“Contemporary Sayings and Changing Patterns of Social Relations in Nairobi”
by Joseph Kariuki in L’AFRIQUE ORIENTALE
Annuaire 2004, Charton H.& Medard C.(eds),
L’HARMATTAN, Paris, 2005.
This article describes the urban social scenario as portrayed by popular sayings used by the youth in the city of Nairobi today. It captures the views and debates expressed in contemporary sayings as they are used in posters, car stickers, African Kanga (cloth), music among other media outlets in the city of Nairobi.
With a special focus on the popular Sheng language (a blend of Swahili, English and other local Kenyan languages such as Kikuyu, Dholuo, Kamba, etc.) which is popular among the youth of Nairobi, the article reveals recurring themes in the sayings which are at the core of understanding the values and perspectives of young people in a city in the process of change. The article points out that the Sheng language and its popular sayings is a reflection of urban transformation which has consequently resulted in change in behaviour patterns and social relations. The article concludes that other than just being a way to communicate among themselves, the young people use these sayings as rhetorical tools to argue over various social, economic and political issues in the urban setting.
The article is divided into six parts:
1. Conceptualising the saying
2. Sayings in the context of Nairobi
3. “Sheng”: the language of Nairobi sayings?
4. Gender aspects in modern Nairobi sayings
5. Generational debates in sayings
6. Work ethics and religion in confronting urban economic problems