This article explores forceful interplay among the Indian Ocean cultures like Islamic religious as well as economic culture and the Italian business as well as family culture on the burgeoning Bi-curious narratives among the urban communities in Malindi Town.
How have the entrenched Islam and deep-rooted Italian culture contributed towards the current state of bi-curiosity in Malindi town?
This question is justified on the premises based on the social grounds that both Islamic religious culture and Italian commercial cultures have had some interplay to influence positively the increase in commercial bi-curiosity among the male youths from communities living in Malindi town.
The Bi-curiosity in Malindi Town
For the purpose of this article , commercial male bi-curiosity means 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. Whereas, the Indian Ocean culture means to the sub-cultures along the African Indian ocean coast. Joe Khamis in his Wretched Africans (2016) argues that Indian oceans cultures vary from the 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.
Religion in Malindi Town
Given that his article is primarily concerned with bicurious anxieties, we shall thus reserve ourselves to the objective examination of the social structures and public institutions in Malindi Town in relation to bi-curiosity. Going by findings by the previous studies on sociology of religion in Malindi town, there several and diverse revelations that Islam is one of the social and economic forces that have led to commercial bi-curiosity among the youths in Malindi.
It has led the youths to this state by omission whereas the Italian social-economic cultures have the Malindi youths to the same by commission. Facts from current social history of communities in Malindi show that Islam as a social and economic civilization has never supported formal education, youth empowerment, liberal secular thought, monogamy, family planning, corrective abortion, maturity before marriage, women empowerment and as well as entrepreneurial development among youths in the local urban communities in Malindi town. Examination of the local communities living in Malindi is a bare testimony to the fact that even though Islam has often posed as one of age-long African heritages, but it’s so unfortunate that still it has the overtones that are an overstatement of the otherwise. What I mean is that Islam has evidently not helped the local urban communities in Malindi town to come out of poverty.
Instead, Islam is has been focused on its out-dated culture of building mosques in every corner of the impoverished town alongside unflagging proselytizing of 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 Town. These failures have made the young people in Malindi to be victims of poverty, despair, ignorance and wiles of crude religions, not failing to mention the properly burgeoned bi-curious anxieties among the urban youths.
By bad coincidence, the Italian business men from southern Italy, especially from the region of Naples (Napoli) have found Malindi a good place for their Mafia like system of business in Hotel and Casino Industry. It is on record in the media fraternity in Kenya that the Italian hotel owners score poorly when it comes to modern practice of corporate social responsibility in the sense that the Italian business community in Malindi town rarely feature anywhere on matters of corporate social responsibility. However, the media has often reported the resident members of Italian business community in Malindi town for being on the first lane as the facilitators and consumers of the bi-curious red tenting services, for being heavy-weight players on buyer markets of python skins, leopard skins, Elephant teeth, Rhino Horn and bicurious red tent services. Thus it is not bad logic to premise that the Italian cash culture in Malindi has positively impacted on the blooming culture of commercial bi-curiosity among the youths.
About Malindi Town
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 five centuries ago. Historical facts have it that, Vasco da Gama, the Spanish Sailor and Francis Xavier the Portuguese Christian missionary landed in six centuries ago. In spite of this early encounter with the globalizing agents as well as forces of capital and industrial growth, Malindi has ever remained as a small town, home to very poor local communities, hub to terrorist networks and for now with palpable repute for being home to the bicurious red street keepers .
The point of cultural concern is that cultural vices condemned in Islam are rife and rampart in Malindi and yet the town is an Islamic city with more than one thousand mosques within the peripheries of its urban area. Another point of concern is that Malindi is also a home to very many successful Italian families owning very successful investments tourism and hotel industry and also Malindi has been and it still is a home to most of powerful Kenyan politicians.
Thus, economic logic will demand that, combination of such like the above economic and cultural forces must blend into social as well as economic processes that are competent enough to carry the Malindi Society above such self-defeating cultures and vices of urban poverty as those evinced in the rampart commercial male bi-curiosity among the youths.
The feature stories, news reporting, and editorial stories by culturally focused Media from Kenya and around the world have repeatedly shown that that Malindi town is the second in having highest number of male bi-curious red street keepers around the East African region. Of course, 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 is 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 that he was brought up as an altar boy in Western Kenya, he is now 37 years old, he has been living with the HIV virus for 14 years, he is bi-curious and shared to Deutsch Welle during 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 in Malindi town where the practice is tolerated.
