A month or so ago, I received a rather condescending e-mail from a reader who wanted to know why I had bothered to translate, to English, Kiswahili phrases in a past article I wrote in this column.
He wondered who I was translating for yet the Daily Nation is read by Kenyans only, who understand Kiswahili anyway.
I e-mailed him back and told him that while the Daily Nation predominantly caters for a local audience, it is not only Kenyans that consume local media.
Thanks to technology, I added, the world has become a global village, so it only made sense to be careful not to alienate a reader who may not understand our national language. He wrote back and told me that I was “deluded” if I thought “other people” (non-Kenyans) were interested in this newspaper.
In this business, the reader is king. Without him, we’d close shop tomorrow, I therefore value the diverse feedback I receive from readers and respect their views even when I do not necessarily agree with them. I therefore e-mailed this reader back and thanked him for reading and for writing.
His e-mail, however, brought to the fore the extent to which many of us tend to look down on our own — we look down on our home-grown brands yet are quick to parade the foreign ones that cost us an arm and a leg on social media, never mind that these brands do not contribute to our economy.
We will proudly pose in numerous photos wearing foreign luxury brands, yet we have never taken a photo of the colourful kiondo or the artistic sandals we have bought at Maasai Market.
We also rubbish or ignore our inventions yet marvel at foreign ones, which we think are superior and of more substance. And most of the time, we only get to hear of the great achievements of our countrymen, for instance academicians, from foreign media.
We also tend to revere foreign artistes, who are a big influence especially among our young people, yet rarely do we look up to or are inspired by our talented countrymen.
I say this because, many times, I have read or watched interviews where, when those being interviewed are asked who inspires them, reel off the names of foreign personalities — rarely does a Kenyan personality come up.
Surely there must be great Kenyans that have done great and commendable things, Kenyans that have not been tainted by corruption and can therefore be role models for our young people. We could start with Wangari Maathai, who won the Nobel Peace Prize and Eliud Kipchoge, the greatest marathoner of all time.
It is time that we learnt the art of applauding ourselves and celebrating our gains. No matter how minor and negligible we think they are, they are a step forward, and that alone should suffice and elicit a toast. Recognising our achievements is what fuels us to keep moving forward.
The writer is the Editor, Society and Magazines, Daily Nation. [email protected]