Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Stepping Into The Tev Cave

I like Tevin because he gives it to me straight (and because he bought me my first beer ever). Raw, blunt as hell, and straight to the point.  He’s so edgy; he’s right there on the edge of edginess, and very in-your-face. I have always found that fascinating about him, and wanted to know what could possibly be going on in his half dreadlock-covered head. And voila, it came to me: why not interview him? That was a year ago. I still can’t believe he actually agreed to sit with me for more than two hours to have me find out everything about him. And I was right. He’s one hell of a guy, but you’ve got to know how to handle him. He’s not an easy man to please, like those terrifying people from The Godfather. You don’t want to be in his bad books.

I was a little too excited and a little more nervous. I would have done the interview sooner but I thought an interview on a Friday evening just after exams would be perfect. Then I would get a chance to ask him what his plans for the weekend were. I imagined I would get a very interesting response. See how prepared I was? But the li’le bastard told me he had changed his mind. He didn’t want to see me until three o’clock the next day. The son of a biscuit! Ati he wanted to go drink his brains out. And I was like, dude, you think I’m not dying to do the same thing? Okay, I didn’t tell him that. But I thought it. We agreed to meet at three the next afternoon, when the hangover had gone away.

Two hours later, at Club Ignition in Westie, I sat watching people get their dance on, causing trouble and clearly having a good time. I was bored to tears. I regretted the moment I agreed to go to that hellhole. And like a ghost, Tevin appeared.

“Yaani wewe hutaacha kunifuata fuata?”

But I swear it was a coincidence. I joined his table and after a few shots of Ciroc, everything was beautiful. People were making jokes and I was laughing my lungs out. Tevin and Eric were doing some weird dance, and it was hilarious.

“So you got them moves, huh?”
“The interview has already started?”
“Yeah, why not?”

Saturday.

One O’clock. I call him, you know, just to confirm if the deal is still on. It is. Wonderful.

Three O’clock. He calls. He has been held up by some shughli and so he’ll run a little late. “Jepchu, please give me an hour. I’ll give you a ring when I’m done.”
“Okay.”

Five O’clock. “Young lady, where are you?”
“Where else? In my crib.”
“I’m at ADD.”
“Don’t move, I’ll be right there.”

There’s this outside cafeteria between ADD and Hall Six. I have always wanted to sit there and have some coffee while watching anxious students pass by. This seemed like the perfect chance, but the place was closed. Bummer. We end up sitting on the back part of some benches outside because the actual seat was too dirty, and none of us is a tissue kind of guy. I may have convinced him to sit with me but getting him to agree to have our conversation recorded was perhaps the most difficult thing I did that day. I wanted us to have a good, flowing conversation and I was afraid I wouldn’t achieve that if I kept scribbling things in my old notebook. Also, the transcriber in me longed for an audio file. In retrospect, I should have scribbled the crap out of that conversation because we lost the recording soon after. Perhaps why this won’t be my finest masterpiece like I had planned (life is what happens when you’re busy making plans, right?). Or why I can’t remember why he finds the word “Ethiopia” extremely difficult to type.
He asks if it’s alright to have some background music as we have our little chat. Fancy.

“Of course.”

In fact, I thought that was a great idea, partly because I would get to listen to his playlist which I suspected was sick. Sadly, we had to use his phone, sorry, iPhone, to record, and my music isn’t quite the generally accepted cool music, so we spoke in silence.

He apologised once more for being late. Life in Nairobi is getting harder by the day and he’s just a lad trying to make it. “Mwanaume ni hustle”. I understand.

“So, Tevin, tell me about La Muchacho.” (Shouldn’t it be El Muchacho?)

La Muchacho Fashion House, Nairobi is one of Kenya’s fastest growing branding and fashion companies that, for the last three years, has striven to distinguish their designs in the fashion market by “creating a combination of cutting-edge sophistication coupled up with a touch of African craftsmanship.” Tevin is one of the company’s founders. He is a stylist and fashion/image consultant or creative advisor, and he models for La Muchacho as well. Does La Muchacho design clothes for men only, you ask? No. Women, La Muchacho has got you, too, covered. Literally.

Find them at lamuchachofhs.co.ke
Instagram: lamuchacho_fhs
Phone: 0725946049/0723746060
You may reach Tevin at tevo@lamuchachofhs.co.ke

“What inspires your style?”
“I like to look good because then, I am confident. Also, I like to display uniqueness and originality in my outfits. But these don’t come cheaply, so you might also say I like expensive stuff.”
Ujaluo itakumaliza.”

We both force a little laugh. I realise how cliché that statement is, so I move on swiftly. “Where do you buy your shoes?"

He was well dressed that day, like any other day, but it was his shoes that stood out. A pair of brown Oxford boots.

“I wouldn’t say that there is a specific place where I get my shoes. I buy a good shoe when I see one, wherever that is, but mostly in Gikosh.”

His phone rings. It’s his sister.

Sista, uko wapi? …YMCA? Sawa… simama tu hapo… siko mbali… I’m coming to pick you… haya… sawa.”

He excuses himself and a few minutes later, comes back with his pretty little sister with glasses, Charlotte. They fought all the way to the bench where my tail bone was already killing me, and I instantly sensed a special bond. She wore blue jeans with a blue denim shirt and black boots. Maybe this fashion thingy is genetic. Tevin looks at his sister’s playlist. “This fucking idiot only has gospel music on her phone.”

