Kenyans are shameless copycats

Kenyans have aped western lifestyles almost to a point of no return.

They have copied wazungu holidays, adopted their religions, and wholeheartedly embraced their cuisines.

They struggle to acquire wazungu accents and go to great lengths to demonstrate their newly-found sophistication, often with disastrous effect.

“Kenya ya siku hizi imejaa wazungu weusi, Baba Jim,” says my friend Odhiambo, adding that we now live in a land of photocopies. “Siku hizi kila mtu unataka kuwa msungu,”

Apparently, black is no longer beautiful. As we speak, my neighbourhood is choke-full of these copy cats. These people have been marking holidays such as Halloween and Thanksgiving Day, which they celebrate with more zeal than the wazungu themselves.

They insist on giving fancy-sounding Western names to their children. They also take “fries” while the rest of us eat good old chips, and their cars consume “gas”, which they purchase at “gas stations.”

I have even seen people pretending to love classical forms of Western music, such as jazz, yet it is clear that their musical needs can only be met by Mugithi and other local compositions.

The trait is especially pronounced among Kenyans who have studied or lived abroad, including those who have only spent a few days in a European or American city.

Successful copycats are seen as progressive and modern, while the more conservative folks are christened washamba and mafala.

My next-door neighbour, Mama Nduta, is a chronic victim of mzungu-mania. One of her fantasies was this thing of wazungu living in their homes with their dogs.

She had seen our Western cousins in the movies as they walked their dogs around, carried them in their cars and generally treated them like their own children.

Eager to replicate this lifestyle, Mama Nduta acquired Simba, a kienyeji mongrel of dubious pedigree, and made him part of the household.

Alas, things did not work out as expected. Before long, it emerged that Simba was an untenable fixture in her household. She eventually hounded him out of her house without ceremony.

“Hizi mbwa za kienyeji hazina class,” she was heard lamenting, a day after Simba embarrassed her in the presence of important guests.

Then we have our neighbour’s house help, a rural girl named Sera. In her misguided effort to acquire the mzungu look, Sera took to using skin bleaching creams a few years back.

She bleached herself a little too liberally, concentrating on her arms and the face, and when the bleach eventually started to take effect, Sera ended up looking like a half-cooked mzungu. My friend Odhiambo calls it the “Fanta Face, Coca Cola Legs” syndrome.

“She looks ridiculous,” people say of her new look. “Anakaa kama madoadoa ya chapatti.” Despite her hideous appearance, poor Sera has been making countless exhibitions of herself in the streets, looking like the Queen of the Karumaindo Catwalk.

Mama Jimmy sees nothing wrong with such developments. She says I should reinvent myself and kiss my ushamba goodbye.

“Inafaa uache kuzubaa Baba Jim. Mambo imebadilika siku hizi,” she says, while mumbling that I am “too analogue” to fit in to the new trends.

Frankly, modernisation missed me by a long shot. Despite the ongoing hullaballoo, Baba Jimmy still leads a hustler’s life, lamentably lacking in the so-called class and swag.

The mzungu’s cuisine never quite made inroads in my heart, which is to say that I still love my ugali, githeri and kienyeji eggs. I will never pretend to love jazz just to look the part. An evening of Mugithi brings out the man in me, and a glass of Mursik is just what the doctor ordered.

Mama Jimmy, on the other hand, has become the official fashion copycat in my hacienda. She is obsessed with wazungu fashion, and she has no apologies to make. She admires their lifestyles, swears by their movies and is kuku about their recipes.

Not to be left out, my children have been aping wrestling stars, movie gangsters, dancers in music videos and any random characters they can fish out of the Internet.

Well, I certainly do not mind a little swag among my children and the wife, and I am as open-minded as many other daddies and hubbies out there, but I abhor certain extremes.