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We have to blame Islamic and Italian Cultures for the Bi-curious anxieties among the youths in Malindi Town

By Alexander Opicho
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A paper Presented at Lalibela University, Ethiopia

Ladies and Gentleman, it is an academic tradition to present an abstract before the main research paper, though it is an outdated practice, but it is still binding in most of the conventional academic cultures and hence I to too am bound to present to you the abstract to this paper about Effects of the interplay Between Islamic and Italian Culture on Bi-curious among the urban communities in Malindi Town. First, Malindi town is located at the East African coast along the Indian Ocean coast-line, it is in the northern parts of Kenya. Malindi Town began receiving European settlers as early as 1400; this is when Vasco da Gama, the Spanish Sailor and Francis Xavier the Portuguese Christian missionary landed there. Since then Malindi has remained as a small town but with very sharp international repute, though poverty among the youths and now a culture of commercial gender-fluidity are part and parcel of life among the rural, sub-urban and urban families in Malindi Town. These vices are rife and rampart in spite of the fact that Malindi is an Islamic city with more than one thousand mosques within the peripheries of its urban area, Malindi is also a home to more than one thousand Italian families involved in high powered investment in the hotel industry, Malindi has been and it still is a home to most of powerful Kenyan politicians. Combination of such economic and cultural forces is a social blend enough to carry the Malindi Society above such self-defeating cultures and vices of urban poverty and commercial male bi-curiosity among the youths. This paper therefore, used historical and ethnographic approaches to do a systematic investigations into historical and oral perspectives of narratives about Malindi as a geography in a certain temporal space to textually shine out pertinent themes on how the Indian ocean cultures connect with the current cultural status-quo of commercial male bi-curiosity, poverty of youthful enterprise among the youths in Malindi by the same putting the whole narratives under the light of exclusive legislations and political socializations in regard to the bi-curiosity in Kenya .

Thus, after that above brief introduction, it is in order for my dear readers and listeners to know the key words that will inform and guide this paper and at the same time operationally define them as follows;Commercial male bi-curiosity is deliberate involvement in red tenting, pimping and facilitating the red street practices where the persons involved are males with primary essence to make money.Other words used under the same context are bi-sexual, bi-gender, transgender and intersex. The Indian ocean cultures cannot be defined under the context of the Limited geography of Malindi town, it can only be understood by ethnographic observation of the urban societies found along the Indian ocean coast of Africa. For the purpose of these paper the coastal towns in Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya have been examined. They display several and consistent patterns of social behavior that amount to what is known as Indian ocean cultures. The sub-cultures of the Indian ocean cultures vary from memories and vestiges of slavery, Islamic consciousness, tourism, rampart citizenship in the red street and red tent , some basic euro-centrism, low focus on agriculture,Marijuana consumption-cum-drug trafficking, two-bityism among the youths, hoteling, entrepreneurship with less focus on corporate philanthropy and social responsibility, child labour, human trafficking, kidnapping, concubinage, Harem keeping , German cultures, Spanish cultures, Italian cultures, Swahili cultures, multiple cultural levels of terrorism, sex-tourism, poverty tourism and also overt commercial bi-curiosity as part of day to day socialization.

First, it is clear that the motivation for this paper to have its physical ontology in Malindi, a coastal town in Northern Kenya was provoked by the features, reporting, and stories as well as revelations that have been in the recent past carried in the conventional Media from around the world that Malindi town has the second greatest number of male bi-curious red street keepers around the East African region, that it is only second to Mombasa. According to the research done in June 2018 by Diana Wanyonyi for Deutsch Welle Newspaper, 77 percent of the total of red tent workers in Malindi are Male. During the interview the male bi-curious red tent keepers that were interviewed cited Poverty and unemployment to be the reason for their commercial bi-curiosity.One of the bi-curios red tent keeper stated thathe was brought up as an altar boy in Western Kenya, he is now 37 years old, has been living with the HIV virus for 14 years, he is bi-curious and shared to Deutsch Welleduring the interview that,because his mother was a church member and their family had a relatively high standing in the church that is why he was forcedly sent away into the red street citizenship.