Aww. He must be one of the best brothers in the history of brothers.

“You two must be pretty close.”
“Yes. This little lady is very special to me and I love her so much”. We’ve been through a lot of stuff together. A lot of family stuff.”
“Do you want to talk about that?”
“No.”

“Then maybe you could tell me about your hair. Why the dreadlocks?”
“I decided on this look partly because I was going through a rough patch at that point of my life and I needed a change, and partly because I fancy the Rastaman lifestyle. Also, I feel awkwardly exposed without a good head of hair.”

“It is obvious that you like music. But what kind of music?”
“I like music? No, I love music. All kinds of music. But reggae and Kenyan songs top my list.”

“Movies?”
“Comedy. If I’m going to watch a two-hour movie I wanna be crackin’ my ribs for two fuckin’ hours. ”

We then talked extensively about Deadpool and how Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell might just be the two funniest white men alive.

“Is there a girl in class that you like?”
“No.”
“C’mon Tev, it’s just me. You know you can tell me.”
“I’m telling you.”
“For real?”
“Uh-huh.”

“Do you have a girlfriend anywhere else in the world, then?”
“No.”
“Why is that? You are a handsome man, I dare even say quite a catch.”

Charlotte looks at me badly. Hm, she’s pretty even with this suspicious and warning stare. I pretend to admire a bird that is flying by just to avoid eye contact with her. Meanwhile, I wonder what Tev’s response is going to be.

It was shocking. “If I am to be in a relationship, then I need to be head over heels in love. I haven’t found a girl that I am madly in love with, at least not one that is as crazy about me as I am about her. I mean, I tried once a while back but she didn’t feel the same way. So, that’s that.”
“No kidding?”
“Noooo kidding.”

For a second, I didn’t know what to say. I hadn’t seen that coming. I didn’t know that the tough and badass Tevin could also be so sensitive. I had expected something along the lines of “That’s not my shit” or “Nah, I don’t give a bloody fuck about such things”, or “money over rachos”.  (Rachos are chicks, by the way, according to Tev and Friends Dictionary. I kept telling him that it sounded gross, like a derivative of the word “ratchet”, which implies that all girls are shameless whores. He assured me that it isn’t). But he was not even finished, “For me, the bottom line is love. No love, no relationship.”

“Is there a girl in class, then, that you admire? Maybe look up to?”
“Yeah, sure. June Syowia.”

But of course. The chick is killing it. Running her own company at (24?), travelling around the world, being in the list of the Top 40 Women under 40. Damn. She really is quite something.

“And Es.”

Yes! The formidable Es. Her philosophies, her work ethic, her charisma. Her powerful feministic streak and passion for Africa. Remember ThEsther? That Es.

“And you.”

I resist the urge to smile and dance a little. I’m going to do that later when nobody is watching.

“Thank you, Tevin.”

A Demore calls. Tevin apologises and we keep talking. He calls again. He is ignored again.

Most of the students of the University of Nairobi that I have met are not satisfied with the quality of scholarship and life in general at the school. Tevin is no exception. The endless strikes, the rude and lazy chaps at Education Building, the grumpy dean of students in Mahatma Gandhi Wing and the almost non-existent student opportunities suck. If Tevin were to go back five years, there’s no chance in hell he would choose to study Economics and Statistics at “The UoN”. Maybe KU. At least they have KUTV and Chandaria Business Innovation and Incubation Centre. Heck, he’d even try getting into Hollywood. Thankfully, there is a ridiculously high population at UoN, ergo, a good chance to make friends. Eric is one such friend.

“Did you and Eric know each other before campus, or did you meet here?”
“Actually we met back in primary school. We didn’t meet again until freshman year here.”
“I see you guys together everywhere…”
“Hold up, hold up, not everywhere. That sounds gay.”
“There’s no shame in that. Besides, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing. I mean, he’s cute and everything.”

I can see the discomfort in his eyes and I am enjoying every moment of it. Charlotte chuckles. He gets even more uncomfortable. “How can you speak of such things?”

We all laugh and try to picture Tevin as a gay man. Not bad.

“But I assume he’s your best bro.”
“You could say that.”

“Most people that know you two think that you are the more stubborn one. Is that true?”
“I don’t think so. Eric is cheekier and more pig-headed than he looks.”
“I can imagine that.”

Demore calls. He is ignored.

“Who was the first person you met from class, and what was your first impression of them?”
“It was on the day of admission, at the queue.” He then narrated how he saw a girl from the back of the queue. Well, mainly just her ass. He saw her behind from way behind. He was so impressed that he approached her and started a little conversation. When I asked him what her name was, he didn’t have a clue. But after a brief description: her glasses, her complexion and one other thing, I knew exactly who he was talking about.

“So, what was your impression of her?”
“Well, it was a fine ass.”
"I meant the girl, silly."

After a lot of teasing from Charlotte and me about what a fisi he is, he asks, “You’re not going to include her name in your article, are you?”
“Hell yeah I am! I mean, may I?”
“Absolutely not.”

Bummer.

“What did you think of the Welfare Economics paper?”
“Fuck that shit, mehn.”

Demore calls again. This time, he picks up. After a series of omera buanas and a lot of other Jaluo words I didn’t understand, he hangs up. A moment later, Eric shows up. So Demore was just a strongly fragranced Eric. Huh.

