Giving Githeriman gifts is a good thing but is it sustainable?

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If you’ve been following the events of the election online then you’ve witnessed #KOT uncanny ability to pivot between hashtags to seek some comic relief from the more serious matters at hand. Some of them were #kibandabae which was the viral story of how a woman duped her boyfriends into helping her defraud millions from Equity Bank. Then there was #chilobae about IEBC CEO, Ezra Chiloba’s good looks, but the viral hashtag that drew the most interest was #githeriman.

So who is #githeriman? Well, he goes by the name Martin Kimotho. He is 41 year father of one and lives with his wife and daughter in Kayole. He became famous after his picture was taken while he was standing in line at the polling station eating his githeri. It wasn’t long before his pcture was photoshopped and turned into several memes. It even inspired #githerimanchallenge where one takes pictures of themselves eating githeri from a polythene bag. Celebrities haven’t been left behind either. Sauti Sol photoshopped him into one of their posters, Eric Omondi made a parody clip holding several bags of githeri.

Martin’s story is no different from other ordinary Kenyans who have also had a meteroic rise to fame from being…well, ordinary. There was James Kangethe of the hit song bonoko who became a radio presenter at Ghetto Radio, then there was Jane Anyango Adika who’s hilarious account of the floods in Budalangi earned her the post of floods preparedness ambassador in Kisumu. Alice Wambui’s ‘kifikifi’ motorbike accident witness account earned her an ad campaign with Safaricom. The story is similar for Jose of the ‘Ni kama ndrama, ni kama video’ line.

I haven’t heard of these people in a while. Except for Mr. Kangethe who is a presenter on Ghetto Radio. I hope they all made something out of their lives and that their windfall didn’t die with the hype. Soon after #githeriman went viral, a tweet by Chris Kirwa called for Kenyans to find Martin Kimotho, find out his situation and help him out. The man was quickly found and TV interviews, several selfies and 3 high end smart phones later, I hope that that isn’t all that we will do for Martin.

It’s good for Kenyans to want to help him. But media appearances and gifts are not exactly sustainable. Take for example the story of Grumpy Cat. Grumpy Cat became an internet sensation after the owner shared pictures of her online. Tardar Sauce has a defect that causes her to have a permanently grumpy and annoyed appearance. The owner of Grumpy Cat, Tabatha Budensen quit her job as a waitress, trademarked the name Grumpy Cat and several endorsements, Grumpy cat merchandise, a book deal and movie appearance later, Bundensen is now a multimillionaire. According to time.com, the estimated net worth of Grumpy Cat was between USD 1 million to USD 100 million in 2014. Grumpy Cat’s income stream is still steady three years after her rise to fame.

The lesson Martin Kimotho and Kenyans can learn from this is that gifts, TV interviews and selfies with celebrities can only go so far. If we want to help and make it sustainable we need to help him trademark the name and image of ‘Githeriman’, and get him a licencing deal that will have his family sorted for life.

The full thread of Kenya’s internet sensations can be found here.

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Lena is a contributor at HapaKenya. She is sensitive, a little scatterbrained and loves to read. Feminism saved her life. She writes sappy poetry sometimes. She was a contributor at potentash.com. She made the longlist for the Farafina Trust workshop in 2016 and the shortlist for Jalada Fest Nairobi Masterclass in 2017. Email: lena@hapakenya.com