Meanwhile, before embark on an in-depth discussion of Malindi and its bi-curious culture on its red streets, it is good to know the general state of dialogic and polyalogic discourses about bi-curiosity in Kenya and other immediate parts of the East African region that often interacts with the Indian ocean cultures. Under this context, one can easily enjoy the contextual relevance and temporal vogue in Professor Evan Mwangi. When reacting to politics and economics of gender that surround the bi-curious socialization in Kenya Professor Evan Mwangi approached the issue by reviewing Professor’s Mutongi’s book, Matatu: a history of popular transportation in Nairobi, by remarking that; ‘matatus are as bi-curious as the rest of Kenya. Mwangi also decried the bi-curious state of Kenya by labelling it a country so bi-curious that it should officially change its name from Kenya to Quenya. Unfortunately, Mwangi was derogatory in his tone about the matatus as social conduits of bi-curious culture, without sensing the pejorative context of his communication that was intended to demean the person being described, and also Mwangi makes sweeping generalization that the rest of Kenya is substantially bi-curious and hence it was better if it was called Quenya but not Kenya. However, Professor Mwangi did not provide literary or statistical facts to prove that Kenya is sexually non-conventional enough to befit the re-naming as Quenya.

However, it has been very encouraging to read Professor Evan Mwangi, especially in his recent writings where he has on several occasions appreciated bi-curious literature as a perspective of post-modern culture, however Mwangi is intellectually obliged to research further so that he can write from an informed angle, but not to make sweeping generalizations as if he is intellectually tired and fatigued. Mwangi should do so lest the realization of the fact that intellectual fatigue is the enemy of good scholarship.

During a session on bi-curious literature, Music, art and poetry during the East African Cultural and Literary conference held at Makerere in 2015, it was resolved by all that were attending one of the gender focused session that people of bi-curious orientation suffer several forms of brutality and violence, injustices ranging from police brutality, public distaste, political violence through unfair but populist legislation, harassment by the media, mistreatment by literature, forced silence as well as verbal violence in form of abusive and sarcastic words used by the people in mainstream sexuality when describing those that are the bicurious were identified as the most dominant among other injustices. Verbal violence was established as the most perpetrated form of injustice on the gender-fluids, some of the derogative and violent words commonly used against the bi-curious aresomany calling for the best lexicographic listologistin the word to do the work.

In sociology of literature and politics we learn that intentional use of such type of verbal violence is known as labeling, which means that those that are in advantageous position dictate the type of language to be used in describing the least advantaged. Hence the age-old English proverb that give a dog a bad name and hang it. And truly, history can testify with audacity that white Americans call the black people in America as negroes, white Australians call the native black Australians as aborigines, Europeans in Canada call the locals Inuit and Inupiat as Eskimos, just the same way Europeans like Rudyard Kipling in India described the locals as coolies. All these naming is derogatory in intention and it is a loud overtone of a social process perfecting the evils of political and economic exclusion. It is under this context that conventional societies use the sarcastic labels to imply the un-usual and cruel description of the gender-fluids without consulting the persons being described to find out if they are comfortable with the manner in which they are being described. My interaction with the bi-curious society when I was researching for my short story Stowaways anthologized in the Queer Africa II, gave me an opportunity to discover that the bi-curious oriented people often feel very offended with the nature of language used by the conventional and mainstream speakers indescribing some diversities ingender orientation.

Did someone say ontology of the bi-curious culture? Yes, the reasons for and mode of existence of bi-curious culture. I have done some ethnographic observation about init June and July in 2019, I was researching for this paper, my interest was on the diverse variants of Indian ocean cultures by using Malindi sub-county as a study area within its broad sphere of the Indian ocean coastal communities. From this ethnographic venture, it was found out that the rampant commercial male Bi-curiosityamong the youths in Malindi emerged as one of the key variants of the new commercial cultures of the Indian ocean in Kenya. Tellingly, it is one of the major basis of commercial interactions between the Italian cash-rich tourists and the local African cash-strapped youths.My observation established that Merciless capitalism perpetrated by the Italian and Islamic ruthless investors in Hotel Industry , un-blotched environmental pollution, meagre secular schooling among the local communities , the ever increasing urban poverty and its related urban anxieties among the youths in Malindi are some of the key factors that force the youths to entice male commercial bi-curiosity, but for no other reason other than for urban and economic survival, just the same way the bi-curious Matatu communities identified by Professor Evans Mwangi in in Nairobi, are only out to survive the economic hardships that go with city life.

