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Tuesday 21 October  
Nairobi, Kenya
Nairobi, Kenya

Thumbs Up Africa blog 11: Signs of swag

Published on : 16 December 2012 - 6:00am | By RNW Africa Desk (Photo: Flickr/This is Africa (TIA))
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Project Thumbs Up Africa

Neda Boin (22), Sierd van der Bij (23) and Christiaan Triebert (21) are the lucky Dutch trio who began on 1 October a three-month-long hitchhiking trip from Groningen in the Netherlands to Cape Town, South Africa. They are part of the Thumbs Up Africa project, which aims at raising global awareness about sustainability.  

It’s funny (or sad): when you tell people you’re going to Africa, most of them have a totally warped mental image of the continent based on things they see or hear on the news. They think of poverty, AIDS and little houses made of cow shit. Of course, Africa has poverty, AIDS and cow shit houses…but what many people don’t know is that, most of all, Africa’s got swag.

By Neda Boin, Nairobi

Take Nairobi, for instance, the huge capital of Kenya. The first night we arrive at our hosts’ place, the girls take us out for karaoke. Now as boring as that might sound, karaoke night in Kenya has got swag.

First, it starts at home with some weed that a favourite taxi driver provides them every day. Then it’s time for styling. One of the girls is a stylist and makes sure every one of us looks just fine. High heels, sexy dresses and bling-bling earrings. Oh yeah, and can’t forget about the fresh tattoos put on in the bedroom right before we leave.

So once everyone’s looking hot, we go out and take a matatu, which functions much like a normal bus – only it doesn’t feel or look like a normal bus. Picture a bus, covered with the finest street art. Not only from outside, but inside as well. Black lights put up in the corners, and disco lights too. A conversation is impossible due to the amazingly banging dancehall and reggae music that is played nonstop inside the matatu. Now that’s what I would call a swag bus ride.

Entering the karaoke bar, we see it’s no ordinary dodgy bar, but a big club packed with people performing the most crazy dance moves and singing their karaoke songs like there’s no tomorrow. After karaoke we go to another club on a rooftop. Kenyan DJs got swag! They know how to handle their tracks and don’t play house or trance music, but let me enjoy the best reggae, dancehall, hip-hop and R&B.

And, yes, Africa has supermarkets. Most of them are three times as big as Dutch ones. They got shopping malls, Facebook and smart phones. They got big-ass cinemas where you can watch 3D movies. They even got swag election campaigns during which politicians promote themselves while a group of cute boys dances on stage, again to dancehall music.

Africa is hardly just what we in the Netherlands have seen or heard on the news. There’s so much more swag here!

Read more Thumbs Up Africa blog entries here. 


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