Tag Archives: Africa

I’m done. I Forfeit.

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Most girls want someone to call daddy; to be the truest reason he continues to find God in her mother’s eyes, to be the fruit born of immeasurable love. He will set the tone for all men in her life. If he is a great man, all other men will fall short of greatness. If his desires control him and result in reprehensible conduct, he becomes the standard of her expectation. If he is absent altogether, she will look for his presence in her own reflection. But the power such a man wields over the vulnerable babe must be earned by his unconditional love. It must be bought in his promise to always protect her; paid for by his toil and commitment to provide for her, until such a time as she can do so independently; granted by his oath to put her before himself and all others, ripping feathers from his own back to strengthen her wings, so she can fly high above the stars. She must become the breath he takes before the beat.

I believe my father’s first love is Africa. He believes that: “East Africa will be a single, viable federation one day”. Days after that, he believes that all fifty four States will finally begin to covet unity and make it the goal. He believes that Kenya can change. That people born of the soil can be free. His soul is bound to the life of the continent; his heart beating in time with hers, his convictions owned almost entirely by his desire to see her soar- to see her win.

I moved to Kenya to ride the wave of my father’s love for this place. I wanted to fall as deeply and as passionately for this part of earth as he has, to better understand his motivations. So I could see as he does. I wanted to find in the soil my own direction and celebrate a path constructed for me by my heritage. I wanted to taste the blood of slaves in the fruit raised from the ground where their bodies lie, and marry the struggle they left me to inherit. I wanted to hear revolution on the streets and record the evolution of black- a new unshakable freedom.

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Something else my father is taken by…jazz. I grew up on soft jazz, African jazz, African house, soul music and R&B. Like my father I fell in love with jazz and even harder for soul. As a teenager he played the trombone and harmonica, so I wanted to play the sax. I wanted to play it to make him proud and to give him something to celebrate in me. Pretty soon though, I learned to play it for myself. I would come home after a day of school, put a jazz CD into the sound system and blast it with the blinds drawn; playing along wherever I could make out the notes by ear. It was how I talked myself off the ledge- how I convinced myself to let another day meet me at the door. Just play, and hear something louder and more palatable than reality.

I thought moving to Kenya would be as easy as listening to jazz. I had already mimicked my father’s taste in music; surely I could mimic his affections. As easily as he persuaded me to learn about Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah and Dedan Kimathi, so easily could he teach me to love the land I am meant to call home. But Kenya is not like playing the sax. It is not the comfort I come home to at the end of a hard day that anaesthetizes my mind and soul to ease the pain. It is the poison that makes every move hard. I can’t be creative here, I can’t live creativity here. I have found foreign in home- an alien to my father’s love. Richard Wright to Ghana.

It was Jamhuri Day (Kenya’s Independence Day) on the 12th of December. But we are not free and I’m tired of hearing of a potential that not enough people seemingly want to realize. Sadly, I can’t be bought any longer by my father’s beliefs.

This is not my home. I’m not convinced this is where I’m supposed to be if I can’t be the version of me worthy of life.

We all have to know when to walk away.

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My Dark Skin

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My skin is like patch work. Different parts of my body are different shades of dark brown. Contrasting colors indicate where my arms have entertained the dancing sun and where my skin has hidden from the light. The different tones are bold symbols of movement, a defined surface area permanently singed in memory of where my feet have travelled. Yet this skin I wear is reviled by so many though it is the color of bare earth. It boasts a heritage rich as the soil, and a resilience coarse as violence. I am obsessed with it. I will always be obsessed with it.

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Still In Love With Him

I’ve been finding it difficult to feel anything for a few years now. I don’t really like to be touched in any way and it feels like an invasion of my personal space when anyone tries to engage with me beyond necessity. I often try to avoid being emotionally aware of other people’s feelings and I find it all to easy to walk away when I feel pressured. I am repelled by crowds and the only place my heart feels settled is on undeveloped land, with fresh air and cleaner skies- no expectations, no conversations, just peace.

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Breathing

Alas on this earth, one cannot live as an island, frolicking among the speechless green and brown furnishings of the earth. So when I do have to engage, I am assisted only by courtesy and whatever vessel in me demands performance of cultural, social and professional duty.

