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Fame by memes: they didn’t even try

Saturday December 2 2017

The Githeri man is probably the biggest

The Githeri man is probably the biggest beneficiary of the last election season and arguably the biggest meme celebrity of all time. PHOTO| JEFF ANGOTE 

Fame as they say is an elusive treasure sought by many, yet there are those who get it without even trying.

Many have found themselves as the subject of online trends that have catapulted them into global or closer to home, Kenyan starhood. While others (like politicians) were already famous for their day jobs, some of their remarks or actions took the focus away from their politics and landed them squarely in the eye of social media users in rib cracking fashion.

This is a growing phenomenon and it does not look like it will stop any time soon.
For players in the showbiz industry fame is a must have prerequisite. Celebrities and their management invest a lot of money into making and keeping them famous.

Yet there are those who become household names without even trying all thanks to memes that go viral.

For many, it comes as a shock because they become famous in a digital space in which they don’t even participate in. Some who have become famous by memes don’t even have smart phones or access to internet, but that moment of fame throws them into a whole new world.

He is probably the biggest beneficiary of the last election season and arguably the biggest meme celebrity of all time.

The 41-year-old Martin Kamotho was just another voter on the queue until someone took a photo of him and Kenyans went wild with memes.

Within just three day’s Martin was probably more famous than celebrities who have been in the business for 10 years. In just three months the githeri man is now a fully fledged brand with endorsements lining up and an entire management team to manage his bookings.


He actually doesn’t have a “name” yet but a meme with his picture surfaced after news of the daring Thika heist broke out.

Very little is known of the dust covered guy who has become the face of the story, but Karigo Benard is well on his way to becoming the next big thing. In his Facebook page he describes himself as a

traveller and seems to be into nature a lot, but it remains to be seen how his new found fame will change his life.


To the world he is the cute little kid trying to concentrate on his studies, but to his friends and family he is just Jake. The Ghanaian boy broke the internet a few years back with his chubby-cheeks and serious expression. The photo was taken by Carlos Cortes who had travelled to Ghana in 2015 to make a documentary about Solomon Adufah, an artist returning to his home country from the US.

Little did he know that his side shots of Jake would steal the show. When it started trending neither Jake nor the photographer knew what was happening. The popularity of that meme helped Jake raise money for education.


The scandal that was the Koffi Olomide kick earned the Congolese singer a ban from Kenya, but for William Kamere aka Kymo and his wife it was their 15 seconds of fame.

Their video re-enacting the kick with a parody of Koffi’s Selfie song, made wild rounds at the time. Today he is known as one half of hit making gospel duo of Kymo and Stiga but it was the success of that video that made him realise the power of comedy. Today the duo continues to infuse comical elements in their songs, a factor that has endeared them to a growing audience.


Politicians have always been recipients of ridicule, especially by cartoonists who take every opportunity to take a jab at them, but Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has had more than his fair share. Museveni has been the subject of various memes, including “Do you want another rap’ and  the Museveni challenge. The Ugandan leader is the master of sound bites and has made countless statements that have been made into memes.


Mugabe on his part has even had fake quotes attributed to him, and videos and photos of him re-enacted and photo-shopped into the funniest of memes.

Whenever he has tripped or walked funnily the internet has been at hand to generate and share some of the funniest memes ever known to man. If you want to appreciate just how much Mugabe has contributed to the growth of memes just try and Google Mugabe memes.


He is the ultimate come back king and is arguably one of the most ridiculed and recipient of funny, harsh, and spot on memes in Kenya. Memes of him are so common that it’s hard to tell which are based on an actual event and which are just made out of fun. On his part, he has ridden the wave of the meme popularity to grow his career and stay relevant after almost every new song release, even making a song about how people troll him with memes. Talk about making lemonade from lemons.


Though he was relatively known, it was memes that ultimately took him to the mainstream, at least on social media. A photo of his wife holding him at a press conference went viral just over a month ago. The photo was re-enacted and became a bona fide trend called the Wanjigi Challenge.