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Makmende is the name of a viral video turned text meme popular within Kenyan internet culture. It follows the exploits of the fictional blaxploitation-style hero named Makmende who is able to do anything. Makmende is widely considered to be the first Kenyan-sourced viral internet ‘meme.’
The word ‘Makmende’ has a pre-internet origin. It is a Swahili slang word that originally came from a popular 1983 Clint Eastwood movie, Sudden Impact. In it, Eastwood’s ‘Dirty Harry’ character holds a criminal at gunpoint, daring him to give Harry a reason to shoot him saying, “Go ahead, make my day.” This was mistranslated to “Mek ma nday” and used to refer to anyone who thought they were tough or a wannabe superhero. Cultural ethnographer Ethan Zuckerman describes it in a blog post:
For example, if a boy who’s watched one too many kung-fu movies on TV decides to unleash his newly acquired combat skills, he would be asked “Unajidai Makmende, eh?” (Who do you think you are, Makmende?) Trust me, there was a Makmende in every hood!
In March 2010, the Kenyan music group ‘Just a Band’ created a music video for their song ‘Ha-He’ where a street hero named ‘Makmende’ single-handedly takes on a city’s worst criminals through his mastery of kung-fu. The look and feel of the video emulates the blaxploitation movies of the 1970s like Shaft and Superfly. It uses lots of freeze-frames and Makmende is dressed in the style of the time with bell bottom pants and a huge afro.
This video was posted online where it became a hit on the Kenyan internet through blog posts and social media forwards. The producers of the video released a number of faux magazine covers for popular magazines like Time and GQ Magazine declaring Makmende “Badass of the Year” that spread virally.
Within days, fan pages and accounts for Makmende appeared on Facebook and Twitter. A website, makmende.com, allowed users to leave testimonies of Makmende’s “badassness”. Similar to Chuck Norris Facts, these testimonies point out Makmende’s ability to do the impossible like:
“Makmende uses viagra in his eyedrops, just to look hard.”
“They once made a makmende toilet paper, but there was a problem: It wouldn’t take shit from anybody!!!”
Western Media Attention
After becoming popular among the Kenyan internet and Kenyan national media it was brought to the attention of the Western news media. Stories ran on CNN and WSJ.com.
- Makmende on CNN
- Makmende on Kenyan TV
- Just Who Is Makmende
Significance and Notability
Makmende is widely considered to be the first ‘meme’ of the Kenyan internet, one that has seen widespread participation among Kenyan internet users.
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