“Hey Sharon, my manly friend.” He was unusually loud that day. He must still have been drunk from the previous night’s Ciroc.
“Hey Eric.”

This seemed like a reasonable point to stop the interview. Eric wouldn’t let us do our thing anyway. Also, it was getting dark, Charlotte needed to go home, and the mosquitoes were beginning to bite. So we talked about mosquito myths, how Eric could smell gay from a distance (a little questionable, don’t you think?), how Tevin isn’t a big fan of technology because it’s destroying the world, the time we came up with the phrase tit for tit (which is like tit for tat, only in matters involving tits), M-Pesa, the differences in the way men and women search for stuff on Google, and serendipity. This was after Tev had noticed that I was scribbling on the page on my notebook (diary) that read 7th August, his birthday. And that both he and I have ever met Mo’kiwizy. That is not a celebrity; just my class prefect back in high school.

We then headed out for supper at klabu. Es called, asking me to bring her two hot chapatis. Tevin and Eric insisted I tell her to come get them herself, but I knew better than to do that. As soon as Eric paid the bill, I rushed to Es’ with the hot chapos which she eventually used to warm her hands.

Monday, 2 July 2018

A Reply to An Unwritten Letter to my Ex by Aduwa Otieno

A satirical reply to Femme Koitalel’s Unwritten Letter To My Ex).

Kate,

Hey love. I read your letter. Kind of beats sense that you say it’s unwritten. I saw words, and they weren’t exactly good ones. But what’s it they say about love? Hurts sometimes, I think. And I’m hurt, seriously. There’s just no other appropriate response to your scathing letter. But at least I get this chance to defend myself.

Yes, I remember that particular day. And yes, I may have implied that I needed something more. Do you recall what happened prior to that though? I had asked if you could try a little bit of exercise. You were out of shape, darling (I’m woke these days, by the way) and, honestly, your diet is shit. You say my fart stinks like dead mice? Well, you should see how unsettling the view of you eating those cancer-giving crap you call food. Actually that’s like the main reason why we couldn’t go out on dates as often as before.

Honey, your friends aren’t exactly the good bunch. Just look at Mercy, a drunk who wakes up in men’s bed every morning after a night of binge drinking. Jane? What a cruel heart! Is a man wrong to be worried that their mama is slowly turning into… ? So yeah, me calling you dumb was just an expression of my fears.

You never liked my music? Well, that’s just an issue of preference. I didn’t like your music, either. But, unlike you, I was honest about it. Because I know honesty is something that keeps a relationship solid. And my suits are classy! I can’t believe you hated them when you would often compare them to those of that hero lawyer in Suits. Beards? Come on! You know I would have killed to have them.

Ah yes. Church was my sanctuary. When you were trouble she offered me solace. She even offered me a better lover. The girl you kept throwing tantrums about is a church girl, by the way. We’re even expecting a baby. And to think you once called her a hoe… She forgave you, anyway. And come on! Girls “looked” at me because I’m super hot. At the church there is no where I’m reminded being sexy is sinful. I’m sure that’s something you know but conveniently make it seem otherwise. I never broke hearts, I fixed hearts. I even fixed yours — you were a wreck when we first met. Someone like Sharon was going through a traumatic experience and she reached out. My moral compass functions just well, and so I offered a shoulder. And an occasional dick ride (trust me, she really needed that, like you did back then). She turned out better. We’re still good friends.

Nope. No. I’m not going to talk about Nice again. Except for one thing — she was actually nice. Were you ever nice?

Oh yes, hun. It’s called grooming. I’m trying out a new look suggested by my other half, Alicia. Turns out she doesn't like the suits too. But, unlike you, she was open about it and even suggested a new look for me. And frankly, I’m loving it. Hoodies, denim jeans, tees with Che Guevara imprints, sneakers… And yes, those were new shoes. Nike Air Max Ultra 90. Alicia got me those as my birthday present. Come to think of it, did I ever get any gift from you? Oh. The afro adds that rebellious, but cool edge to my personality.

We could meet, although that would have to pass through Alicia for consent first (that’s just how much I love her). You say closure? Does that mean latex and steamy sweat and goodbyes? That’s something I’d definitely sign up for!

I see you still wear t-shirts. And that nobody can take that from you. But I’m glad that a while back I would make you take them off, often under closed doors, and that one time at the park. Hm, I must admit — those “nocturnal escapades” to the park were quite something. I loved how you would hold me tight when you heard something crawl in the bushes.

That shit? Why call it shit? It was my first and I’d rather have it as something decent. It wasn’t a lie. You gave me the gift of your body to which I’m forever thankful, but you also gave me the curse of your being. You made my life a mess, and for sometime I thought maybe it was worth it. Like, turbulent times, and she’s my first. We can surely hold on. But I couldn’t. I snapped. Do you blame me for that?

Oh. Jo’burg you say? I’m actually happy for you. But I wish that flight could change your attitude. Because… no way you’ll have things any better there. Nope. I’m also sure you won’t meet a fine, smart, un-me guy on the flight. Guy that will sit next to you will probably have a smelly breath. And he’ll keep throwing his misogynist self to you. And to think how much you hate sexists…

Okay, okay. I think you shouldn’t be quick with that. I may have been a bad guy, but at least I get to tell myself that it was reactionary — you led me to that. But that’s still problematic, I admit, especially to my now-woke self. You? As much as you paint yourself as the victim you know you aren’t exactly that. You are just as bad. Maybe even worse. But you were my first, and that love somehow still sticks around.

