Monday, November 9, 2009

Skeletons in Cyberspace

It is summer, and therefore there must be intermittent power cuts carefully timed to hit during the hottest part of the day. Like today. While waiting for the power to come back I read through the remains of a blog that looked mighty interesting in its time. Kifimbocheza left an elegant, intriguing and somewhat poignant last post to serve as a marker for his blog’s grave.

I was reading him because he turned up as I searched for blogs to put under the (new!) Tanzania blogger links section which I will populate over time. His post brought up something interesting that we rarely talk about directly in Tanzania: racial politics. Whooo-eee are they complicated! In our cyberspace, no issue is thornier than the concept of authenticity- who is Tanzanian and how representative they are and what this allows them to say about the country with any authority.

Well, identity is complex. The criteria for selection for Tanzanian blogs is pretty simple here: blogs whose content is mostly about Tanzania. The nationality of the blogger is secondary since it that is generally an accident of birth and immigration laws. Blogging intelligently and deeply about a place that is well-known and beloved by the blogger should be open to anyone across boundaries of residence permits and melanin levels, even language barriers.

Another point of interest in the identity debate is the use of anonymity. Kifimbocheza would not reveal his on his blog, and a number of Tanzanian bloggers- yours truly included- use this to free them from censorship from various sources (themselves, the state, society). Although I understand the need for this, it has left the Tanzanian blogging scene a bit denuded of flesh and blood characters with whom to engage. It is something that I grapple with every time I write a post here, under my name, worrying about its reception and consequences. Blogging is fun, but blogging while ‘out’ can be daunting.


  1. pretty thank you for your kind comments! I'm the artist who used to be known as kifimbocheza. Back and, though wearing a veil, not anonymous.

    Liking your blog. came to it via a tweet from Pernille

  2. Karibu sana and asante, artist formerly known as kifimbocheza. Blog love back at you- Swahili Street is good writing and thoughtful fun. And should you decide to come out from behind the cyber-veil, I can tell you that the experience has been completely painless, so far...

  3. Asante na wewe. visit the blog and my name and photo is just one click away... the veil is kind of fun

  4. Nope, can't find the name or photo in the about section...clue? Have we met?

  5. click the twitter feed, which you probably already have done. Have we met? I don't think so!


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