We wanted to see this Kenyan-American son of our land – and not even to see him! Just his car was enough, reminiscent of Jesus’ cloak. Just to know that he was passing, that he was there.

The euphoria was palpable.

Even more exciting was the fact that it felt like he was, indeed, home. He knew the words to say, like niaje. He knew what to talk about (women empowerment and entrepreneurship, because which Kenyan only has one job?) He even took the mickey out of Uhuru.

It felt like he knows us. Almost as if we’re the disobedient child listening to the big brother who knows we can do better, but somehow frames it in such a way that at the end, we still have our dignity and he can tell the parents that he gave us a talking to.


And I will never forget watching my generation dance with the most powerful man on earth: Sauti Sol and Obama and Uhuru, dancing to ‘Sura Yako’. That was a climax for me.

To think that this is possible! That dreams are valid! That four boys who used to be struggling artists begging a local cafe to shoot their first video (oh, how they must regret it now) are global.

I stopped trying to keep the excitement down. It was a proud (and intensely jealousy-filled) moment.

I’m sure many Kenyans felt like I did – finding themselves tuned in to news that was covered with images of Obama, from the live feed of everything we could catch down to irritating details about the Beast that no one needed to really know.

But why?

Why are we so excited when someone the world recognises comes to us? Why did no one notice the other artists who performed for the presidents?

Sure, the show may have been stolen by Obama taking part in the Sauti Sol performance, but they were not the only artists on the list that night. What is this inexplicable awe we (still) have for all things foreign?


Obama may be a special case, but we demonstrate it daily. Kenyans prefer to foul where we eat instead of cleaning up, and never is this more evident than when Someone’s Visiting. Much like in our childhood when Aunty So-and-So was coming and everyone had to be on their best behaviour.

It is unfortunate, but obvious. And we need to remember – Obama may be a son of Kenya, but he doesn’t live here. In fact, by the time he landed it was nightfall. That grass wasn’t going to be seen anyway.