The last 10 ten years have been a legends purge. Legends are literally dropping off the face of the earth like death is running out of fashion. In no particular order; Michael Jackson, Prince, Whitney Houston, Maya Angelou, Jackie Collins, Papa Wemba, Komla Dumor, Nelson Mandela, Paul Kafeero, Lucky Dube, Antonin Scalia, Harper Lee, David Bowie et al and now Muhammad Ali! It is sad to lose people that have immensely influenced the world, changed the courses of people’s lives and made the sacrifice to share their lives with us ordinary folk. It is sad indeed. But like I said, this is a purge! These people are legends. Yes. But not of this generation. This generation has its legends too. We all know the adage about two bulls in the same kraal. So without sounding insolent, allow me to say that it was about time the new legends took their rightful places on their respective legendary thrones.
It was extremely hard for anyone to call Beyonce a pop legend when Michael Jackson or Prince were living! Who could ever think of Mathias Walukagga as a Kadongo Kamu legend with Paul Kafeero breathing down his neck? As a matter of fact, very many people-particularly those that desperately want to come off as quite informed, intelligible and ‘deep’-will make noise about how we cannot compare Beyonce to Michael Jackson, or Walukagga to Kafeero. But yes we can, justifiably. What most of us have failed to understand is that generations have changed, audiences have changed, markets have changed, everything has changed! Why can’t legends change? Most of us generation Y kids take it as trite that so and so is a legend, merely because our older counterparts say so. For example, I do accept Prince is a legend. Not because I can identify with his music or because his works speak to me, but because the older world has said he is a legend. Disagreeing with that ‘fact’ will make me seem dumb and lacking in the important skill of appreciating good art and talent. But let me be honest. If the alphabet is the yardstick, my knowledge, understanding and appreciation of Prince goes up to D! And that is me being generous and saving face!
But talk about Beyonce. Her music, her talent, her energy, her hard-work, her persona, her life as I know it have almost mantra status in my life. And do not be fooled…many people my age will sing Prince’s praises just so they get props for being cool and knowing ‘these things’. Not because any of them gives a flying hoot about who Prince is or what he did! There is just too much pressure to fit in with the cool click of grown-ups we find it embarrassing to accept that to this generation, Kim Kardashian is more legendary than Michael Jackson! We just need to accept that as generations change, trend setters and opinion leaders change. So it’s ok for Kanye West to ask that his wife be honored in the Hall of Fame.
And this is not just about non-living legends. Even those that live on need to understand that the world has moved on. Take Sylvia Owori and Auntie Bell Hooks for example. Last night (check publishing date), Sylvia Owori dragged Vanessa Ikwang down the trenches. FYI, Sylvia is one of the foundations on which Uganda’s fashion and beauty pageant industry stands. And that’s a fact. She also still remains a style icon. Vanessa is a new sistah on the block. She showcased a new collection and Sylvia, on her show, showed her no mercy. People were pissed. And rightly so. Some of them went as far as discrediting Sylvia’s work and contribution, and really insulted her. It was ok to be mad at her. She was quite unjustifiably scathing. But what both Sylvia and the insulting fellows are suffering from is the failure to accept that generations have changed. Sylvia won’t let go of the throne and people won’t accept that she is an icon in this industry, whose contribution is evident, despite striking new-comers. She is therefore allowed to have an opinion about fashion.
Auntie Bell Hooks is the IT feminist and black civil rights activist and writer. We absolutely love her. But her constant lashing out at Beyonce’s kind of feminism and ridicule of femme feminism boldens her lack of appreciation that generations have changed, and that feminism too has changed, or at least needs to. Right now, Beyonce-much more than Bell-embodies the kind of feminism young women identify with and it is working. We love both sistahs, we embrace what they both represent, but we shouldn’t be mad at either. We just have to understand that things have changed. We have new dirt, and it can only be neatly swept by new brooms.
So let’s all move on. As we celebrate the lives of our fallen legends, let us also celebrate the ascension of new legends to their deserving thrones. It’s life. It’s a cycle. Let us appreciate the golden legends, and in the same vein accept the new ones, like Kim Kardashian (emphasis on that one)! For the avoidance of doubt, it is ok not to understand our legends, we didn’t really understand yours either. Power to legends. The new and the old.
And I didn’t define legend. Honestly, that depends on who you want to be a legend!