TikTok Originated From Africa


TikTok\’s African Origins

Perhaps some of you believe the idea of TikTok came from China or the USA and just landed in Kenya in 2021. That\’s far from accurate. Let me inform you that TikTok has been woven into Africa\’s tapestry for ages untold.

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My perspective originates from my upbringing in Ikutha, Kitui South, where at some point our extended family used to sell the traditional brew popularly known as \’Kaluvu\’. I enjoyed interacting with old men, something I believe also increased my love for stories. Long story, but even if I was exposed to a backdrop of pombe and sometimes vulgar behavior, I was so focused at that young age that I was never tempted to take a sip neither did it affect my studies or morals and clean language to date.

In that space I encountered a certain man we used to call Mavyuva. He was the best singer and drummist in the village- he used to beat the back half-piece of a 20-litre jerrycan with so much skill one might have thought he was caressing it. His hands worked magic on it because the beats almost sang along his words. His husky voice, slightly bent physique with his creased khaki trousers that needed constant adjustment, his tire shoes dragging along and most graciously, Mavyuva was jovial, ever smiling, soft spoken and never insulted anyone, were attributes that gave him the impression of a good man, who understood the art of living life easily. Occasionally, he would remind people that that his real name was Kyunguti Wa Mulwa (Kyunguti the son of Mulwa).

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Our connection with him was as our dedicated farm worker, responsible for tending to our animals. He left a void when he departed, one that lingers to this day – my family misses him, including myself. For many years, he no longer graces us with visits, and his whereabouts remain a mystery.

I dare say that Mavyuva was on TikTok those days, yes, around 2009. He used to sing and be bought \’Joma\’ as gifts – the brew was sold in the then Joma cooking fat used plastic tins. He would go further and freestyle praises about his listeners or where they came from or narrate captivating stories through songs to make them more generous. He would also sing their itheke(traditional songs) requests. That would actually work because for a night, Mavyuva would end up drunk having spent not even his own single shiling. I find that exactly the same as what people do today in TikTok lives where many people are earning millions of shilings by doing what their viewerswant and they are gifted with money. They are just like Mavyuva.

In things fall apart, Achebe tells us about a character by the name Unoka, Okonkwo\’s father. In the book he says Unoka used to be invited to other villages to serenade with his flute and be bought palm wine. Exactly what most TikTokers even celebrities are doing today. The threads of culture and entertainment weave through time

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It is indeed true that TikTok is an African idea. The only difference was that our people didn\’t have ring lights and mobile phones to record their act but the concept is typically the same.

As we continue using TikTok, let\’s use it first to enjoy life, like Mavyuva did. Also, let\’s use it to make money and opportunities, just as Mavyuva did but let\’s not use it to spread negativity.mMavyuva never did that.

-By Boniface Muema Harrison

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