Lately, however, there has been one person I have wanted so desperately to speak with. The image below is of my grandfather’s Pass Book. During the colonial era in Kenya, blacks were required to keep a Pass Book that contained ruled pages titled Movement Permit. These pages would be filled-in stamped and signed by a white issuing officer that would record in detail the permissions, validity, purpose and destination (among other things) of the Pass Book holder that needed to travel to a different part of the country. My Guka (grandfather) was allotted a number, visible in the picture below that was used to identify him. Every time I look at this, I am overtaken by anger and pain. How any man could impose borders on those who are born of the land they seek to roam is well and truly beyond my level of comprehension. Yet, here is proof that such men lived.

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Still, my grandfather, though ill-treated in his own country, found light in life and became a lantern illuminating the paths of many. When I was child I remember the way he used to embrace me when he would visit, and how he would discipline me in playful ways that made me want to be better. I remember how I could never get my small arms to fit around him because of his big stomach and I always thought he must have had so much love to give it was bursting at the seams. I remember how he spoke to me and the effort he made to be patient and listen to what I had to say. I remember how his stubble used to brush against my cheeks when I would jump onto the seat beside him for a cuddle. I remember the scent of his clothes and the loud slurps he would make when he sipped hot tea. I remember the way he would smile when he was proud of something I said or did, and the warmth of his hands when he held mine.

He’s dead. Has been for many years. Out of desperation I went to go look for glimpses of him in my other grandfather’s eyes and was reminded that no one man’s words are a replica of another’s heart. Now I don’t believe in talking to gravestones, but if I could send any letters to heaven:

 

Guka,

It still hurts to know you’re gone. Lately, I don’t really know what I’m doing. I am lost in my own ambition and disgruntled by my failure to accept pragmatism and mediocrity as living. I have no real idea of what it is I want from life anymore and no real connection to the ground on which I stand. How did you find God in the chaos of such a dark period of history? Where did you source the strength to keep going?

If you could come back just for a moment, and hold me up while we walk for a while- I think I could use the company. Thing is, I’m stuck loving you until the rain doesn’t know how to fall anymore. Until the sand is so dry and rough that it cuts the breeze and the bleeding wind wets the thirsty earth.

Gendo

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The Sun’s Retreat

I’ve never been in love with the sun, I’ve always found peace under darker skies. Not because I crave the wake of indiscretion, but because I covet the moon’s quiet embrace. No majestic rays command unsettled existence and yet the glitter of stars guide lovers of night. What greatness is bestowed upon the earth by such gentle light- the glow of a fatigued feature placed beyond the reach of man, pilfering song until the wind is the only whisperer.

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Diaspora Diaries: How do we justify burning a child alive?

Repost from: Chathe and Ebra 

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Fire by Matty Ring

 

 

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Are you my village husband and which way to the Biafran War please?

About the black community’s seemingly non-existent reading culture destined to kill us. (Seriously though, it’s a problem!)

I often wonder if the mountains dream of being hills and if raindrops fear the boorish sea. If I were to live the narrative of that which is said to represent me, I could not operate without reference. My hair on its own could not abide an angry breeze and my skin would be a little lighter and a little darker all at once. My speech would be interrupted by foreign concept- language and pronunciation I would dread play subject to test. I would hurt for reasons unbeknownst to me, and weep over trials that wrongfully add to the credit of my soul; ignoring the true toxicity in which my ambition for so long has been submerged. I would fall in love with a man in a village- our village. I would fall in love with a recalcitrant political refugee escaping detention. I would write privilege with love and the characters that bury themselves in my heart would force a ballad of appreciation to remind me of my blessings and limited acceptance. I would have to beg an application of inanimate objects to present a body employed by standard. I would need to know of a hardship of the mind that would make me heroic in thought beyond my education, and still humble and happy. I would belong to a classified people. They would hear themselves in me because I would avoid all intolerable displays of my individuality petitioning silence. I would buy my happiness from heroes of a different race or class; cheap spoils for the lesser being. My woes would be chosen for me and mental illness would only ever make me seem crazy, not wise and knowledgeable of the sins of our world. I would be someone I have never known enough to write. I would be someone I have never been able to resonate with.

