Ghetto Kids’ Sitya Loss video, and related African stories

Wednesday September 4 2019

 

By Charles Onyango-Obbo

Everywhere I go around our continent, I find that friends are increasingly “going African” in their dress.
Up to about 10 years ago, you would have a gala dinner during some big African conference, and it would be mostly the West African brothers and sisters turning up in “African attire.” Today, it will probably be 70 per cent of the Africans at the event, up from about 20 per cent 10 years ago.
How things changed. A good chap from Tororo, who lives and works mostly in “abroad countries,” some years back playfully started a Facebook page in which he posted photos of African fashion. Before he knew it, he had more than one million followers. He still hasn’t figured out what to do with this bounty.
There is something deeper going on here. Recently, an African editor told me a remarkable story. Early in the year they published a special report on the crisis in a country that Africa and the rest of the world has forgotten – the Central African Republic (CAR).
It was one of those stories that an editor and newspapers do for the record out of high-mindedness, because it is important. But it is really not supposed to be read. The crisis in CAR has been going on for a while, many got tired and moved on.
Then something totally unexpected happened; the story went viral on their site! Granted, it was beautifully written, and accompanied by a notably insightful piece about whether CAR was a “failed state,” great photographs, and beautiful design.
Still, for it to be so red hot, didn’t seem to add up.
Perhaps, it shouldn’t have. For starters, Africa is becoming more African. Let’s explain. For example, there is increased migration and travel within the continent, and therefore a demand by “origin” countries about where their people have gone around Africa, and in turn an interest in host countries, about the new “strangers” in their midst.
In reality, while most African and international headlines are about desperate Africans dying in the Mediterranean Sea trying to cross to Europe, and making a desperate dash through Yemen to reach the Gulf States, most African migration is within the continent.
According to data from UNCTAD, of the 41.5 million people who migrated from, to, or within Africa in 2017, nearly half – 19 million – remained on the continent. Some 17 million people left Africa. But here is the one most miss - 5.5 million migrated to Africa from other parts of the world. Also, increasingly, more and more students go to study in other parts of Africa.
There are also many other homogenising forces at work, among them Nollywood, Nigeria’s film industry - and now significant music - industry.
Several Nigerian filmmakers, having improved the horrid quality of their offerings and cleaned up the storylines, increasingly cast actors from other African countries to increase appeal. For that, in recent years, we have to thank MultiChoice.
For the music, though, digital distribution platforms like Boomplay, a Chinese service, have been critical in getting African music to the continent’s youth, who are no longer big on TV (except for European football).
But the thing about popular music or dance videos, is that they have spawned thousands of youthful groups around the world who imitate the dance moves from their videos. One of the biggest is Sitya Loss by Uganda’s “Ghetto Kids”. Virtually in every country in the world, there have been Sitya Loss dance renditions.
Also, Uganda’s “Wakaliwood” king Isaac Nabwana, his Ramon Productions, maker of the over-the-top and unmissable Who Killed Captain Alex?” has such a global following, sports arenas from Asia, the US, to Spain are sold out to do “kill parties” via link to Nabwana in Kampala, as people act out the action scenes in Wakaliwood films.
But perhaps it was Black Panther, that record-breaking film of 2018 that gave us Wakanda, that dramatically revealed what you might an Afrotopia revanche.
In South America, cities stopped as their black populations turned out in record numbers to watch Black Panther – many people didn’t know there were so many black people who were citizens.
There is a significant growth of African chic and things cultural in South America, with one of the most-talked-about exhibitions of 2018 held in Brazil, being the Mandela exhibition in the capital Brasilia.
When I was editor at Mail & Guardian Africa, for a long time we were puzzled why we got millions of online views from Latin America. Until we figured it out.
But, also, it seems with the populist and nationalist wave in the West, and the hostility to immigrants of colour, there is finally an acceptance that, as former Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi liked to say, that “they hate us”. We are, therefore, giving ourselves quite a bit of self-love, finally.
Mr Onyango-Obbo is curator of the “Wall of Great Africans” and publisher of explainer site Roguechiefs.com. Twitter@cobbo3