Makmende is a fictional Kenyan superhero character which has enjoyed a popular resurgence after an adoptation by Kenya’s musical group Just a Band in the music video for their song Ha-He on their second album, 82 (2009). The video became the first viral internet sensation originating from Kenya. The word Makmende is a sheng (Swahili slang) word which means “a hero”. The name supposedly originated from the Kenyan neighborhood playgrounds. Anyone who thought they could do the impossible or a particularly difficult task was always asked whether they thought they were Makmende, since only Makmende could do or attempt to do the impossible. Makmende was a Kenyan Childhood Hero that had ability to handle all sort of chores, could win all childhood games, and was very energetic and strong.
Ha-He video concept cover by Just a Band
Also known as
Makmende is Back
Country of origin
The video, directed by Jim Chuchu and Mbithi Masya, became a viral internet sensation and Kenyans launched an internet campaign for the “superhero” on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. The videos references blaxploitation and kung-fu movies in its style and features Makmende fighting with a variety of humorously named characters in a fictional city. The success of this video and the subsequent internet discussion has centered on the ways in which Kenyans were adopting social media. The cover graphic of the video has a black and white monotone portrait picture of Makmende placing a red head band across his forehead with the words MAKMENDE AMERUDI which is Swahili for MAKMENDE IS BACK. The role of Makmende on the video was played by graphics designer Kevin Maina, who had little previous acting experience.
As of April 2010, the Makmende website (now offlined) was one of the most visited by Kenyan Internet users, and the meme had a quickly growing fanbase on Facebook and Twitter. The Makmende story has also featured on CNN and was presented by CNN’s David McKenzie. Makmende has also featured in articles in popular Kenyan media.
The meme is discussed by Heather Ford in an ethnographic analysis of African contributions to Wikipedia, entitled “The Missing Wikipedians”
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!!!”
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