Category Archives: terrryanne chebet

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.

Bite of the mango- Mariatu Kamara, A Review

This past weekend was a quiet one for me.

I had a lot to think about and organise, exams to prepare for, and a book, highly recommended and owned by my friend Kirigo Ng’arua. Bite of the Mango.

Bite of the mango is a true story about an 11 year old girl called Mariatu Kamara from Sierra Leone, who grew up in a normal village of about 200 people. Her story is paints a picture of life before the rebels struck and after. From the eyes of a child.

Mariatu writes the book in simple child-like English and in her own voice. I sort of felt that she was right there narrating it to me. She grew up with her Aunt and Uncle because of her mother’s drunken habits. She lived a happy simple life, typical of most African village life, where all the older people were respected as parents, and all the younger ones lived like siblings. They cooked, ate and slept as if they were one family.

The girls got married when they were very young, about 13 years old, and many of them, despite having gone through initiation (FGM) did not understand the meaning of the word marriage, apart from that you got a husband, cooked and cleaned for him.

Mariatu got raped at 11 years, by a neighbour, just before the rebels struck and even then, she did not understand what rape was. She knew a bad thing had happened to her. But she did not understand, for instance why the doctors told her she was pregnant. She was too young to understand the intricacies of sexual relations and how that results into a girl being with child.

I cried many times as she exposed her life and innocence during the war, and how her dreams, several times, would have saved her and her family if only they listened to her.

The morning the rebels struck, she lost her arms, after two young boys told her they must cut her off her hands so she would never vote, and so that she can show the president, even though she had no idea who a president was.

When she got the baby and was living in a displaced peoples camp, she was interviewed on by foreign journalists and caught the attention of good Samaritans in England and Canada. She eventually left the country and settled in Canada with a family that took her in. Prosthetic hands were fitted for her.

Her story made me angry, at Africa, at African leaders, at Africans.

Mariatu’s story is similar to millions who have been through civil war, a sad tale of Africa’s innocent children going through what they know nothing about.

My problem, however, was how the ‘good samaritan’ aspect of the story was written. As it is in most of Africa, the west and beyond have always been made to be the saviors of poor, malnourished African children.

Dont get me wrong, It’s great news that Mariatu finally lived in Canada, a country where things worked and poverty wasn’t a daily life experience. She had food on her table, went to school, and prosthetic hands, which she probably would never have found in her country, Sierra Leone.

But such are the stories that will forever etch Africa’s position as a dark continent. Where we ran to the West for answers that we must find ourselves. In so doing, we continue to elevate their status, and lower Africa’s status even deeper.

I believe that a poor man and a rich man can never sit on the same table. If as a continent we intend have to receive any respect from a regular Canadian citizen on the streets of Toronto,who saw and heard Mariatu’s story we must learn to create a new story.

We must not lie, but we should begin to write stories about our happy times and successful issues. The stories of the West and the East include many tragedies such as the world war’s, the holocaust, but more succesful stories are the stronger perception of these countries.

Many Africans have been lucky to have a great education, with great jobs and an enjoyable, wealthy life. Several African countries have great stories about young people who fell in love in a coffee farm, and went ahead to buy it and eventually became billionaires. There are stories about simple African life where we dance by the bonfire’s laugh and sing during celebrations…. where are those stories?

Where are our story tellers?

I got a postcard from Reddy Kilowatt

Dear Reddy,

When I got home for lunch today, I found this postcard in my bedroom- addressed to me, your employer. Plain, white and black, but it was really good to hear from you. Especially in the form of a post card!

The last time I received a postcard was from Norway,no, he traveled to Paris and sent me another one from there. Beautiful cards that spoke volumes of the cities he who shall remain nameless traveled to.

Postcards always get me nostlagic, but guess what, many times, Postcards usually carry good news- and when you’re arrived, for some reason, I wasn’t sure it was going to be good news. There’s been no good news from you in such a long time- so the excitement and show off session that usually follows the receipt of a regular postcard (usually complete with a stamp from a foreign country) was really not there.

But Reddy, that’s not why I’m writing to you.

Despite the fact that you told me you’d be busy on some power lines that affect me supply on Thursday, I’m actually a bit touched by your concern, more so, your new way of showing this concern. It works for me. I like postcards, I like the fact that the notice came to my doorstep, and you did not assume I read the dailies on the days that you post notices of power disruption.

Today I choose not to wonder how the printing of all these postcards will cost you, or how long you can maintain this new way of building our relationship, but I choose to say that you have managed to catch my attention, in a way that no representative of a public company has in a long time.

You called me your employer today- i also hope that since we know that our relationship now henceforth can be based on the respect that defines this relationship we have.

Thanks Reddy, I would like to receive another postcard from you sometime, but hopefully one that will not be about a disruption, but one about electricity rates coming down.

Once again, I loved the postcard!

Regards, Boss Lady.