Lesson: Popular Culture, Global Knowledge and Kenya's First Internet Meme


In March 2010, a music video by Just a Band brought the character, Makmende, to the consciousness of Kenyans - at least those who were wired to the internet. This lesson uses this event to explore how power, technology and culture influence the production and circulation of knowledge.

Learning Outcomes:


  • Gain insight into Kenya’s social media and music scene, and the circulation of popular culture within Kenya and globally.
  • Gain basic level knowledge about Sheng, a slang originating in Nairobi, and its relevance.
  • Expand knowledge of contemporary youth culture in Kenya.
  • Develop ability to compare cultures across time and space.
  • Gain insight on relationship between knowledge, authority and power.


Analyze the changing role of Wikipedia in global knowledge production and demonstrate how this relates to local and global knowledge of and expressions of experiences in the Horn of Africa.


Edit Wiki articles related to topic after critical review of article, sources, and article history.


Tools: Using Wikipedia in the Classroom:


Before Class Preparation

1. Watch the music video “Ha-He” by the Kenyan group, Just a Band.

2. Watch the CNN report.

3. Read the Wikipedia entry on Makmende.

4. Then click the talk button and read the entries there. Follow the various links.

5. Read Heather Ford’s article “The Missing Wikipedians

6. Search internet for other references to Makmende. Collect 1 or 2 to share with class

Suggested in-class activities

1. Present Makmende case - Powerpoint available

2. Lecture on relation between western, global and African experiences and knowledge.

3. Provide short background on the development of Sheng

4. Organize a computer lab or studio session editing wikipedia articles


a. Global culture….Kenyan only phenomenon? Or global phenonomenon?

b. Share other internet references

c. How is knowledge given authority?

d. Compare Kenyan youth culture(s) as represented in videos with U.S. youth culture(s).

Out of Class Assignments

Edit Wikipedia articles. Follow History and Talk pages after editing. This bibliography provides resources for this.