Yes, fuck me, Kate. We seem to both need that.

Mike.

PS-Please don’t let Alicia see this. I still want to see another day.

[Find this article also at https://medium.com/@iAduwa

Friday, 8 December 2017

Unwritten Letter to My Ex

(It’s mostly just in the head)

Michael,

That day when you told me that I wasn’t enough; that you wanted something more; something fancier, slimmer, taller, glittering…I didn't get a chance to rant. It was too much to take.

That day when you said that I looked a little dumb for my age, that I didn’t think like an adult, that I cared about stupid things; things only a mad man would care for, I didn’t get a chance to defend my intellect. I feared that I would upset you.

When you said that it was because I got it from my friends; fat, hopeless losers who weren’t aware that the only thing that awaited them was misery and more fatness, I didn’t even defend them. I chose you. I loved you too much. My friends thought you were dumb, but I didn’t tell you that. I didn’t tell you how much I hated it when you farted silently, and it smelt like dead mice.

I didn’t tell you how your music wasn't music to my ears, neither did I tell you that I hated your fucking suits. And your not having a single beard. Dude, that’s a sin!

You spent half of your time in church, and spent all the rest being unchrist-like. Fishing hearts with the bait in your perfect smile then breaking them all without ceremony. Many girls giggled to their friends that you had "looked" at them. Even Jesus wouldn’t like that. I heard them on the corridors, and I often wondered where that left me. But I didn’t stop holding on. That was a stupid move, I admit.

I always thought you were the one; and you were, for eleven months. Then you weren’t. What happened? Oh, I know. Nice. Damn, that girl, Nice. Your classmate. The one you were always studying together. Lies. Unless you were studying “Honey Management”. You said she wasn’t your type but then I was like, she’s a girl, and she’s breathing...

I didn’t like her eyes. Has she cheated on you yet, I wonder. ‘Cause her eyes, they always seem to wander.

But hey, how are you holding up? Have you climbed down from the douchebag scale? I see you’re wearing more hoodies, keeping a cool Afro, posting more pictures…and did you just buy another pair of shoes? That’s good, man! I really hope it’s not a girl; not that I’m jealous or anything. Well, maybe a little, but that’s not what’s important here.

I mean, you should be nothing but yourself, and I know that because I have been with seven brothers and each time, I forgot myself. Now, I have found me, and I am the best I can ever be. Am I, really? Oh well, that’s the bullshit single girls tell themselves. But I almost mean it, seriously.

Do you think, after your daily jerk-ass activities, one of these days we could meet up for a cup of coffee? So that we can talk about things face to face; to let go of all resentment, you know, that thing, closure?

Okay, mostly just so that you can see how much weight I have lost, how thick my hair has become, and what a badass I have become. Damn! You must also know that I can pay for an expensive coffee now. You know that job of mine you always criticized? That’s how I’m going to pay for your coffee, you stinking sack of shit. But I still wear my t-shirts. That, nobody can take from me.

We could even talk about our nocturnal escapades to the park, walking in the rain and catching a cold together, you feeding me lies and me devouring them. You really are horrible, I would never wish you upon anybody. Wait, when you said I was the first girl you had ever done any of that shit with, that was you feeding me lies, right? And when you pulled that punchline from “The Notebook”; well played, bro. Well played. Damn, I almost still believe it. “Without you, I’m lost”, you often said. Where, in women’s skirts?

But you know the best thing about everything? I don’t want any of it back. I’m no longer diverting conversations with Sabrina about global warming or socialism to “Michael”. I’m no longer seeing your face everywhere. I am sleeping like a baby, and I could kiss myself for that.

If you must know, I’m doing really well. I found me, I meant it. I know that, like you would say “sounds lame”, but really, I’m happy. You wanna know why? Okay, okay, if you insist. So, I won this photography award. It might not be much, but it is enough to show you that you were wrong about my job, about me, and that you can go fuck yourself. But does it really matter? You didn’t care about my job.

Actually, I’ll be going to Jo’burg this evening. Now you care. If I meet a fine, smart, un-you guy on the flight, even better. I heard you released your first single the other day. I also hope that you’re single.

I would ask you to send it to me, but I deleted your number from my phone and from my memory. Just kiddin’; I don’t give a shit, is all I’m saying. By the way, did you finally grow a beard? It’s November.

Anyway, Michael, I forgive you (not), and I’ll be here (not) if you ever need anything. You said we’d been “just friends”. Well, buddy, that’s what friends are for.

Oh, and fuck you, Mike!

Kate.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Think Outside the Ballot By Aduwa Otieno

The following conversation happens in a dingy, smoke-filled, noisy keg joint somewhere east of Moi Avenue:

“I’m proud of the three million that hasn’t registered as voters.”

“Ah, you know most of these people failed to register not out of political persuasions of any sort.”

“Oh yeah? I think their decision involves some element of disregard for the electoral system. That very act of not finding time to visit IEBC clerks, politically motivated or otherwise, is a signifier that not everyone grants legitimacy to what’s being doled out as democracy.”

“Alienating yourself from the democratic process is, for all intents and purposes, shirking your civic responsibility. Not voting is voting bad governance. It’s nothing but letting that corrupt leader take power.”

