Taking the Plastic Revolution upstream with Muthoni the Drummer Queen...
1. Tell us a little about yourself. What do you love most about what you do?
I'm a creator; a musician, a festival creator as well as the founder of perFORM, a music incubator. I love the opportunity to create and problem solve, which is a daily part of what I do.
2. How did you become a Flipflopi ambassador? What activities does this role entail?
What first drew me to Flipflopi was its innovation. It was a cool story, and more than that, it was a Kenyan solution: made in Kenya by Kenyans. I think Flipflopi is a creative way to start tackling the plastic pollution problem, and in today's plastic age, it flips a negative narrative on its head.
Furthermore, we have to understand that even if plastic was banned today, we would still have to deal with the plastic waste that is left behind. Flipflopi highlights a practical way to deal with the waste we have created, which is crucial in tackling plastic pollution.
So far as a Flipflopi ambassador I have been involved in community sensitization campaigns across the East African coast, which occurred during the historic Lamu to Zanzibar expedition in early 2019.
3. What inspired you to fight for marine conservation?
We need to get rid of the plastic that has infiltrated our marine ecosystem, and we need to do so urgently. It's scary to think that we don't fully understand how bad the problem is. It would be fantastic if we can start cleaning up the pollution now before it gets even worse.
4. What has been your most memorable experience so far?
The engagement I have received from friends and family, especially after I started posting about the Flipflopi on my social media channels. People are interested in the story of sailing on a plastic boat, and this has opened up the conversation and allowed me to engage others on the problem of plastic pollution and the role of single-use plastic in this catastrophe. There have also been great reactions when I've shared the story of this great innovation with non-Kenyans, and I do admit that there is a lot of pride in these responses.
5. What changes do you wish to see happen in regards to marine plastic pollution?
At the policy level, I believe we should ban single-use plastic. Plastic bags have been banned in Kenya, but this is only one type of single-use plastic. Speaking as a festival creator, I can attest to the fact that water bottles are the biggest polluters at events. Surely we must be able to put water in alternative packaging? I believe that we need to incentivize manufacturer's to produce non-plastic or multi-purpose plastic alternatives.
Additionally, I would also like to see behavioral changes across the country. I always walk with a reusable water bottle. Before I did, I would consume 3 liters of water a day, and most would come from single-use plastic bottles. I used to contribute to the problem and that's why I believe that people need to actively identify a place in their life where they use plastic and substitute it for something else. Conscious individual action is needed!
6. What are some of the challenges you have faced along this journey? How have you overcome (or are overcoming) them?
Plastic is so intertwined in our life - you don't go looking for plastic, it just finds its way to you. It's part and parcel of how the world operates. One of my friends has successfully campaigned to get straws and balloons banned from her community in Switzerland. When she told me about it, I was shocked to realize the extent of items that were single-use plastic. Balloons - did you know that when released they harm animals and are a massive polluter? I am still learning about the scope of the problem and this will give me a better idea of how we can tackle it.
7. What opportunities exist for Kenyan artists in environmental activism?
Before people are artists, they are humans and inhabitants of this earth. Artists need to acknowledge that our current habits are unsustainable, and then they can use their voice and actions to bring attention to the problem as well as the solutions. This is everybody's problem and we all need to do what we can do in our little corner of the world to move towards sustainability. I believe that we should all choose one thing we can change and then act on it.
8. What advice would you give to East Africans who are looking to contribute to environmental conservation?
My advice is for us to walk the talk, find ways that you can make a change in your own life. Also, let us remember to focus on progress rather than perfection. This problem is big and often overwhelming, and it may seem like your individual action has no impact. But don't despair. Individual action does make a difference. Let's push for big changes even as we pursue our individual actions.
About Muthoni Drummer Queen
Muthoni Drummer Queen is a musical and cultural firebrand with a timeless, thought-provoking, genre-bending, Afro-diasporic sound, which, is an infectious club and radio-friendly fusion of African drum patterns, hip-hop, reggae/dancehall and neo-soul/blues. Muthoni has always been viscerally aware of society and there is always a tinge of activism colouring her work. As a child in the late 80s – early 90s, she listened in on adults as they discussed the political situation in Kenya and took note of the injustices of a totalitarian state, and the dearth of financial opportunity that came with it. This ignited a deep desire to learn more about the world and to do what she could do to fix what she might. She is passionate about working with vulnerable women and sustainability, and this led her to join the Flipflopi project as an ambassador during the Lamu to Zanzibar expedition. Watch Muthoni’s latest Ted Talk Below