic and a lot less prudish than we give them credit for. Positive feedback from the publishing world took about a month of card-trading, phone calls and emails.

What we didn’t expect was that publishing the comic (printing, distribution and marketing) would take 7 months!! This 7 months by the way, is a best case scenario. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a friggin’ long wait for Issue #4. Knowing what we now now, the blogpost we made here in mid-October (right before we went on a production break) makes us look like a bunch of wise-asses :) .  In the statement our shared desire, and indeed that of many EW fans, was to have a print comic before christmas. Well, given the 7+ month publishing period, Emergency would have to have existed in early 2010 for that to have been possible (Issue #1 was released on 1st September 2010).

In the interest of not making you queasy with dates and timelines, here’s the bottom line: the world of traditional publishing is light-years behind the online world!

This seems like common sense doesn’t it? Something you’d take for granted. Well, if your are a digital native, insulated for the most part from the bureaucratic “real” world, common sense is not so common. It’s one thing to appreciate that Government offices, budgets and paperwork exist. But if you’ve gone months without them, it quite anothen thing to experience them.

So until we print, Issue # 4 is HERE!!! http://www.emergencywebcomic.com/issue4.php


Nov 22 2010

Congratulations David Rudisha!

IAAF World Athlete of the Year!!


Nov 1 2010

MY “GOR vs AFC” EXPERIENCE (THE STAMPEDE)

I understand what it’s like to be a cow. More precisely, a cow herded into a crush for spraying. Only instead of sprayed hides, it was rain-soaked clothing pressed up against me. This understanding will certainly be valuable when depicting crowd scenes in later issues of Emergency.

Nonetheless, the whole atmosphere on that rainy evening of the 23rd October was very upbeat! Save for the occasional elbow to the back, at no time did I feel at risk while filing into the narrow entrance of Nyayo Stadium with a revolving bar at its end. The pushing, it seemed, was the natural consequence of all the excitement and positive energy about us. I do however remember thinking about an article I’d read after the ‘love-parade’ stampede in Germany. It advised: “If caught in a stampede, move with the flow of the crowd… until you can find something solid to hide behind or under.”

Fortunately for me, I got through the revolving bars and into the stadium without incident. Sadly, seven Kenyans weren’t so lucky.

I had always wanted to experience a KPL match live ever since Kenyan soccer received a facelift and began attracting fans once again. Now I had the opportunity to satisfy this curiosity.

A “GorMahia Vs AFC Leopards” match shouldn’t have attracted the sort of attention it did given that AFC is so lowly ranked and neither team is at the top of the standings (I’m just saying :) ). In fact, the excitement about the match had less to do with standings and more to do with rivalry. And this rivalry is what had made me so curious.

I received my money’s worth. Having attended the game with my friend Terrence and a classmate of his, both ardent AFC supporters,  I felt obliged to cheer AFC on.

AFC fans are some of the most entertaining Kenyans I have been privileged to encounter! Their regalia was impressive, and their dancing even more so. Their songs, most of which I couldn’t understand, are I suspect better left un-translated. Judging from the hand gestures that accompanied the singing, some FIFIA-ban-worthy slurs were in use. Anyhow, without making excuses, I believe it’s asking too much of inebriated soccer fans to demand high levels of politeness of them.

When the match was inexplicably halted by the referee, a rumour spread that some fans had been killed in a stampede when trying to get in. Upon seeing the missed calls from friends and family toward the end of the game, I understood that for this particular game the results would be irrelevant.

The Prime-Minister has done-well to personally address the tragedy of the 23rd October, because it would be double-tragedy if the magic of live games were lost altogether.

Chief


Oct 27 2010

The Journey to Issue #4

Kim has come to the city fatigued from war and left it on the run, a man wanted for murder.  He rode in a coffin and raced through the jungle as a ‘devil’ before revealing himself as a socially conscious man with very human needs and desires.

It has been quite a journey for Kim and yet, with all that has happened, it has only just begun.  What happens to Kim after his meeting with Bildad Kaggia makes the events of the past few issues seem like a stroll at the marketplace with the occasional scuffle with the ubiquitous mad man.  In the issues that follow there will be blood, conspiracy, betrayal, romance and all the ingredients of an epic story that would make Zack Snyder’s mouth water.

Like I said, the journey has just begun, not just for Kim, but for Chief and I as well as we continue to produce this story that fills us with so much passion.  When we launched the first issue, ‘Welcome To The City’, we did not anticipate the huge reception that we got.  More than any promise of huge rewards or traffic stopping recognition, the enthusiasm that our readers had for that first issue spurred us on to release the subsequent issues: our product was being consumed; our consumers wanted more and we promised ourselves to deliver and deliver well.  Chief and I are pumped and ready to make Emergency the best storytelling and comic experience for Kenya and the world.

A journey as exciting as this one requires that we pause and take stock of how far we have come and how we would like to finish it.  Chief and I have come to such a point.  After producing three issues, we have decided to take a production break (the creative process never stops).  Much like the events in the story, starting with the fourth issue, the production process moves up several gears and this requires that we plan for this anticipated growth.  The planning is necessary in order to produce a product of the highest possible quality because we believe that our readers deserve nothing less.