“Ah. It follows, then, that not swimming is a hobby. Your argument implies not voting as anti-democracy. Democracy in its strict Athenian sense was defined as ‘rule by the people’, but its current form, if correctly defined, would be ‘rule by elective representatives’. We have the latter, where civic responsibility is reduced to just casting a vote. Electoralism is now synonymous democracy.”

“Okay. But what are the alternatives? The way I see it, there are no conceivable ones. Your utopian quest is stuck up in the realm of fantasy. That just leaves us with electoralism. And yes, over the years it has revealed its shortcomings. Worth noting, though, is the systemic reforms that have made it better in some respects. IEBC has undergone structural changes that just can’t go unnoticed. Voting, for example, has been digitized, thereby significantly cutting down malpractices. You can now vote for your preferred candidate without the worry that the election is susceptible to rigging. Even better, with an honest electoral system, reforms have been carried further to the government.”

“Huh. Government. It has a mind of its own. Follows its own logic. It hardly matters who you put in there. And yes, there are alternatives, but they have no place within the current structures. For example, horizontalism. Leaderless, autonomous, communal organizations. Current systems are hierarchical, bureaucratic, and, generally, have a top-down mode of organization. For something like horizontalism – evidently a radical idea – to gain acceptance among the people, an overhaul would be necessary. The state and its bedfellow capitalism would have to be abolished. The state – ”

“A least fill me in on the perceived oppression by the state.”
“I wasn’t finished. Ever really asked yourself why we really need the government? Common response, obviously, is that chaos would be the order of the day without one. You don’t need a lengthy, academic rebuttal to this response. Just look at the hunter-gatherer communities. Travel back on the historical timeline up to when governance of current times wasn’t conceived. Organizations were small scale; something akin to affinity groups. Power structures were non-existent. No bureaucracy. No incentives to deny some access to life’s necessities. Certainly, no chaos. At least not the kind that proponents of the state imagine."

“Look around, bro, there’s no sociology undergrad here. Those are things best discussed within the confines of a classroom.”

“Fair enough. But let’s put the government to test. If you watch the news then you know that the health sector has been paralyzed for weeks on end. Death, as a result, has been on the rise. But the government doesn’t have a sensitive side. After all, those that make up the government and their families don’t use public healthcare. A terrible mistake is making the assumption that these people give a shit about the sensibilities of a life they don’t actually live. Anyway, given the government’s nature of running things, doctors’ protest were met with repression. Some were jailed, never mind the public outcry. How was this executed? The state used its extensions – the police and the judiciary. The police, having a monopoly on violence, disrupted the protests. You’ve seen videos of police men brutally beating protestors which would then be unashamedly ruled out as ‘acted’. But even the state operates within certain limits. They know when to stop. So when its image got tarnished they sought other maneuvers. Law was at their disposal. The constitution, inasmuch as we’d like to think it represents the good, has provisions that are essentially tools of repression. When doctors couldn’t call off the strike all the courts did was quote something from the law books that sent some of the doctors to prison. That’s just one instance.”

“True. But I fail to see how that amounts to systemic failure. Place the blame where it rightly belongs – the people that make up the government.”
“Are you already drunk? I mentioned how the systems in place largely fuel the problem. The police beat people that protests. The judiciary jails people whose only sin is fighting for the welfare of the masses.”

“What are your proposals then?”

“Think outside the ballot. You don’t vote out systemic oppression. Poverty doesn’t magically disappear by simply voting for person X or Y. Same way you don’t end racism by joining the Ku Klux Klan and bringing about reforms from the inside. In place of the state, how about autonomous, communal organizing? An alternative to capitalism? How about syndicalism? Simple reforms are just not enough.”

“Sounds like wishful thinking to me.”

“Oh yeah? By the way, how did the ‘middle class’ passivity catch up with you? Rich-girlfriend-influence?”

“None of your business.”

“Sure. Apologies. My lack of belief in electoralism still holds. Your argument just couldn’t convince someone of my political leanings otherwise.”

“Yeah yeah. Whatever.”

“Okay. Bottles up! Power to the people stick it to the -? Never mind.  Finish up. We have to catch a jav home. Kinda getting late.”

Sunday, 2 April 2017

ThEsther

Esther. That’s right. The Star.

Or as my little brother would put it, “The Artistic Superwoman of Substance with a refined personality coupled with an aura of polished air of resilient nobility.” Smooth, huh? Yeah, Professor Biwott is smooth like that. I mean, he is my brother. And my brother was looking for an Artistic Superwoman of Substance with a refined personality coupled with an aura of polished air of resilient nobility. I do not believe in coincidence much but I see a pattern here. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think I just got myself a shemeji. Just the thought of that makes me have a “Pain in my Shest” and “I can’t breaf.” Even George Lopez would share in my pain in my shest if he heard about this insanity. I really wanted a much younger shemeji, you know.

But she is the kind of person that changes your life. You stay with her an hour and wish for twenty three more. I lived with her for a while in our little artistic blue crib filled with hair products, coffee, scarves, black clothes, laughter, intelligence, laughter. A lot of laughter and a dose of sadness and silliness. The sadness and the silliness always came together. What with the Goat “matatas” and the Grift rift. The “I’M DONE!s” and the “We are strong independent women, c’mon we don’t need that shit.”

28th November.
11th December.
18th January.

