Sunday, April 26, 2009

Wacha Wajikaange Na Mafuta Yao Wenyewe

Proficient at procuring easy and expensive (to us) solutions to political problems of their own making, our rulers are often clueless when confronted with real-life (and death) issues. The reaction to Monday's killing of 29 people in Gathaithi village has just served up more proof of this.

Distracted by meaningless power games, all a supposedly "concerned" President Mwai Kibaki could serve up on Tuesday was a directive to Internal Security Minister George Saitoti to get to the root cause of the Mungiki menace. This "urgent" directive came 25 years after the group's emergence, nearly a decade after it was proscribed, and after thousands have been killed and maimed by the criminal gang with pretensions to cultural awakenings.

Similarly distracted, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, leading a high level government delegation to Gathaithi, was full of vague promises of "beefed up security" and offers to foot the funeral costs for citizens who, but for official negligence, would still be alive today.

Death has been stalking Central Province for the last few weeks as vigilantes went after suspected Mungiki. With almost daily reports of murders and arson, the official reaction has been both muted and confused. The provincial administration seemed only too eager to help the vigilantes, even offering to issue them with ID cards. The Commissioner of Police, on the other hand, declared all vigilante groups illegal. In fact subsequent events seemed to give the impression that he preferred to work with the Mungiki. For example, just a day prior to the Gathaithi massacre, a matatu had been attacked a few metres from a police road block near Karatina. On the night of the massacre, the nearby police post (now "fully staffed" following Waheshimiwa's visit) was deserted.

All this against a backdrop of continued infighting within the Grand Coalition Government. Reminds me of ex-President Daniel Moi's statement when told that his preferred successor had been handsomely rejected by voters in December 2002. "Wacha wajikaange na mafuta yao wenyewe (let them fry in their own fat)", the dictator is reported to have remarked. And we have truly been doing a good job of that!

Is this for real?
Today, as you enter [Othaya] town, a list of the Ten Commandments greets you, written in a big signboard that also features the national colours of black, red and green. Erected courtesy of [former PC Peter] Raburu, it declares: “Central Province For God". All discos were banned, and there is today no entertainment industry worth writing home about. The action is having a spiral effect on many sectors, including tourism.... even taxi operators must drive out of town by 11pm.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Pimp My Budget

You don't wanna be a taxpayer?
So your budget aint fly?
Just hit Kenyans up
To get a pimped out ride

We gotta pimp your riiiiiiiddddddddde
(Damn Right)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The "Streggle" is Truly Over

This week, with the almost certain election of Jacob Zuma as President, South Africa finally takes it's rightful place among the family of African nations with leaders in the mold of Gambia's Yahya Jammeh who cures AIDS on Thursdays (perhaps utilising a shower); who, like Kenya's Mwai Kibaki, believe independent media and judiciaries need to be tamed; and who typically think the people's welfare is a distraction from the real job of padding their own wallets. Welcome brothers!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Yes, Give Me A Salaried Job!

Frank Whalley, who runs Lenga Juu, a media and fine arts consultancy based in Nairobi, has just published a rather flattering review of my book in the East African (where I have been plying my trade lately). Excerpts:
At first sight the cartoonist Patrick Gathara appears to be that rare character, a physics and maths student who became an artist. We tend to think of maths and the arts as being at opposite ends of the spectrum. But in doing so we are wrong. For there is a long and close association between mathematics, science and art....

Technically he is a caricaturist like the best of the rest — Gado in the Nation, Vic Ndula in the Nairobi Star and Maddo in the Standard....

Gathara excels in all these criteria, as can be seen in his new book, Gathara Will Draw For Food now available at bookshops in Nairobi, with part of the proceeds pledged to the Red Cross for famine relief.

Here’s a man who puts his money where his mouth is — or at least his pencil and his wit....

He focuses on faces, with expressions often captured from photographs. Typically, his subjects’ foreheads are narrowed, the cheekbones and jowls extended beyond reality and the ears made even bigger than those of Prince Charles. The plasticity of his subjects’ faces is relentlessly — and lovingly — explored. Exploited might be a better word. Gathara’s distortions are those of a sculptor working with plasticine, a pulled nose here, a flattened chin there, keeping just within the boundaries of possibility.

In fact, at times, Gathara seems to lose himself in the sheer joy of drawing these fat, sprawling faces as, with a virtuoso’s control, he sends oleaginous wads of flesh in whatever direction he pleases — and occasionally ends up losing the likeness.

His drawing of Kofi Annan, for instance, had me searching for the name, as did several others in this book. However, his portraits of Raila Odinga and William Ruto quaffing beer were more like their subjects than they are like themselves....

Gathara’s cartoon of [Martha Karua] vigorously defending the president against his critics (in this case the media and envoys) while accidentally whacking him on the head with her handbag was prescient to say the least.

And although occasionally his subjects might be hard to define, when he does get it right he spears his subjects to the paper with such force that you’ll never look at them the same way again… rather as the comedian Walter Mong’are has forever defined former president Moi as doing the ndombolo....

Like some American cartoonists, Gathara seems to be as concerned with the quality of the drawing as he is with the point of the joke, although he can be as barbed as any of them, often daring to go where few others would venture — possibly because he does not have the discipline of a nervous editor on his back.

For instance, one drawing shows a customer asking a boss at Nakumatt below a motto reading: You need it, we’ve got it — “Quick, I need a fire escape.” Answers the boss, “Sorry, we haven’t got it.”

Tasteless? Probably. Insensitive? Certainly. Funny? You judge. I doubt if it would have been published in a mainstream newspaper so soon after the event. But a classy news magazine…?

Gathara has a daring, original and remarkable talent. Someone with a classy magazine should rush to give the man a job. 
Who could disagree with that last sentence?

Shipwreck at Migingo