The fourth issue will come out in print first, before it is published online.  Releasing an issue on print presents us with unique challenges such as getting the right publisher (anyone we engage has to share our passion, not just for Emergency, but for this form of storytelling in general), formulating distribution models, pricing, etc.  The challenges of working as a small (but very passionate and hardworking) team that handles the entire production process are a factor in the decision to take this break.

This break is not indefinite and the fourth issue should be out before Christmas.  Actually, calling it ‘The Fourth Issue’ is a bit of a misnomer because it will actually be a volume that will contain the three previous issues and the fourth one as well.  The volume will contain new scenes and new dialogue for the issues already produced so it will be a product worth having, even if you have already read what has been produced.

Chief and I (and Kim) have paused and breathed in deeply, for what comes next is a series of events so big, that what has happened so far is merely the first act of a very dramatic story.  We thank our fans and ask you to bear with this very short but very productive break in the production of Emergency.

Nahabi Wandera, Editor, Emergency


Oct 20 2010

MASHUJAA DAY Commemorative Poster

Today does not belong to me so I will not say much except urge you to do something courageous and noble this MASHUJAA DAY. Ehatever that means to you. Even if that simply means finding the courage to asthat girl out on a date, or climb a mountain. Do it! After all you are a SHUJAA!


Oct 19 2010

The Influences and Inspiration for Emergency

IMAGES

While creating Emergency, I try to see the history in everything.

A lot of sites in Nairobi, such as City Market for example (pictured above), are older than our parents. Cathedrals, old schools such as St. Mary’s and Nairobi School are all great examples of colonial architecture.

All I have to do as an artist is rewind the clock a little to eliminate water stains, kiosks and modern cars, but most of the time, this is unnecessary because actual footage of the old buildings exists.

The durability of these structures is evidence of the not-so-altruistic original intentions of Kenya’s early settlers.

LITERATURE

I am a Ngugi Wa Thiong’o fan. I bought his autobiography Dreams in a Time of War the same day it was released last month. His writings are a great resource for context. Carol Elkin’s Britain’s Gulag is remarkably well researched, but it is a very tearful read. There is little redemption to be found in her book, and that is not what I want to be said of Emergency years from now.

Ian Henderson’s book, The Hunt for Dedan Kimathi should be put in a museum as one of mankind’s greatest examples of unrivaled horseshit. It is fascinating to listen to this murderous lunatic lie through his teeth. He seems to expect the reader to believe that hardened forest fighters would simply volunteer information to him without the slightest bit of coercion. Torture is the elephant in the room.

EVERYDAY EXPERIENCES

The day to day experiences of my life are by far the largest source of material. Literature can only tell you about the big events and the big names. It cannot tell you what it’s like to be hungry, to be angry, to be frustrated by the lack of progress in one’s circumstances. I have never actually been shot at or shot at anyone, but I’ve played paintball and I extrapolate from there. I have also spent sometime with a retired police officer from whom I’ve learned a lot. Even the petrified exclamation “MASAITO” in Issue #2 was stolen from the dictionary-less vocabulary of a friend of mine called Karanja.

I have been arrested at least once in my life, though never charged, for trespass. And in that brief moment, I understood how horrible it must be to be in the not-so-warm custody of the state for the foreseeable future, with no-one there to save you.

This is feeling which we should reflect upon as we celebrate this year’s Mashujaa Day in between the sumptuous meals and trips out of town with our significant others.

Have a great holiday! Peace!

Chief

PS: You catch me on KTN’s Str8 Up show today 19.10.10   at 5:30pm.


Oct 15 2010

Delivering Issue#3 of Emergency: “The Visitor”

Scarcely 12 hours to the Wednesday 13th, October release of Issue #3 “The Visitor” this week, my editor Nahabi looked at page 1 and said flatly “the image needs to change. Kim needs to be at the centre, not the top.” This is the story of Issue #3. Our proudest issue yet.

“What? Change page 1 at this hour?” I got worked up! These are exactly the sort of things that make for ‘creative differences.’ The 2-week publishing cycle of Emergency ha not been very welcoming to last minute changes. It’s always a gamble with every issue and you stick with the consequences of your gamble. So when my editor, a film-critic who is behind the blog Sinema, assured me that page 1 had to change, it had to be with good reason.

Since Wednesday the feedback on social media channels has been quite positive. Although at least one person actually called me to mention that Mukami “went down” rather quickly. Without giving away too much to those who are yet to read Issue #3, let me just say that the brevity of the sparring between Kim and Mukami is probably the product of impatience in my own life. Impatience to overhaul the website, and impatience to placate a corporate client of mine for whom I am illustrating their 2011 Calendar. My bad. Decency was clearly the victim of such impatience. Oh well, with 70% of Emergency’s readers being between the age of 24 to 34, it’s no wonder so few eye-brows have been raised.

All in all we really appreciate all the feedback and retweets this week.  You can also catch Emergency on KTN this Tuesday, 19th October on the show Str8 Up between 5:00 to 5:30!

Peace!