Even 1st April! We don’t need that shit. Money over men. We are strong, independent women. African women. Esther’s hair can testify. I was talking about our ritro crib and its fine carpets, divine curtains and two duvets, one as black as the night. Wonder how we ever woke up? We woke up to work. Work, something some people may not understand. And when I did not have work, it certainly did not mean I could sleep comfortably as Esther wrote and wished she were me. Man, she pressed that keyboard hard like a mad woman. And made money just as hard like a mad woman. Or how do you think we bought these matchie-matchie, most expensive shoes I have ever owned? Well, M-Shwari may have chipped in a little bit but well… Our blue room felt homelier than anything ever. I was the happiest pirate ever recorded. ‘Cause it’s recorded. Right here. Jepchu is eternally grateful. That was one phase of her life she is thankful she didn’t miss. But now I have my GreenRoom which she keeps popping in like I stole something from her BlueRoom. Girl!

And her BlueRoom is now an Art Museum. Clearly, I was standing in the way of art, or my presence itself was art enough, and there was no use adding any more.

Speaking of green, remember the numerous green lights and red lights and green lights and red lights and green lights? When your times were good, mine were bad. When my light were red, that was when yours shone like they didn’t pay electricity bills. GREEN. Green as your Ingrams. Those times, I even try to talk to you but you don’t want to look at me. So I WhatsApp you but no, you do not want that either. I am coming in between the two names. I am disturbing the flow, you said. But now you do the same to me but you put it slightly different. “No, Jepchu, I am not disturbing your flow. I am maintaining the Barriers of Christ. Separating the good from evil”. Lady, who are you?

“Time should be your friend, Sharon. Not your enemy.”
More famous quotes by Esther: “Avocado should be your friend, Sharon. Not your enemy.”
“School should be your friend, Sharon. Not your enemy.”
And I ask myself how many friends I should have. I know I am a lonely person. But I am a happy, lonely person, Esther. I do not need more friends, and especially if that friend is avocado. I definitely don't need no friends, especially if those friends are avocado-like douche pants.
But I, too, picked up the line. “If person X will be your husband, then Esther, John Grisham should be your friend, not your enemy.”
It worked. She read the whole of “The Associate.”
Probably this is why she started formulating quotes that do not involve friends and enemies. “The higher you climb, the harder the fall.”

Some days, Esther could just jump into some funny character. Cate, for example. You know, Cate… Joe. Singing “Happy Birthday, Joe”, I’ve got my Ray and everything? ...Sharon looking pretty as ever; Linda, sexy as ever and Mildred with her boobs everywhere? Wow, Esther, you’ve got some fine lines. The Aloe Vera is doing you good. It’s not only nourishing your hair, your hairline, your hair roots, your hair all those things that mean the world to you. It is seeping through your skull, past your dandruff, if available (I’m sure there’s none given all the “water n oil” spray ritual that you conduct faithfully on a 7x1 basis), and into your skull. The Aloe Vera is now safely in your brain. Gal, you have a cracked skull. You a crackhead? Ne’er doubted that for a second.

Let me just ask you this. All those hair products, what’s your deal? I even suggested you open a hair clinic that we will name “Esthair Products”. Coconut oil, Bentonite clay, Chia seeds, Mustard seeds, Apple Cider vinegar, cocoa, eggs, avocado, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda, Mayonnaise, Argan oil and many other names I cannot pronounce. But one that I can never fail to know to pronounce is Fenugreek seeds. By Jove, that thing smells nasty! It make us walk around smelling like we fried our hair with Royco. And I’m kinda bearing that burden on my head right now. So, next time you are lucky enough to hug me, don’t smell my hair. Or smell my hair and twist your nose a little but don’t say a word. Don’t disqualify our friendship on that basis. Don’t let Fenugreek seeds come between us. Fenugreek seeds come and go but our hugs should endure forever.

But never mess with Mama Kwame’s hair. Do anything, cut her legs off, chop off her ears, she doesn’t need them. But let her hair be. Buy her a nice hair product approved by her and you will be best friends. Show her some information on the internet about healthy African hair and she just might marry you. She will be sobbing like, “I’d like to thank my mum, my dad, and my parents.” It will lead to some serious ‘Harmonisation and increased productivity.’

That reminds me: the differences between VAT and Sales Tax. You know, with VAT being the woman and Sales Tax with all its bad qualities, of course, being the man. The riterare rogarithimic equations, the ritro conversations in the midro of the night. The Aloe Vera and the craze to live healthy and then ruining it all by Detoxifrying (the art of detoxifying your body with fries). And the prophecies (Hey yo, who I gonna marry now?), the difficot times. Abu’s place. I feel like this is where I bring in BP.

B without BP is like a car without an engine. BP is the best friend we will ever have. In fact, if you want to be my friend of Esther’s go consult BP. Bompo will tell you about the difficots, the juice, Labamba, the funny memes, the nice chapati at their home, the “liar liar pants on fire” and how they’d planned to sabotage my date so that we all remain single forever. Those little devils.


