My Kenyadian Experience – Part 3
This is part 3 of 3 of My Kenyadian Experience by Muoi Nene.
Shine Your Eye
My positive experience with The Africa Trilogy continued and was in fact heightened during the development of the other play I’m involved with in the trilogy, Shine Your Eye. It is written by the overachieving and brilliant Kenyan fiction writer Binyavanga Wainaina who is also an editor of Kenya’s premier literary magazine, Kwani. For me, the experience began at a Glo workshop where I was asked to have a natural, unscripted exchange with Eghosa, the characterplayed by Lucky Ejim. Some months later, I was informed that the writer has added lines to my character, one Naija Boy!
The position in the team of characters that I played was different as Naija Boy is not the leader in his group but he definitely aspires to be a big man like Eghosa. There is some similarity between the enterprises that Hyde and Naija Boy are involved in but the difference in results is great. Naija Boy and his crew do not use knives, ngetas, or other weapons or methods to take what they are denied; they use the internet. Naija Boy works under his mentor Eghosa, a 419 scammer who is looking to transition his successful scam business into a more legitimate one. He wants to switch his efforts from scamming his European and American victims to enhancing the lives of his people by investing in his traditional homeland outside of Lagos. Naija Boy is not the sharpest tack in the tin, but he is certainly relentless in his desire to grow into the Big Man that his boss is. He listens attentively to the stories t his boss tells of his past experiences, and learns the lessons necessary to impress Eghosa so that he too can acquire the skills to be the Big Man.
I have never been to Lagos so Naija Boy relied a great deal on Binyavanga’s many colourful stories between workshops. Binyavanga’s writing is raw and uncensored so it was easy to go deep undercover as I walked the streets of Lagos as Naija Boy with Binyavanga as my guide. Direction from Ross Manson was a theatre crash course, and with the cost of education these days, I am grateful for the experience. I should say, after this article I hope not to see a bill in the mail. “Hi Ross, LOL.”
After the development workshop of Shine Your Eye last summer, Lagos appeared to me as a force to be reckoned with; a living, breathing beast of humanity and machine, of pollution and corruption. In this way, Nairobi and Lagos have much in common. However, the Lagos I came to know seems to be more proactive when it comes to dealing with the West. Instead of only inviting the NGOs to settle in and give handouts, Lagos takes the battle to the West and uses the abundance of human talent and skill to defraud the greedy who are rich in poor ethics and as we discovered in the workshop, tend to look down on the very Africans who will clean them out of their life savings. The image of one Lagos man struggling for peanuts in the hustle and bustle of Lagos is contrasted well with the Big Man Lagos man who is not so patient. He will rise up and bring the deception to you in your inbox in the West. This is an example of Africa turning around and saying, you imprison me with your Dead Aid and your corrupt stooges in my government but I will serve some payback and show you fire! The Big Man Lagos man will not shuffle for peanuts or sell kola nuts for nothing to attract the pity of the Western tourists and expatriates. He will excavate his mind instead and unleash upon the west a wrath that leaves more than just a few (and not just Africans) cheering at the “justice” that he serves those in the West greedy enough to bite his bait as he walks away with billions like the scammers do year after year (over 4 Billion USD in 2006 alone – more than Kenya’s GDP that year) and counting.
The performance in Shine Your Eye allows for the dancer in me to limber up and put on a show as a dancer must do. Song and dance add the key ingredients to the performance that makes The Africa Trilogy a top contender for my favourite production. Add the fact that the dancing machine (and my good friend) Teddy Masuku choreographed the dances with movement for the play guided by the master herself, Claudia Moore, and you have a cooking pot simmering with pleasant surprises at every turn. Somehow it has become embarrassing for a leader to be seen dancing and letting loose. I am told that ancient African kings had to be the best dancers in the kingdom–not too different from another famous king in the Middle East who danced for his god till his clothes fell off. It is with this confidence that I allow myself to let loose and let the spirit of Naija Boy fill my lungs and feet as I raise my voice in celebration of his success as a scammer. Why choose the words “allow myself”? Well, as a recently elected local community leader, I would hope that our partners in business and the community at large will appreciate their local spokesperson getting on a world stage and throwing down like any other hiphopper on this continent, and I hope to step off with my image intact.
It is with great pride that I associate myself with The Africa Trilogy. I can only hope that you, the reader, will get a chance to witness the magic when we pour it out for you from our hearts and minds through the vessels and temples that are our bodies. May your actions be guided by this magic as you too find your way to appreciate and enhance a positive relationship between Africa and the West. We are now in a global village and though we Africans are quick to criticize our own, corruption is international and affects us all. Aid to Africa is indeed your tax money going to private bank accounts in a tax shelter under a dictator’s name or worse, yes it can be worse.
For AfriCanadians (I call this one too), let it not be that we choose to remain ignorant of our surroundings and have to travel thousands of miles before we discover that we are indeed a critical part of the solution to the few problems that, due to ignorance, have become many. For all Canadians let us question the actions of any company that uses the Canadian name and flag on other continents. May we see to it that our belief system is not made a mockery of as it is at this very moment. Let peace return to the Congo and may her women be saved from the indignities forced on them by war and greed for resources under their soil. Let us be quick to question and slow to judge the child soldier holding his Kalashnikov as we look into his blood-shot eyes when he glances at us through the television set. Instead, let us research the booming stock markets in Africa and invest heavily for a good return like responsible global citizens, and at the same time create a job or two so that we can finally see what the house of Africa can really produce for this global village we tout with such pride. Finally, let us come out and witness this event that is The Africa Trilogy.