Chief


Oct 11 2010

My Interview with Kenyan author Sunny Bindra



Today I am pleased to introduce to you one of Kenya’s most prolific and authoritative bloggers. In case you’ve just landed from Mars, Sunny Bindra is a  management consultant best known for the Sunday Nation column, A Sunny Day,  which fuses social commentary and business.

He recently endeared himself to the artistic community with his 12/09/2009  article titled We Need More Art, Artists and Artistry in which he argued that: “Technicians make the world go round; artists make it worth living in.”

I caught up with him at the Storymoja Hay Festival during the launch of his latest book The Peculiar Kenyan where he agreed to the following interview:

  • You have argued for the integration of artistry with science and business; a sort of return to the old renaissance ethic of inventors such as Leonardo Da Vinci whose scientific  and artistic sides complemented each other. How do you suggest we as a country reconcile business with art and aesthetic design?

By opening up our minds to the fact that mixing art and management makes perfect sense.  Most people are closed to the idea.  Artists just want to be creative, without a business thought in their heads; managers want to plod on as technicians, doing nothing new or daring or different.  It’s just ridiculous.  Want to see what combining art and business does?  Look no further than Apple, which creates art in every product – and rewards its shareholders at amazing rates.

  • Having travelled widely and even written a book about the peculiarities of Kenyans, which peculiarity have you found unique to this country, which Kenyan artists should leverage in order to distinguish themselves?

They’re all in the book – read it and see.  We should learn to laugh at ourselves, and learn to use that laughter to create great art and great businesses.

  • What is the greatest work of art you have experienced and why?

If I named just one I would be a very limited fellow indeed!  I always have been moved by great works of art, from wonderful novels to dazzling poetry to soaring pieces of music to evocative paintings.  I couldn’t possibly narrow it down to one – or even a hundred.

  • Are you or were you ever a fan of comic books? Which one(s) in particular?

Very much so.  My late mother, a teacher of literature, worried that I would ruin my English by reading comics.  An aunt, also a teacher, convinced her to let me read them.  Her view was: get him interested in reading anything, and then his desire to read better and better things will grow.  I read them all: from Marvel to Archie to Beano to Eagle.  My favourite, about human nature, remains Peanuts.  You’ll never find a more ‘kichwa ngumu’ dog than Snoopy!  My friends say I share some of his traits…

  • This October 20th, we shall be celebrating Heroes Day (formerly Kenyatta Day) and my webcomic, Emergency, is all about history. What place do you feel history has in a progressive new Kenya?

The thing about history is this: either you learn what it teaches you or you keep repeating it.  We have a tendency to try and forget our history, or hide it away.  That is a mistake.  We have to face up to our shortcomings and misdeeds, and teach them to our children.  Then we can cleanse ourselves and move on.  We must also remember that ‘heroes’ are not just politicians and freedom fighters.  There are many, many ordinary people who lead good, honest, hard-working lives who never get mentioned.  I sometimes try to showcase them in my newspaper columns.

  • What advice do you have for aspiring young writers and artists?

Just keep going!  Believe in yourself and your art and its possibilities.  You may be forced to get a ‘day job’ to pay the bills, but never, ever let your art die.  It is what you are here for, to enrich the lives of others.  You will never achieve as much counting beans or ticking boxes for other people.  You have something wonderful in your hands – develop it, nurture it, make it happen.  I am never as happy as when I am consuming or producing art.  When I listen to music, or when I write, time just flies.  I lose track of where I am.  Art has that quality – it consumes you.  Artists make life worth living, they give it colour and texture and nuance and uplift.  Art is honourable and noble, and we must meet its challenge.  But we must produce GREAT art, not mediocrity or commercially diluted banality.  Be in your life, however humble, but let your art soar out of it.  Remember the Beatles: “I look at the floor, and I see it needs sweeping, still my guitar gently weeps.”  What a song…

  • What is the greatest obstacle you have experienced as a writer and how have you overcome it?

Simply finding the time to write.  I have been fortunate enough to be successful as a consultant, advisor, teacher, speaker – and that eats into all the potential writing time I might have had.  I have forced myself to make the time to write books, two so far.  As life goes on I will phase out some things to try and make time for the ultimate writing: fiction.

  • We have discussed the past. How do you feel about Africa and Kenya’s future in particular?

I am very hopeful.  The signs are all there that things are coming together in the economy of Africa – a consumptive middle class is emerging, as are enough educated Africans able to make discerning choices.  We just have the small problem of incumbent dinosaur politicians to deal with, but they will all be swept away by history.  It will be Africa’s turn soon.

The Peculiar Kenyan is available on book shelves from November
2010.


Oct 7 2010

My Interview with Afri-Love

Last week I had the honour of interviewing with a charming young lady (I just turned a Quarter Century last week so I feel old) by the name of Lulu Kitololo.

Due to the hustle of releasing Issue #2 “The Devils” I neglected to share this fact with y’all. My apologies.

So for those of you who didn’t catch my interview with the African culture blog Afrilove last week, here’s a flash back:

http://www.afri-love.com/2010/09/interview-with-artist-chief-nyamweya.html

One Love,

Chief

PS: Look out for the next issue Issue #3 “The Visitor” next week on the 13th of October.