By David Maillu
Published June 17, 2017
I was talking to a friend the other day when I mentioned something important I had seen on a local television network the previous day and he was quick to reply, “These days I’m not a fan of local broadcasting. I stopped watching local stations and listening to radio ages ago. The only thing I watch is the daily news. After news I switch to international stations, such as BBC and Al Jazeera. Reason? The broadcast adds very little value to my mind unlike those overseas stations. Year-in-and-year-out local broadcasters play music and dancing only to run soap opera imported from South America or – you know where they get them, don’t you?”
Walk into any major bookshop in Nairobi and the books in the front display are written and published by foreigners. African books are given a secondary position and, in some cases, are tucked in the shelves somewhere. Walk into the leading five star hotels; the menu there is foreign.
I have just been talking to woman armed with a Master’s degree in food. We were talking in English about vanishing cultural values when she said, “You people of the old generation are better off. Our generation can hardly write and speak in their mother tongues which are disappearing.”
Unfortunately, our government, which should be the custodian and promoter of our cultural values, is using foreign instruments in addressing those values. The worst form of colonialism is not physical but intellectual. We got rid of the physical one but we were left with the intellectual one. The blame shouldn’t be laid on the consumer but on the provider. If local broadcasting stations and media houses don’t offer anything appealing and one which add value to the consumer’s life, the consumer would listen and watch anything appealing, even if it be foreign. If the hotels don’t offer local and appealing menu, the consumer has the right to spend his money eating any tasty menu at whatever cultural consequences. If the government doesn’t take responsibility in promotion of writing and publishing appealing books, the consumer will survive on foreign reading materials.
What’s all this big talk about having thrown the colonialist away? It looks that after being thrown through the door the colonial returned through the window to stay. That is how African values are being permanently colonized. The consumer is ready to take anything which is appealing. The government is processing the citizen strategically not just for wearing imported secondhand clothes (mitumba) from Europe and Asia, but for the consumption of “intellectual mitumba.” Nature hates a vacuum. Whatever cultural vacuum we create regarding local values will instantly be filled in by foreign values to the destruction of local integrity.