The first thing you will notice when you see Mama Kwame is that she is all African. From her WhatsApp (I’ve always wondered if it’s statuses, stati or just status), profile photo, the books she reads, her clothes and of course her hair. I only pity her kids. She insists that Kwame Beberu, Hazel Nazari and Biko will dress African to the waist cloth. I can already hear Nazari saying, “Mama, Nice has beautiful bikinis that her dad bought her in Budapest but I have to wear these ugly prints and look uncool in school. I hate you mama. You suck!” I hear her slamming the door. She doesn’t speak to Esther for another two days. I can see that Beberu does not change his clothes in public. He doesn’t say it but I know he hates the African print boxers to the bone. Cool guy. Like his dad. Biko is the one that subscribes totally to his mother’s beliefs and philosophies. He carries a weird-looking, healthy concoction in an Africa-shaped bottle to school in the place of a tasty beverage. His hair smells like Royco. He already has a nice, black, shiny afro. The apple of his mother’s eye. The child after her own heart. But it won’t be too bad because I will be there. Their cool aunt will be there for them. For Nazari and Beberu, I will be their saviour. Their knight in shining armor. We will detoxifry once in a while, and Esther will not know.

And the smoothies they will drink. The overwhelming amount of Aloe Vera they will subject their little digestive systems to, and spray on their hairs. Nazari will go off to boarding school at eight. She will go to college abroad and never come back. She will marry a white guy that hates Africans but somehow loves her. It will break Esther’s heart. She will feel a pain in her shest and she won’t breaf.
The most important thing this Spidergirl (Nigerian accent) did for me was help me make very important bad decisions in my life. If I had not made those bad decisions, I would still be a wreck. But I made one particular bad decision and it’s the reason I will be eternally happy.  Thank you Mama Beberu. Dhanks. The walks along Arboretum Road, Statehouse Road and all those places, all those topics. Sisters over Misters, Goat, small bradha, Ngong, Grift… When after that we felt like we could rule the world, even with just our hips. Well, my hips and your hind hips. 412, 208. Those numbers ring a bell? And when someone said “Beb”. Remember? So wrong.

It was funny how you let messages marinade and how you expertly snoozed your alarm, lying that you’re off to your brother’s, stealing Biwott from me.  I would steal Jose but Jose doesn’t chase, he replaces. I would steal Aaron but Aaron ako na warembo wake. "Warembo na Aaron". How you got a small rash on your face and couldn’t sleep because you have three acnes. Then applying Bentonite Clay on your face and looking like a Nigerian ghost.

A whole suitcase of memories, I tell ya.
Remember the song:

Why worry, when you can copy
Trust in Davie, he knows the way
Don’t be a doubting Esther, just lean upon his answers
Why worry, worry, worry, when you can copy!

When we feared the prEdicaments dancing at the door. So funny, such a wonderful enigma you are.

I could go on but I think this is where I apologise. Sorry about yesterday. It was necessary. It had to be done, somehow. Happy April Fools’ Day!

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Are We Hopeless? By Polycarp Chege

It’s 12 mid night, I am struggling to keep awake watching ‘Hotel Rwanda’. One thing is clear in my mind, it’s the simple truth that all humans must face.
In the midst of the Rwandan genocide, all expectations were that the UN would deploy more peace keeping troops. However, the UN reduced the number of their troops. Western nations followed suit, and withdrew their citizens. It didn’t help matters having an African son, Kofi Annan, as the Under Secretary General of Peace Keeping Missions at the UN.
Romeo Dallaire, the sympathetic UN commander in Rwanda requested for more troops but his request was denied. After the genocide; Romeo believed he could have saved more lives had the reinforcements arrived. As he concluded his report, he laid the blame on Kofi Annan for failing to recognize the severity of the situation.
In his defense Kofi Annan claimed key nations were unwilling to contribute peace keeping forces, especially in Africa, after the catastrophic failure of UN mission in Somalia 2 years earlier. His hands were tied.
This brings me to our situation here in Kenya, over the years we’ve been conditioned to believe in the“it’s our turn to eat” mantra. We’ve waited for elections to get our “man” to the top hoping that since we share the same village, clan or tribe our needs will be fulfilled. Time and time again, we have come to realize that a man is just a mere mortal, inwardly selfish and fundamentally deceptive.
Democracy has long been hailed as a solution to man’s problems. However, it has failed. Unemployment, hunger, diseases and all calamities that befall our human nature are here to stay. As we enter another electioneering year, we will hear endless promises of jobs, better life, justice and fairness. We will be urged to hate that clan or community because they don’t support our “man”. As if that’s not enough, we will be required to stick to our tribal cocoons because once our “man” gets to power, he will open paradise for us and he will make manna fall from heaven.
However, our problems are too great for a man to solve.
All humans eventually realize its useless to rely on a man.
Therefore, I urge you;
Hope in thy God. Those leaders might not know you but He does and cares for your well-being. He does not make promises He can’t keep neither does He withhold any good from you.




Saturday, 3 December 2016

INNERSENSE By Aduwa Otieno

He's seated on a campus bench, waiting for his other half. Like normal human beings, he’s glued on his phone screen. The message, of course, is that he’s not a loser as his attention is being fought for by the phone. 


