Category Archives: kenyan blogs

Of Lavish African loving.

“And remember, as it was written, to love another person is to see the face of God.” — Les Miserable

I’m fascinated by writers. African writers specifically, even those with the charm of a corpse always manage to stir deep feelings of passion within me, anger or even regret, depending on what time in history they wrote. Because the African writers’ calendar dates back to when the colonialists came to Africa, perhaps, when Africans began to write in languages that foreigners could read ad understand.

I’m constantly peeved by the books written about Africa on my humble bookshelf, but my anger, unless countered by a new book written by me or other Africans that scoff at Englishmen of old or backpacking American journalists turned African experts, then I could as well tell it to the birds. It really is our fault that we do not have many African writers who can pen our own stories and help bring to life that now famous line, ‘The African narrative’ which in all fairness has evolved and transformed over time, and Africa, in many ways is rising. Numbers don’t lie, the economists say.

So, I’ve recently stumbled upon one Dunduzu Chisiza, he is described as a Nationalist and early agitator for independence in Nyasaland, now Malawi. Reading about him introduces you to an African that would not be stopped by class, colour or creed. His publications and style of writing literally tug at my heart.

He writes:
” In Africa, we believe in strong family relations. We have been urged by well meaning foreigners to break these ties for one reason or another. No advice could be more dangerous to the fabric of the society. charity begins at home. So does the love of fellow human being. By loving our parents, our brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces, and by regarding them as members of our families, we cultivate the habit of loving lavishly, of exuding human warmth and compassion, and of giving and helping. But I believe that once so conditioned, one behaves in this way not only to ones family, but also to the clan, the tribe, the nation and to humanity as a whole.”

Dunduzu goes ahead and talks about insubordination of national loyalties to international loyalties, referring to foreigners as Individualists who cannot foster internationalism.’

For me, Kenya is at the point where cynicism is the the order of the day. The days of women laughing heartily and young men and women celebrating each other has tapered down to wanton criticism, gossip, negative ethnicity and a uniquely high breed of hatred. We hate everything and anyone that’s Kenyan. The National Football team, The Rugby players, Public personalities, Kenyan firms. Everthing and everyone that’s Kenyan is constantly on the chopping board, it is everything that constructive criticism is not about.

Does this, after reading Dunduzu say something about our social fabric? Is there any more lavish loving that seeps beyond our nuclear family units and into the family next door? Have we tightened the rope too tough to allow cultures that are individualistic in Nature to wear out the African fabric that’s laced with respect and universal love. Deep lavish love.

For many, this may appear simplistic, but I’m student of this assertion, that Maybe, it is all about love.

Five writers, One voice.

 1500 hrs: Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

It was one of those days when time just stood still, my SAA flight to Jo Burg was either running late, or I got to the airport too early, traffic on Mombasa road isn’t the sexiest place to get stuck in on a Friday Afternoon.
So with extra hours to kill, I roamed the duty free shops inside the Jomo Kenyatta international Airport, wishing I had an Ipod, however much I hate the way those cords stick out of people ears. I had packed in a hurry, and forgot to pack a good book. So I look for a book store, passing by some Nigerians speaking rather loudly sitting on the floor, their plane must have been running late. Either that or they had been left, they were not happy, Nigerians are very loud people, that’s normal, but when they are angry, the voice meter hits red and stays there.

” Oga? how you think am gon go home now, me I had a godam meetin in abuja tonight, now am still here, how many dollar you think i lose , are you gon pay me now, this airways of yours should learn a lesson, ours is called Virgin, maybe you should make that your national airline!! You behave like silly uncivilized Africans…”

Being Kenyan, and black, I walked quickly past, peeking into the duty free perfume shop, glad I did not carry my credit card. I reached the book store, and I got excited again, I love the smell of new books, rows and rows of freshly unpacked hard and soft covers. I have always admired Nancy Friday for the crowds she manages to pull, and as I flip through ‘My Mother, My self”, another title catches my eye.” Africa, the Shackled Continent.” Africa’s past, present and Future.

Being a journalist has taught me three things,
• Look all you can
• Ask the right questions
• Doubt all the answers

I have high hopes for Africa, Zimbabwe may be a disaster, and Darfur may be an eye sore, but deep down I am a dreamer. Because there must be a reason why when world economies continue to tumble, our growth rates act as if we live in our own little world, and may be we really do, so when that yellow soft cover book titled the Shackled continent caught my eye, I knew I had to get it, even if I realized in anger that the writer was in fact a foreign journalist who had “studied the African continent”.

Why would I read from a man who thinks he knows Africa? With great restraint, I did. It made a great read, new insights on how a non African looks at this continent, and an urge deep inside me curled up, hoping that next time I read such a book, the writer will be a name I identify with.

