Barack Obama, pop idol…

Culture, International Politics, Politics, Presidential Elections, US Elections

… in Kenya, that is.

On election night, or rather the morning after as it was 7 AM in Kusumu by that time, reporter Shashank Bengali witnessed the local Luo erupt in celebration:

The young jobless men, the bike taxi drivers who may be Obama’s strongest constituency, the women who clean the place – all cheered and hugged each other. [..]

People are saying, “We won.” Talk show hosts are joking that the fish in Lake Victoria are getting stake because all the fishermen are watching TV. The radio is playing Obama songs in Luo [..]. “George Bush said only John McCain could lead America,” goes one particularly jaunty guitar-and-drum tune, “but the rest of the world said no.” [..] President Mwai Kibaki declared Thursday a national holiday.

But it’s a globalised world, as Bengali realised when watching Al Jazeera in the Kisumu fairgrounds and hearing the pundit say, “I can’t offhand recall how many electoral votes Indiana has.” And the consumer society works just the same the world around:

This is starting to get ridiculous.

Less than a week after the election, you can’t walk 10 feet in Nairobi without seeing Obama’s name. [Y]ou can buy Obama campaign buttons in the supermarkets, beaded Masai bracelets with “Obama” stitched into them [..], souvenir Obama hundred-dollar bills, mini U.S. flags bearing Obama’s face, [..] electronics at one store’s “Obama sale” (not sure what this means exactly) — and the list goes on.

I was at an opening Saturday in Nairobi’s Industrial Area for a talented young Luo artist named Kota Otieno. [..] Kota, 28, was exhibiting about a dozen original works. At least three featured Obama’s name. [..] The one at right is called “The Proffet.”

While I appreciated Kenya’s election-day euphoria as much as the next guy, with the inauguration still 10 weeks away Obama already risks becoming a cliche here — not unlike the endless Man U and Arsenal logos that plaster all the minibus taxis. This is what’s almost happened in South Africa to Nelson Mandela, whose family has tried unsuccessfully to keep his face off of every T-shirt and backpack going. Obama’s not there yet, but it’s coming.

Hey, it’s better than Che tees …

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