Him: (murmurs indistinctly) Black men can’t be oppressive to black women… They don’t have systems that would foster that… white men do (pauses to reflect) Meh! But they’re intra-racial injustices against women…
Inner Him: Knock knock!
Him: (decides to play along) Erm… who’s there?
Inner Him: It’s the Inner You, dumbass. You created me. Made me a person. I can talk.
Him: That’s not how the joke goes, but… what do you want?
Inner Him: (excitedly) A chat. Is that so much to ask for?
Him: (staring at his phone) Yeah. I’, in the middle of something important.
Inner Him: (a bit angered) What? Reading tweets? Nothing new there. Just basic knowledge repeated ad nauseam with the expectation that somehow they’ll turn profound. Bleugh!
Him: You’re just hating.
Inner Him: No, stating as it is. “Oh, look how woke I am. I can use ‘hetero normative cisgendered bias’ in a sentence!” “Trump is a racist, sexist, ableist bigot that can never be the president!” It’s always a performance.
Him: How do you even know all that?
Inner Him: (sighs) I’m you, one way or another. You created me, and like god and his creations, in your own image.
Him: Okay. First it’s never a performance. These are people who just want to make a difference, and they have social media for that. Second, why the negative energy? Chill, bro.
Inner Him: Make a difference, huh. These are people deeply drawn into the call-out culture. All they do is lash at anyone they deem morally corrupt. They have the 140 character limit for that. Oh, I hear they do something they call threads these days. Anyway, it’s hard to tell if these guys have a genuine political commitment to change things for the better or they’re just being fans.
Him: They had that Congolese singer face the law for assaulting one of his female dancers. Ha! In your face! Explain that away.
Inner Him: (pauses for a while) That’s one way of looking at it.  Or, we could say that the guys who witnessed the actual assault reported the matter. Did the heavy lifting. Your horde of online activists were left to do what they do best – call out. You know, with overly used phrases like “person X is a racist who shouldn’t be in our country”.
Him: (clearly irked) Are you implying calling out people who do bad things isn’t one way of fighting the evils they perpetrate?
Inner Him: Nope. I’m just saying that’s only a step. There are further steps to be made. And stopping at one of them doesn’t help much as much as we’d like to think. One could say that we have Trump as the US president because of such. Liberals spent the better part of the campaigns mocking Trump and his supporters. Time which they would have otherwise spent debunking Trump’s myth about Moslems being terrorists or his immigration rants that would turn into policies. Instead, we had them glued on their phone screens, typing away patronizing sentiments towards Trump supporters. That, as far as it goes, is my theory.
Him: (reaches out for his cigarette pack and a lighter, then lights one) Are you by any chance anti-liberal?
Inner Him: Yes, and so should you. You label yourself anarchist, after all. Not that I’m against liberal values.  Far from that. In fact, most of values overlap. We both think oppression is a bad thing. The difference, however, is that libs just happen to rant about it. My ilk, on the other hand, are doing something about it. We plan and stage insurrections. We fight all power structures that put us in chains. We fight capitalism. We fight the state. Libs make exceptions. They don’t fight capitalism because, after all, most of them fall under the middle class threshold. Fighting capitalism would mean taking something from them. Libs don’t want to be a part of any insurrection. And if they are, all they do is vilifying those who choose non-pacifist tactics. Look at their passionate hatred towards the Black bloc. In other words, they put themselves on a pedestal.
Him: Wow! Impressive. Proudhon would have been proud of you.
Inner Him: I’m more of a Kropotkin guy. Proudhon, other than his criticism of private property, was by and large a douche. Guy was sexist. He fought systems of oppression but couldn’t patriarchy.
Him: Okay. Enough of the politics already. I’m waiting for my significant other and I just want to be in the mood when they arrive.
Inner Him: (clears throat) Do you love him?
Him: (acting surprised) What? Of course I do.
Inner Him: (long pause)
Him: What? Okay. A bit ambivalent about that. They are transgender. I’ve never dated one. So, it’s basically trial-and-error kinda thing. Wait, is referring to them as “they” even correct? I mean, they’ve never fully identified with genderqueer. And they switched from woman to man…
Inner Him: You said you loved them. How can you not know such an important detail about them? HE really doesn’t care about pronouns. Oh, he’s never had se—
Him: (abruptly cuts Inner Him) All right. Now that’s you swimming in territorial waters. Let’s not get there.
Inner Him (locks eyes with Him) You’re scared of his silicon dick. Hahaha! What happened to your liberal values on sex? You know, about gender being a non-issue. About there being sheds of grey when it comes to gender and sexuality. See, that’s the problem. You hold views, mostly good, but you can’t live them. Ian loves you, but you don’t really, owing to the fact that he has a silicon dick, and his suggestions about you being the bottom. You’re straight, but you want to identify with the non-straight. Now, you’re facing dissonance of sorts. All you have Ian do is spend the better part of your being proving that he’s worthy of your love. Obviously, fake love.
Him: (clearly provoked) I’m not facing an identity crisis, if that’s what you’re implying. You say something else and I’ll fuck you up! Inner Him: (laughs) Will you? Full disclosure, I’m only an extension of you. Your creation. You say you like Mr. Robot, although you think it ripped off Fight Club. I’m like Mr. Robot to Elliot. You might want to think about how it would look like if you beat the shit outta me.
Him: You’re not even real. Shut up! Inner Him: No. You shut up. I’m your gauge. Your guardian. I made it my responsibility to always bring you back to normal whenever you go off the rails. That’s exactly what I’m doing right now. You’re wasting someone else’s time, yours too. You don’t love him, he’s just one of your experiments. The truth is bound to come up, eventually. But there’s a chance. Break up. Save him.
Him: (plugs in earphone) I’m not listening to you. Not anymore.
Inner Him: (unplugs Him’s earphone) Damn it, Him! You have to listen. You –
Ian: (walks in on ‘them’, holding two Cuppa coffee) Hey! What’s up? Introspection or what? You seem to be talking to yourself.
Him: Honey, we’re breaking up.
Ian: (smiling) Okay. Oh, wait. What?!