Kenyan Dictionary, a social media platform that shares unique and hilarious content that captures Kenyan culture at its best has witnessed a meteoric rise since its inception during COVID-19 on Instagram, and later on branched to other platforms as well.
Recently, we had a deep dive into the platform’s inspiration, journey as well as social media takeover.
Can you share the inspiration behind starting the Kenyan Dictionary and its unique focus on defining Kenyan phrases?
Being a citizen in this country and interacting with its citizens is enough inspiration.
How many times has a Kenyan told you, “ata nilikua nikupigie tu sahii” as soon as they pick up your phone call and it’s been 2 years since they called you.
Ama you hear, “Ndio huyu mimi nakam. Nipee 5 mins nitakuwa hapo” 2 hours later ndio anafika and then they start blaming traffic na amekuja na nduthi.
That was the inspiration. I was like, I can’t be the only one that Kenyans chose to lie to shamelessly. Let’s start defining some of these phrases.
How did the idea for showcasing conversations on phones come about as a central theme for your platform?
We originally started on Instagram and at the time, photos were still a thing. We solely relied on the static posts (photos) to do our definitions. Until one morning when Zuck decided to ctrl + c, ctrl + v the tiktok platform.
The app suddenly switched its algorithm to focus more on pushing videos (reels) over photos. We had to quickly ride with the wave or drown and that meant that we had to find a way of creating video content while still being unique, in-culture and most importantly, faceless!
After days of trying to brainstorm with the team in our Whatsapp group chat on video ideas, it suddenly hit me.
Where do Kenyans use these phrases? In conversations.
And where do these conversations happen? on Whatsapp.
I felt like I invented the bulb. It was something so new to the market and nobody had done it before, so we knew it was going to propel us to even greater heights. And as you can see, Hapa ni wapi?
Kenyan Dictionary, a Brainchild of the Covid-19 Pandemic
Can you describe the challenges and successes you experienced during the meteoric rise of the Kenyan Dictionary on Instagram during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Kenyan Dictionary is 100% a result of the COVID-19 pandemic because were it not for that difficult period of time, we would have never come up with this idea.
After being laid off from work because of the pandemic, we finally had time to give this social media thing a try and see where it takes us.
On the first day of posting, we had garnered 38k followers on Instagram. At first, it was just a platform to share this content for fun but it quickly turned into a business as we had brands that wanted to work with us.
It completely changed how we envisioned this page and overall changed the course of our lives. In one year, we went from being jobless to working at our dream job.
How do you curate and select the phrases that you define on your platform, and what criteria do you use?
Seasons and trends in the culture are what determine what we will post at any given time.
For example, December is all about sherehe and traveling to shagz. So, we create content that is relatable to those occasions.
With trends, every other week there’s something trending on X, and we always jump on it to create comical content around it.
In what ways do you engage with your audience, and how has their feedback influenced the evolution of Kenyan Dictionary?
As much as we are the ones who come up with the content, the ideas and scenarios come from our audience.
So, we engage with them on our insta stories as well as in the comment sections on our posts.
As Kenyan Dictionary grows on various platforms, how do you maintain the authenticity and cultural relevance of the content?
Social media has programmed people to live a fake life and portray a perfect life online but vitu kwa ground ni different.
Our authenticity therefore comes from embracing the real life of Kenyans thus creating a sense of belonging and togetherness.
What role do you see the Kenyan Dictionary playing in preserving and celebrating Kenyan language and culture?
Over the past few years, we have seen Kenyans stop conversing in their mother tongue and that has caused a huge decline in traditional cultures.
Our role as Kenyan Dictionary is to make sure that the culture stays alive by embracing it and ensuring it never goes out of style.
How has the success on Instagram influenced your approach to content creation on other platforms?
Every platform is different from how it’s set up, to how the algorithm works, to what the audience consumes.
We have had to do a lot of trial and error to see what works best for each platform and so far, so good. We are currently at 66k followers on Facebook and 84k followers on tiktok.
Kenyan Dictionary on their Brand Partnership deal, and greatest achievement.
Recently you become a brand ambassador for Gilbey’s Gin. How did this partnership come about, and what does it mean for you?
Talk of a match made in heaven.
On one hand you have Gilbey’s, a brand that has positioned itself in Kenyan culture so strategically such that, where a group of 2 or more Kenyans gather to hang out, Gilbey’s is their drink of choice to keep the entertaining conversations flowing.
Kenyan Dictionary on the other hand is the amplifier of the voice of the Kenyan youth.
With two fingers on the pulse of all that is relevant in Kenyan culture and everyday life at home and abroad, we are the premier destination for the most diverse and socially engaged Kenyan youth searching for entertaining and relatable content.
It was only right for these two unpretentious brands to partner and give the Kenyan youth the content they desire.
This partnership has seen us named as the brand’s ambassador and this is undoubtedly the greatest achievement and honor of our journey so far.
What trends or changes have you observed in the online comic space, and how do you adapt to stay relevant?
Traditional forms of comedy like tribal jokes have significantly declined because this new generation is exposed to a broader and creatively structured form of comedy from the global scene.
Therefore, the bar is set high, and comedians now have to up their game.
The audience is now looking for comedians who bring creativity in the delivery of their jokes.
Luckily for us, creativity ni kitu tunaambianga Mungu abariki wengine sasa, atatuua na creativity.
Are there specific cultural or societal issues in Kenya that you aim to address or highlight through your comics?
At Kenyan Dictionary, we always aim to make lemonade when this country gives us lemons.
There are certain issues we can create comical content around and there are others we tend to keep off due to their sensitive nature.
We are a place where you come to have a good laugh and escape reality for a few hours. I mean, laughter is the best medicine after all.
How do you envision the future of Kenyan Dictionary, and what goals do you have for the platform in the coming years?
When we started Kenyan Dictionary, we thought that only a few Kenyans would relate but turns out hundreds of thousands relate to it.
Our job now is to create a path and direction for Kenyan Dictionary to be a platform where Kenyans can have their input and contribute to the culture from their own point of view.
Finally, as a creator, what advice would you give to aspiring comic artists looking to make an impact in the online space?
The industry is already saturated as new creators come up every other day. However, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
Just figure out what you’re good at and find a unique way of showcasing it to the world that will make you stand out from the crowd. It’s all about the razzle dazzle.