Thus, all observations made led to the conclusions that vices and virtues of bi-curiosity in Malindi and any other coastal urban communities are nothing less than the significant vestiges of bad governance in the past. They are the true evidence ofsocial challenges among the poor that were enslaved, colonized, exploited, miss-educated, Christo-paganized, Miss-Islamized, terrorized, impoverished, denigrated and condemned into the abyss of self-doubt that renews its muscles on the vice of economic-insecurity. Such vices cannot be solved through visceral and irrational condemnation, but instead through responsible literature, effective social policy and policing, informed medical care, economic and political gender mainstreaming-cum-inclusion, good education as well as good mental healthcare and mental health services.

At a broader perspective some social policy can borrow from very many cases of political discussions about bi-curiosityin Eastern Africa. Some are written, others are verbal, clandestine or overtly public. However, the culture of patriarchy, male chauvinism, poor research, political populism, traditional Christianity and Islamism have negatively influenced Africa’s modern political thought against social position of bi-curiosity. Thisis why most of literatures in East Africa about gender and its diversity are still in form of textual carry-overs from the constitutional writings, parliamentary legislations and literatures of social activism, but not the main literature as in form a novel, drama and poetry.

Another public discourse about global perspectives of bi-curiosity was presented by Ali A. Mazrui in his book, Cultural Forces behind World Politics. Mazrui, in a topic on cultural suicide reacts against Salman Rushdie’s Satanic verses by asserting that Jesus Christ heavily displayed a parenting bi-curious behavior in the manner in which he dealt with his disciples to an extent of washing their feet, avoiding to be married while maintaining close camaraderie of men by also encouraging his disciples to avoid their wives. Mazrui also observed that Mahatma Gandhi suffered from a special gender perversity syndrome known as sublimated Matriarchy, which means a man behaving extremely polite and very caring like a woman. Mazrui further formulated or identified another perspective of political bi-curiosityin regard to the political socializations and political-social-orientations observed in Indira Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto, Alice Lakwena and also Alice Ilineshi. He argued that they all displayed disproportionate gender behavior, which Mazrui described as sublimatedpatriarchy. Mazrui’s arguments under this juncture calls for a moot, debating and counter-debating, as they forcefully, portray a logic of connotation in the direction that both the Bible and the Quran have not fully explained human nature.

In contradistinction to liberal type of thinking about bi-curiosityas a gender issue, like the one displayed by Mazrui in the preceding paragraph, political and religious socialization in Africa are not yet inclusive enough. They have maintained an anti-colonial stand that bi-curiosityis anti-African, anti-Islam and anti-Christian and hence it is to be condemned as vulgar imperialism from the West trying to disrespectcultural sovereignty of Africa and its people. Some African scholars also have held a wholesome condemnatory position about the gender-fluid culture. These are in the like of Mahmoud Mamdan and Achille Mbembe. For example, Mbembe in his book On the Post colony describes bi-curiosity aesthetics of vulgarity. However, ethics of modern civilization must go by the conscience that the gendered civilization must be conscious of inclusivity when perceiving the social vulgarity that can be justifiable as we imagine a free future where human beings are respected irrespective of their age, sexual orientation, and hue of the skin?