Bi-curious Socialization in Kenya
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; ‘ the young people working in matatus in Kenya 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. Though the manner in which the Saturday Nation, the newspaper which published the review, presented Prof. Mwangi’s review of the book was also so brief that one cannot accurately judge if Mwangi had made overstatements that were derogatory in 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, the Saturday Nation presented Mwangi as if he was making sweeping generalization that the rest of Kenya is substantially bi-curious and hence it was better if it was called Quenya but not Kenya. Even though Mwangi did not provide literary nor statistical facts to prove that Kenya is sexually non-conventional enough to befit the re-naming as Quenya, but the motif of his message was that the youths working with commuter vehicles otherwise known as Matatus in Kenya are substantially bi-curious. And yet Matatus are the second largest source of employment among the youths in Malindi. Hence logic of extension can easily help in explaining what Mwangi implied.
This does not mean that the bi-curious youths are the socially comfortable lot of the society in Malindi town. They have been suffering diverse forms of violation as it was once discoursed in a session on bi-curious literature, Music, art and poetry during the East African Cultural and Literary Conference held at Makerere University in August in 2015. In fact it was commonly resolved among all that were in the gender focused session that people of bi-curious in orientation in east Africa 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 are so many calling for the best lexicographic listologist to do the work. And truly, 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 in describing some diversities in gender orientation.
Data collection stage for this article revealed that commercial male bi-curiosity among the youths in Malindi emerged as one of the key variants of the new sub-commercial cultures of the Indian Ocean cultures in Kenya. Tellingly, commercial bi-curiosity is the major basis of commercial interactions between the Italian cash-rich tourists and the local African cash-strapped youths. The observations made for the purpose of this paper 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 youthful Matatu communities identified by Professor Evans Mwangi in in Nairobi, are out to survive the economic hardships that go with city life.
Thus, all observations led to the conclusions that vices and virtues of bi-curiosity in Malindi and in any other urban communities along the east African coast are nothing less than the significant vestiges of bad governance in the past. They are the true evidence of social challenges among the poor that were once enslaved, colonized, exploited, miss-educated, Christo-paganized, miss-Islamized, terrorized, impoverished, denigrated and condemned into the abyss of self-doubt , the self-doubting that renews its muscles on the vice of economic-insecurity. Such vices cannot be solved through visceral and irrational condemnation hurled at the bicurious by the mainstream communities as often seen , 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 the discourse on the plight of bi-curiosity among the youths in Malindi Town can borrow from the common political discussions about bi-curiosity that have often blamed the culture of patriarchy, male chauvinism, poor research, political populism, traditional Christianity and Islamism. Another public discourse about global perspectives of bi-curiosity was presented by Ali A. Mazrui in his book, Cultural Forces behind World Politics. In this book Mazrui comes up with the concept of cultural suicide to counteract Salman Rushdie’s Satanic verses by asserting that Jesus Christ heavily displayed a parenting behavior that were bi-curious in nature, especially in the manner with 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-curiosity in 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 sublimated patriarchy. Mazrui’s arguments under this juncture calls for a moot, debating and counter-debating, as they forcefully, portray logic of connotation in the direction that both the Bible and the Quran have not fully explained human nature.
The Concept of Bi-curiosity in Africa
In contradistinction to this liberal type of thinking about bi-curiosity as a matter of gender concern displayed by Ali A. 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-curiosity is anti-African, anti-Islam and anti-Christian and hence it is to be condemned as vulgar imperialism from the West trying to disrespect cultural 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 likes 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?
The narratives arc 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 and the cultural transformations that have 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 of Arabic and Eurocentric buying and en-slaving of black people for lewd reasons like concubinage and perversion. Joe did very good research in his book to establish historical facts about coastal towns like Zanzibar, Mombasa, Mikindani, and Pemba, Malindi, Lamu and most of the Mozambican coastal towns that were formed for the purpose of working as slave buying centers.
This is a clear testimony that the towns along the east African coast were not formed with fair participation by the locals. They were formed by the outsiders. The Arabs and Europeans who accessed the east African coast due to its proximity to the Indian Ocean. The towns were formed as some outposts of Indian Ocean civilization, the civilization which began with conquest of the black locals, enslaving, colonizing and then capitalistic exploitation. Such are the series of events that forms social channels through which forces of exploitation have travelled down the road of history to give birth to the now burgeoning culture of commercial male bi-curiosity among the youths in Malindi town.
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