1900hrs: Kengeles, Lavington

It’s a cold evening, the Kwani literary festival had began and tonight was special, the line up of writers taking on the mic was impressive, and I was hosting the event, I was nervous, It was a first in many ways for me, I have continuously shied away from hosting public events, crowds make me jittery, but this time, my friend and mentor, Ndoro, told me once, ” if you know you should do something, and you are not sure you can, then you must do it.” That changed the way I look at life these days, so when Mike of Kwani asked me to host it, yours truly said, “Yes, Anytime.”

‘Grandmothers winning smile’ was the first book of the night, and the writer, Stanley Gazemba has this beautiful way of making me feel like am back in my grandmothers kitchen in Kapkatet, Kericho district. It’s after dinner, and the embers are dying away, and the stories of hares, and hyena’s and Luanda Magere, a hero from the neighboring tribe, who fell in love with a Kalenjin girl.

Gazemba hopes selling Grandmothers winning smile will enable him buy a Mercedes that will drive him to the readings instead of connecting several matatus to the Sunday Salon. Something Bantu Mwaura dismisses as a pipe dream, saying you can’t live on writing in Kenya today. The book is only 200 bob, but the true worth of history that African books tell cannot be measured, just like the stories gogo used to tell us in those young days.

The Luo from Uganda, David Kaiza, who had been teased about speaking backwards by our own proud folks of the lakeside boda boda country, was in the house tonight, his story was a journey, deep and questioning, on ethnicity and asinine sovereignty of tribes, something Kenyans have refused to look at in the eye.

He took me through all the emotions a human being is allowed to feel at a literary event, laughter, anger, sometimes contentment and lots of questions. I had been in the places he talked about as an African, felt the things he had felt, and when I heard his story has been picked up for Kwani 5, I knew it is a must buy. African stories, told by African Voices, that’s what gets me going these days, believable stories of Boda Boda Mayhem, and the role that history and perception play in shaping present day East Africa.

He has the X factor this next gentleman, has the calmest of voices, and the most penetrating eyes, Kalundi Serumaga, and his story, unsettled, appears in the little kwanini? I got in my gft bag after buying a ticket for the fashion for peace event. It is a very unsettling read, I find out he is the son of Robert Serumaga, the man who courted controversy in Idi Amin’s Kingdom in the early years, a chip of the old block this one, he reminded me of a crush I once had on a butcher back home in Kitale when I was 8 years old. But that’s a story for another day.

When he read out “unsettled,” the events of early this year flooded into my mind in the most disturbing way,(I wrote about my experience in an earlier blog here called My Brain, My Tribe) He may be from Uganda, but I felt like an idiotic Kenyan that day, me and other Kenyans present knew the truth in that story. Just because the Brits called it Kenya and some big shots wife thought Nigeria is a good name to give a blocked out huge tract of land does not mean we belong here, Serumaga says, we are either visitors or servants. Some of his writing also appears in a new anthology that Rasnah talks about below. I wanted to hear more, so when he gave me his card, I promised to look at his website, www.serumagacentre.org.ug and www.ashrineformyfather.com.

Trust me, when a man has that X factor, you click ‘browse internet’ on your phone just when you are out of his sight.

Missionaries, Merceneries and Misfits.
Voices of Rasna Warah and Bantu Mwaura speak from this anthology that pokes big holes into the aid system from the developing world, questioning their role in developing the very third world they in blindfold. Theater for Development got its fair thrashing, and anyone who has been in the theatre world must hear him out. An article about this book quotes that aid stunts growth, feeds corruption and oils the cogs in the wheels of a highly dysfunctional development industry, I couldn’t say it better.

Sunday salon really is a meeting of great minds, as the evening wore on, I asked for dry white wine, which the waitress had loudly told me, “Mia Mbili”, as if I was a little girl on daddy’s budget. I joined Betty Muragori ( Better known as Sitawa the 3rd Namwalie) and Kalundi for a drink, but left for home shortly after, wishing I could stay on, but I had to be at work at six am in the morning.

Life goes on.

BACK TO THE BASICS

Back to the basics;


I have continued to battle with words that sound politically correct in recent days, including trying not to read between the lines in our daily newspapers, when indeed, the news is all between the lines. But in the same way that one loves with the heart and not with the mind, then, one can only be correct or wrong, disregard political, and it’s corrected-ness or lack of, that has found us a place with the pigs, even when our so called intellectual minds sit, sipping a chocolatey mocha, loving the nightly news or the bevy of beauties gracing the screens these days, the back and forth news of Premier today, no Premier tomorrow, sharing today, no sharing tomorrow.

