Mtaachana Tu and Kenya’s Culture on Love

Wale Lawal on his insta stories when asked a question to do with love said “Love as a concept is cultural: it may have universal aspects but ultimately love inherits the nuances of its social context” and while ruminating about this, I thought about the context of Kenya and in turn, the prevalence of the “mtaachana tu” mentality.

While most of our understanding on love is from media we consume, our upbringing etc, we develop ideas of love from our culture and in this case, I specifically mean Kenyan culture. To generalise, I started asking myself questions: How did our parents show love to us and each other? And how does this replicate in our own lives and relationships, whether romantic, filial or platonic? And in the greater sense, as country, what do we portray, present and embody when it comes to love? What does it mean for us to love?

And the pertinent question, where does the “Mtaachana tu” mentality or dare I say “culture” come in?

bell hooks in All About Love: New Visions stated “It is far easier to talk about loss than it is to talk about love. It is easier to articulate the pain of love’s absence than to describe its presence and meaning in our lives.”

And I am not saying that Kenya is unique in talking about the lack/loss of love, the ending of relationships, heartbreak etc but there is a specific insidious snarkiness which I see and a delight in misfortune/breakups/heartache that is unique to us.

Even if we were to think of love songs, of which I have a playlist, many of them are about the ending of relationships. I am not sure how other forms of media deal with it but specifically music, we talk more about negative aspects, being unloved, ending of relationships etc.

And it begs the question: Do we even know how to love, to give love and to receive love? I think that is the root of it all – Our lack of understanding of what love should be and as a result, a delight in its ending. Because at the core of it, we have to understand that the end of a relationship is not an end to love. And if I am even being more real, I think we overestimate our capacity and capabilities of loving.

It is easier to be snarky about people breaking up because we don’t even have an understanding of what love is, we see it as a loss of power perhaps.

And what amuses me more is that even as there is an adoption of the mtaachana tu mentality, there is also an accompanying desire, a longing to be partnered and to have a romantic connection with someone. Most often than not, this desire includes the assumption that one, one won’t publicise the relationship so as to avoid any scrutiny and two, that they will somehow escape the realities/trappings of relationships or the delusion that somehow they are above it all.

Culturally and as a society, I find that our definitions of love are rooted in power and ownership of people – a mix of tradition, religion and the all consuming patriarchy.

PS: if you saw this post yesterday, my apologies, it was incomplete at the time of posting

Wedding, Pregnancy and Relationship Industrial Complex

Back in 2010/2011 when I was planning a wedding, the wedding industrial complex was increasing in influence. You could tell that people were being sold ideas on what to do for their weddings and if there is one thing that internet has made very clear, it is very easy to be made to adopt other people’s opinions. Therefore incorporating things in your wedding because of seeing them online whether or not they represented you is something that continues to happen (Did I have a damask themed wedding because I wanted it or was it the hype of the season?).

If you don’t think the wedding industrial complex is a thing, you are willfully ignorant. I think being able to see how capitalism infiltrates almost every facet of our lives and in certain instances, seems to dictate what decisions we should make about how we live.

Over the years, it has become fascinating to watch weddings, relationships, pregnancy and the whole nuclear family dynamic be sold to us especially as social media becomes a part of how we connect, socialise and at the same time how advertising is done. I’m not saying that attempting to sell these things to us is new, but we have to agree that social media adds another other level to it. I mean, we keep seeing people announcing relationships as a means to increase followers and become influencers. Couples are the product. Children are the product.

Remember the couple who had a Kshs 100 wedding? Then brands jumped onto that story and it became this big hullabaloo and an apparent Kshs 3.8 million. What was the point? I mean, we do realise it was promotion of consumerism and a marketing drive and had absolutely nothing to do with the couple, right?

At this point, there are people who are actually getting pregnant with the idea that the children will become the content and as a result a way to make money. I have many thoughts on kids being content but high up on opinions is the lack of protection for the money the children generate. How is that money used by their guardians? (please do not say food and education because as a parent, you should be providing those by virtue of having decided to have children).

Is this a product of that late stage capitalism we keep hearing about?

My point is, and I am still thinking my way through this, events/celebrations and relationships have become spectacles, are over-marketed and over-romanticized and then when people are actually experiencing them, they become jaded and disappointed because it is never how they depict it to be and furthermore life doesn’t work like that. Sadly, even as all these things fill our spaces, our relationships are not better, making better decisions or even doing right by the next generation either by how we are parenting or even how the world is becoming. It is all about money and selling ideals.

A damn shame.

There has never been a time when we need to know ourselves like now. So much of what we think we want to do or be is manipulated into our psyche, yes some of it is peer/familial pressure but social media, marketing etc plays a huge role.

Things I Have Yet To Do

Read or watch Little Women. I just know there is a Liz Bennet and a Mr Darcy but I do not know anything about the plot line.

Watch movies/serieses from about 2012 onwards and so I missed out on the frenzy of Game of Thrones and any other show that has come out since then (except Derry Girls). If I had the patience there are certain shows I think I would enjoy like Fleabag and Sex Education.

Be impressed by extravagant shows of wealth. Honestly I don’t know how people get jazzed by the fact that someone spent ridiculous amounts of money ON A CAR.

Enjoy a fruit salad with pawpaw in it.

Sing at Karaoke. Even though I cannot sing I do want to participate in Karaoke.

Kenya: Six Things I’ve Been Thinking

We use humour, religion and alcohol to cope with the madness that is living in this country

Most people in this country stay in relationships that don’t serve them because they fear having to start over.

If we really looked at the statistics on domestic abuse including verbal abuse in this country they would be astronomical.

If we did one small thing, let us stop assigning worth and value to people who have wealth. They aren’t automatically right, their lives don’t matter more just because they are rich. Let’s stop valorising them.

The effects of colonialism continue to affect us in ways that a large percentage of the population does not understand.

We only believe we are good people because we are affiliated with a church. We mostly don’t look at people’s actions or character.