Some regular narratives about Slavery and commercial bi-curiosity in Malindi made me read and chose to think that if I was Antonio Gramsci writing the Prison Diary I would have used Joe Khamisi as an example to explain what an Organic intellectual is. Just the same way I would have called him a reincarnation of Walter Rodney had I had a privilege to be an Indian dervish or so. The reason why I would have done these two actions is because of the level of literary excellence Joe Khamisi have displayed in chronicling historical facts and experiences of the Indian ocean slavery, concubinage, harems, curiosity andthe cultural transformations thathave taken place on the East coast of Africa for the past six centuries. Khamisi has evidently observed in his book The Wretched Africans; A Study of Rabai and Freretown Slave Settlements. That it was imperial capital, traditional political rapacity, racism, Indian opportunism, Arabic brutality, Christo-paganism, Islamic Negro-phobia and poverty of self-confidence that formed the cobblestones and super strong tessellations that paved strongly the road on which the perpetration of Indian ocean slavery on black Africans travelled successfully. The slavery which wanted the negroes to be used as concubines, harem keepers, labourers, gladiator subjects and Gay victims in the Arabia, Europe and America. Thus, it has to be noted that when the locals of the east African coastal towns talk about history of East Africa’s coastal urbanization, they talk about nothing else but sharing the memories of infrastructural and institutional development in support Arabic and Eurocentric buying and slaving of black of people for lewd reasons like concubinage and perversion. And indeed, Joe Khamisi’s the Wretched Africans; A Study of Rabai and Freretown Slave Settlements is a repertoire for the plethora of research credibility that appallingly establishes Zanzibar, Mombasa, Mikindani, Pemba, Malindi, Lamu and most of the Mozambican coastal towns as the slave buying centers from as early as 1400 to the time of British self-heroism as evinced in the likes of William Wilberforce.

The preceding paragraphs have been but some bit of looking at some political dynamics and searching for historical foundations bi-curios culture among the urban communities of Malindi. But, let us now have a picture of the social fiber that undergirds the current bi-curious experiences in Malindi. In order to this let us examine the events that unfolded during the ethnographic process in June and July 2019 during data gathering exercise in preparation for this paper; There was an attempt by a group of alleged gender fluids to give one of their own a heroic sendoff in Watamu, Malindi inJune but it all turned nasty when outraged mourners attacked them.the group of about 50, who had travelled from Mombasa and beyond, wanted to perform bi-curious rituals which were rejected by other mourners. The deceased was said to be a prominent bi-curious rights activist. Tension peaked with mourners loudly saying the demands were unacceptable and barbaric. Things got out of hand when the irate mourners descended on the alleged gender-fluids with kicks and blows and crude weapons forcing a brief halt in the burial.

Now the question is this; how have Islam and Italian culture contributed towards the current state of bi-curiosity on the red streets of Malindi town? Both Islam religious and Italian business cultures have interplayed to influence positively the increase in commercial bi-curiosity among the male youth from communities living in Malindi town. Islam by omission and Italian culture by commission. Islam has never supported formal education, youth empowerment, liberal secular thought, monogamy, family planning, corrective abortion, maturity before marriage, women empowerment and entrepreneurial development among the local urban communities. Even though Islam has often posed as an African heritage, it has the overtones that state otherwise. It has not helped the urban African communities in Malindi town to come out of poverty. Islam is traditionally focused on building mosques and converting as well as proselytizing the local Giriama people into Muslims. Until today, there are no schools, colleges, youth or village polytechnics, medical colleges, computer training centers,private universities, HIV testing centers, reproductive health centers, ECDE centers, modern hospitals or even modern factories established by the Muslim leadership in Malindi. These failures have made the young people in Malindi to be victims of poverty, despair, ignorance and wiles of crude religions.

By bad coincidence, the Italian business men from southern Italy, especial from the region of Naples(Napoli) have found Malindi a good place for their Mafia like system of business in Hotel and Casino Industry. The Italian hotel owners rarely feature anywhere in any matters of corporate social responsibility. But in most cases the media has reported them as the facilitators and consumers of the bicurious red tenting services, heavy-weight buyer markets of python skins, leopard skins, Elephant teeth, Rhino Horn and red tent services, especially the bi-curious male red tent services. Thus the Italian cash culture in Malindi have positively impacted on the blooming culture of bi-curious red tenting.

Alexander Opicho writes erom Lodwar, Kenya [email protected]