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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.

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Photo by Dereck Green/Gallo Images/Getty Images

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