MARCH 2013 BACK ISSUE by Vlad Sokhin
After the Illinois senator Barack Obama became the 44th US President, his father's homeland, Kenya, turned into a pilgrimage destination for Obama fans. Almost all Kenyan travel-agencies include an "Obama-safari" in their packages. These Obama-heritage trips to Kogelo village (where his father was born and buried) sometimes cost more than climbing Kilimanjaro in neighbouring Tanzania. The culmination of these Obama-safaris is a 10 minute audience with Sarah Obama, Barack's aunt.   However, it is not necessary to travel to Kogelo to meet Obama's family.  In the Huruma slum of Nairobi lives Barack's youngest half-brother, George Hussein Obama. This 31 year old relative of the U.S. President makes his living by trading the Obama name. He attempts to sell his own interviews and pictures to journalists and organizes visits to his house in the slum. George's friends help him with making money, scaring visitors on the narrow streets of the slum and demanding they pay a little extra for the 'Obama tour.' However, it seems that George Obama behaves cheekily only with tourists and journalists. For his slum-neighbours he is a hero. He is honourary leader of the Huruma Centre Youth Group where he plays football with the street-kids. Many of them have Obama t-shirts and Obama-belts. In the last few years it has become fashionable for young slum mothers to give Obama family names to their newborn babies. In Kibera, another Nairobi slum and the biggest in Kenya, Barack Obama was elected as a 'President' even before his official victory in the United States. Slum residents sell his images in the local shops, call businesses in his honour and have his portraits hanging on the walls in their houses. Locals state that, for them, Obama will always be a President. Not of the United Sates, but of Kibera. Graffiti of Barack Obama at the entrance of the GoDown art centre, Nairobi. Walter Osiema (42), owner of the ''New Oceanic Photo Studios'' in Kibera slum, Nairobi, says that many people like to be photographed holding a portrait of Barack Obama. Brenda Achieng (23) with her son David Obama Achieng (3), who was born in Kibera slum during the US electoral period. It is still very popular in Kenya to give the second name ''Obama'' to newborns. A portrait of President Obama in '’Stanbadox city'’ bar-restaurant. Kisumu town, Kenya. George Hussein Obama, the youngest half-brother of the US President, holds a portrait of his and Barack's father. George makes money from his brother's name, showing tourists the place where he lives. For  additional money he promises to tell some private details about the life of relatives of the US President. Photos of Kenyans in front of various tourist sites in Nairobi. Locals ask street photographers to add in, postproduction, images of Barack Obama. Puppets from the 'XYZ' TV-show in a storage room of a local TV Channel. The Barack Obama character is one of the main characters of the show. When the Libyan conflict started in the beginning of 2011, Muammar Gaddafi's puppet was also a welcomed guest of the show. Minibus (matatu) with a portrait of Obama in Kisumu town, Central Kenya. Portrait of Barack Obama in the room of 18 year old student Monica Anyango. Kibera slum, Nairobi. Many Kenyans use tourist souvenirs with Obama's image in their everyday lives. A man near the image of Barack Obama on the wall of the ‘Obama pub’ in Kibera slum. Many small businesses in Kibera are named in honour of Barack Obama, who's father was born in Kenya. Images of Barack Obama and his family appear even on buckles and socks. Kibera resident watches a video of a speech of Barack Obama in a street DVD shop. Local music videos with songs about Obama and DVDs with his TV appearances are very popular in Kenya. Church procession passes a house with a portrait of Barack Obama on the wall. Kibera Slum, Nairobi. A girl holds a portrait of Barack Obama in Kisumu Art House, Kisumu town, Central Kenya. Back to current issue