“Not all images are meant to be looked at. Some, like those on banknotes, are only meant to be seen.”
In this paper Wambui Mwangi analyses the politics associated with currency design in Kenya. The paper goes into how currency design is basically an extrapolation of the self-imagination of the dominant class of society. With this in mind I’ve been looking at the year we’ve had and the changing face of the country, what it means like and what it means.
But let’s begin.
This year has seen a flurry of changes in the country we’ve seen people line up for Huduma nambas and passports. Late last year the new generation driving license was brought into play. With buildings coming up faster than Jay Z in the late 90s and a large number of roads paved with caterpillars one can’t help but think the country finally break out of it’s cocoon and butterfly into the future.
I’m talking about aesthetics here and the effect that they have on the general psyche of a people. Which is to say let’s forget that our CS for Treasury has been caught up in a large grand heist scandal recently. Or, that we recently took another Eurobond to pay for our previous Eurobond (talk about borrowing from Tala to pay Branch).
Instead I’m trying to think about the things, as Dr Mwangi talks about, that are not looked at but seen. The things that we experience without really looking into. Like driving on a new road while knowing deep in your heart that it’s your generation that will bear the burden of the debt that went into developing it. Like holding the crisp new currency notes (monopoly money ama?) and holding back the feeling that maybe this means something.
“The thing about saying something is happening is that change comes to everyone in its own time. And so to say that something is happening is to forget the millions that it is yet to happen to. It is to forget those who will die before that thing happens. And if the thing that was supposed to happen doesn’t happen in time for you – then did it happen?”
Is change coming?
How one feels about their nation is primarily based on their experiences within the country and the experiences of those around them. If Kenya has been good to you and yours then odds are you sing that Eric Wainaina song at the top of your lungs with a phone in the air. If you are somewhere on the margins uncentered and unimagined by the nation you are expected to give everything to then it’s likely that you are dancing to Sarabi juu umechoka kuchoka. And, of course, it depends on the time of month you are turning on the radio.
With this in mind, I’m wondering how the changing images of our country are affecting our perception of the space and of ourselves as a people.
I only ask because it seems that the strategy undertaken by this government is to borrow heavily and hope that it opens up avenue for business that will increase the output of the country and raise our income to meet obligations that we currently cannot. And we know from every book on corporate leadership ever written, that a happy and fulfilled employee is more likely to give the company their best work. They will put in longer hours and they are more likely to see the company’s success as their own. And, in being forced to bear this burden, we are the labourers that carry the cost. Increasingly I find it important to ask – are we happy with the changes being made? Do we believe that they are good changes in the larger picture? Has the experience of being a Kenyan got better or worse with the changing faces of a nation?
This is an actual question. Tell us in the comments, in our inbox or on email firstname.lastname@example.org. How do you feel about new Kenya?