But, the pain that’s deeper in my heart, is that I have smelt burning, not flesh, but concrete, black smoke, money and hard work smoked up to the heavens that shot them back down for discoloring the pure white clouds above, on that day when traveling back to Nairobi from Kitale, my mind racing with Kalenjin vocabulary, just incase we got stopped and asked what the name of an onion is in my tribe.

I smelt burning, on my way to Eldoret in Soy Centre, and I clutched on tight to my little girl, praying to reach the airport safely. That was the day the mind of my very Kenyan brother turned black inside, DO NOTE: this is politically correct language.

My gal, is half tribes…if today, she was in the schools i went to, beautiful places hidden in the scenic rift, beneath the dry river beds of western Kenya and looking up to the hills of what was once the white highlands…would I, in my right mind, take her to school there, I would like to be politically correct at this point and say, I will evaluate the situation first, and as we love to say it these days, now that( uneasy )calm has returned to the country?

Or do I say, you know, education is a very important tool in this day and age, and where one takes her child, depends on how well one sleeps, and in that case, I would find a school next door.

I dream, me, the Gemini is born to do that. I Dream about sunset years spent soaking the sun in the canaries, sipping a cosmopolitan after years of investing wisely in the Nairobi stock exchange. But now, I have had to double my old mutual premiums that will take my girl to that school that knows no tribe, and better still guard against the inflation that now means with 100 bob in my hand, I can only get 3 packets of milk and a balance of one bob, which will not be enough for the spinach, emergency matchbox and a 250gms of salt, like it was mid 2007.

And inter tribal relationships, where do they fall? Just when Otieno’s mother was getting used to the fact that Wambui is here to stay, the breaking news started scrolling, 8 dead in Kisii, 7 burned in Burnt Forest…my fingers, that were alive with youth and anxiety, soon broke out in a sweat, shock on me, how blind could we be, taking to the queues at the polling centre’s from 5.00 am, and not see that this was going to happen?

So, how do I start the healing, when I believed in my heart that only the old and un educated were the tribal ones?

You see, the first question my aunties asked when I told them I was dating a kikuyu, in September 2003 were was, how will we tell your uncles?

And now, I would like to pretend that I come from a family where another tribe means an equal, lovable person, but that would be a lie. I speak for a percentage of Kenyans, but I do not have the figures of this percentage. But now, how much more will we revolt each other, how do I, one who thinks intellect comes with literacy, begin my own healing?

I have learnt, in a few crippling weeks, that a book, ink, a pen…does not equate statesmanship, does not equate freedom, and does not equate healing.

Way back in the day when the white man came, they say he took the land; we kept the bibles, and learned to hold a pen. But even then we fought, and tried to stop the snake that is now the Rift valley railway. We fought to get our land back, fought he that came with both sugar and pepper. We took the sugar, and stumped out the pepper, and stayed around long enough to sniff into the dizziness that divides us into tribes, proud tribes that guard our land with a vengeance.

One brain, one mind, one thought, only that our weapons are different, I carry my desperation on my keyboard, others carry bows and arrows, farther away, some carry machetes.

And now I have to put my house in order. How do I be a Kenyan, love Otieno, Mutisya, Njoroge, just the same way I love myself?

How do I begin to love again?

PS- We all are Goliaths, the Davids’ are long rested, with grass already growing on their graves, so I pray, tell me, where do I begin?

Intellect

Intellect?
the faculty to reason objectively(oxford)
To think, to see ahead, objectively, cleverly
Such a little word
Yet so ignored,and we think we are…intellectual.

Intellect?
Is that what will save Kenya from a sunken hole
where some of our African Brothers and sisters have sunk into for many years?
Afraid to come out
even in starlight
yet we seem to enjoy, the smooth slide into darkness
we left intellect at home to sleep
on the queen size oak Lamu bed
in the mansion we live in when we are happy

Intellect?
is that what it’s called when i talk about the FTSE as if I was born in the bourse?
If I rise above the politics
and settle with hoping that politics and economy can be oh so very different?
Am I intellectual?
Or am i just optimistic?
and when I do not know my trivia,
but I follow the resilience of the Kenyan markets after poll violence?
is that intellect
Or I am just being foolish?

When I know, what’s to buy, and what’s to sell
Stocks and shares
that build the world
Bills and Bonds
That rule the world
Then am I intellectual

nonintellectual? Kenya?

Because I read the news everyday
ashamed at the gory details that slash the very economy we sweat- ed to build
press, politics, analysts…. intellectual
hanging dirty linen in public
freedom? non intellect?
to fore see….that without the teargas,
Masai Mara and the white beaches in the South coast
and 10,000 families
would be beaming with white joy
billions in taxes to the tight lipped tax man.
Not to deny, but to choose not to show.
maybe the shilling would strengthening by the day
the NSE would be a smile away

Intellect?