'Tuko Macho': A Necessary And Cutting Appraisal of Our Nairobi
It was inevitable. A piece of artistic commentary would be made that was inspired by real-life, present-day Nairobi. It would play back to us in our parlance, with nuances and complexities familiar only to us.
In novice hands, this subject matter would be as transient as a prime time news bulletin or a morning FM “discussion”. But under the stewardship of The Nest Collective, who gave us the globally celebrated and locally polarising film ‘Stories Of Our Lives’, the imperishable web series ‘Tuko Macho’ happens. It marks the return of The Nest to its brave and incisive origins. Written by Jim Chuchu, Njoki Ngumi and Noel Kasyoka, and directed by Chuchu, the series’ premiere episode was uploaded last Thursday to immediate and vehement discourse.
While the series’ motif is captivating, it isn’t particularly novel. Crime-ridden Nairobi finds an unlikely hero in a vigilante unit; the aptly named ‘Tuko Macho’ or ‘We’re Watching’. The group captures and imprisons Charlo, a serial carjacker whose several crimes have been surreptitiously documented via surveillance cameras across the city. The twist is, they pass his fate over to the public via an internet poll; the only choices on offer being freedom or death. The online reaction is explosive, the votes come in fast, and the final result is, well, unsurprising.
Save for some overly wooden performances and painfully on-the-nose dialogue in one scene, two forgivable missteps in the larger scheme of things, Tuko Macho is a timely and necessary piece of work. It’s the mirror this city desperately needs, challenging us to grim self-examination. We know what the reality is: Nairobi is unsafe, the fight against insecurity is severely flawed, and we wish we could take matters into our hands. Here now, in this fictional work, we’re given the chance to be executioner. And when we make our private decisions behind our keyboards (there’s a subtle genius to having the show exist online, so we become stand-ins of our portrayed selves), we’re left with an unsettling feeling, not because crime lurks close to us, but because we are not as different from its perpetrators as we think.
New episodes are out every Thursday night. If the inaugural revs are anything to go by, we're in for a heck of a ride.
- All of Charlo’s crimes are captured on surveillance cameras which appear to be owned by Tuko Macho. How would a vigilante organisation control that sort of resource? Maybe they’re not as autonomous as we think?
- It’s refreshing that the organisation is led by (what I hope turns out to be) a strong female character, played by radio presenter and musician Njambi Koikai.
- One particularly memorable (if not preachy) scene is interrupted by blink-or-you'll-miss it flashes of middle-class Nairobi in its ordinary, oblivious element. Watching those scenes was unsettling in ways this writer can't describe.
- Almost all the lead actors are new, previously untested faces, and the effect is delightful.
Tuko Macho is presented by The Nest in partnership with Forum Syd.
Directed by Jim Chuchu. Starring Tim King'oo, Njambi Koikai and Ibrahim Muchemi.