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Sheng’ is evolving time and again

Katiba Mtaani booklet cover
Katiba Mtaani booklet cover


So if you grew up in Kenya from the 80’s onwards you obviously speak sheng or understand sheng in one way or another. Even if you don’t agree with sheng, Safaricom and other corporates ensure you do as they try to outdo each other with new catchy sheng slogans. Ama huna bonga points?

Sheng has been studied by scholars from all over the world and there’s yet no agreement if sheng can be classified as a language or not. According to renowned Kenyan scholar Ali Mazrui, Sheng plays an important socio-psychological function of promoting a sense of group solidarity within the speakers, mainly youth. Sheng speakers feel a unity of motives, feelings, beliefs which is expressed in various localisations of sheng throughout Kenya.

Some months ago, we were part of a project Jukumu Letu with the aim of educating the youth on the different issues in the Constitution including health, youth representation and participation, youth employment, gender and human rights issues. One of the important tools for this task is a simplified version of the constitution (Katiba Mtaani) which incorporates sheng.

A look at the Katiba Mtaani booklet
A look at the Katiba Mtaani booklet

Jukumu letu intends to enhance the participation of the people in the exercise of the powers of the state and in making decisions affecting them. The citizens are educated on their responsibility of ensuring transparency and accountability in governance.

Sheng speakers were separated from the rest the other day when speakers engaged each other in the sheng debate using the hashtag #MorioDebate. All I can say is it looks like we need to update our sheng knowledge.

The number of people that felt lost in the new sheng is astounding. We will need refresher courses.

The #MorioDebate was generally light hearted with a lot of new words thrown in.

Some corporates got involved and made it even livelier.

The only constant thing with sheng is the change it seems and we have to keep adapting lest they lock us out.

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