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Kenya's Mysterious #EyewitnessChallenge is a Welcome Distraction

We speak with the meme's originator and ask "has Cyrus Kabiru done the #EyewitnessChallenge yet?"

If you hang out on the goofy fringes of Kenyan social media like we do, you will have been inundated with images from the #EyewitnessChallenge, a meme dedicated to mocking a man who shows up at disaster sites with a unique pair of futuristic sunglasses.


It started when Kenyan television news interviewed a man at the scene of the the October 21, Nakuru plane crash. A few days later, the man popped up on TV again as an eyewitness to the car accident that claimed the life of Nyeri Governor, Wahome Gakuri. But rather than dwell on a somewhat creepy coincidence, Kenyans were drawn more to the man's odd choice of facial accessories.

Here's some video of the mystery man:

What makes a popular post?

OkayAfrica chatted with the meme's originator Nelson Odette, a 29 year old accountant in Kisumu. Going by @jr_odette on Twitter, Odette says he expected the #EyewitnessChallenge to go viral because of its potential to capture the national interest. While he's tried other humorous social media posts before that didn't get shared Odette believes that, "this one did as it offered us some relief from the ongoing politics."

Odette says that the Kenyan electoral dispute and related social upheavals have had an ongoing impact on his life. From a lack of work during the demonstrations to state targeting of people from Odette's Luo community. The stress, in other words, was the perfect setting for a goofball meme. A quick respite from posts about the fight for electoral justice that Odette typically engages in online.

Here's Odette's relatively tame, original contribution to the meme. The "ur-tweet" if you will:

Some of our favorites from the #EyewitnessChallenge:


Has Cyrus Kabiru taken the #EyeWitnessChallenge yet?

In their artful disdain for the mundane, these Kenyan social media artists bring to mind the work of fellow Kenyan, the internationally recognized artist Cyrus Kabiru whose self portraits in elaborate improvised glasses frames adorn many of the world's top art galleries. We can only imagine that Kabiru would have the best addition to the challenge yet.

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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