This week I got my first full manuscript submission response. I stared at the alert on my computer, panicking in excitement and wishing there was another version of me that could deliver the news. I picked at my fingernails, busying myself with light work to steady my breaths. Eight weeks I have waited for what I can now confirm is a kind rejection from what I can only assume is a lovely individual entitled to her own tastes and values. This is surely the pain of writing; that one is prohibited from human emotion because there is simply no one to blame. I cannot hate myself for not fitting the mold and simultaneously, I cannot hate her for not seeing beauty in the cracks. We are two individuals; different worlds and different loves. We are women of different worth in this world and on this occasion our differences did not make us better, just different.

While many aspiring and established writers have known/will know the inexorable pain of a form rejection, a critique or a blatant dismissal of acknowledgment, the hope is that a waiting crowd will call foul and force a conversation that has not already been started. A conversation only that underrepresented voice can start. You see, it is not a rejection of my words that threatens my spirit; it is the scale that weighs its relevance, the absence of a strong enough African/Black reading culture to provoke the necessity for my presence in literature.

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I hated reading when I was growing up. I couldn’t resonate with the characters in the books, furthermore, my primary and high school teachers took the fun out of it by insisting an author’s words only had one meaning, and to interpret against the grain was to disrespect the purpose of language. So I grew up believing that one only read novels to pay homage to language, and not appreciate the value of a human being’s organized account of chaos. I numbed my senses to scripted records of society because these writers who took time to lecture me, did not want me to resonate with them, only offer my respect for their toil.

“I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it.” -Toni Morrison

As much as I hated reading, however, I loved to write. Poetry drenched in spelling errors on primed recycled paper, prose about suicide and dying and speeches addressed to no one. One day as I transcribed my genius onto my mother’s Power Macintosh in my father’s study, I leaned over and picked up a book off his desk. Pages of Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom brought my heart to life and the euphoria of Madiba’s soul speaking to mine unapologetically pilfered my attention. To this day, this feeling has only ever been replicated once by Barack Obama’s Dreams from my Father. So beautifully as these men wrote their stories, so magnificently did they share their worth. I fell in love with their anger, their frustration, their identity crises and their durability. Then came James Baldwin and Langston Hughes, Virginia Woolf and Octavia Butler, Oscar Wilde and George Orwell. I fell in love with reading because finally I could hear the voices of the writers and we spoke with such careless feeling; they were entitled to their version of reality and I was entitled to my interpretation of their chronicles. But in all their stories, for all the struggle that had birthed their greatness they did not represent me. They did not package my voice for the masses.

“But you do discover that you are a writer and then you haven’t got any choice.” -James Baldwin

So I write because the bridge between this world and me is so insecure that only the sound of weeping rail dare attempt prevention of my fall, if only my steps should continue beyond shallow warning. I pray constantly and I query desperately, that I may not waste my mind and my passion. Stories where he yells and she cries and they break each other because he is just a man and she is only his accidental daughter. Stories where she is middle class, educated and still scaling the lowest rung of the ladder because this world has presented no allies to ensure her happy ending. Metaphoric shackles and her hair a metaphor still. Stories of reckless ambition challenged by a world where citizenship is the caped villain that hinders the protagonist’s progression. She has dreadlocks, dark skin and rotates her collection of skinny jeans. She doesn’t have Sarah Baartman’s large breasts, a West African Accent, or a loincloth, though she is born of Africa and so bound by its incumbent iniquities. What a tragedy it is that she and many others may never be acknowledged, because our community has neglected to add weight to our worth and support true representations of our demographics and our diverse obstacles. Why must we hurt ourselves by refusing a variety of narratives in favour of one that will constantly fail to represent all?

Alas, it would appear those of us who are different, who don’t fit the mold are writing our records for an empty room. Perhaps this is why I often wonder if the mountains dream of being hills and if raindrops fear the boorish sea.

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Africa, but your heart bleeds.

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“Captive” by Kagendo Limiri

Africa is the land of unsettled spirits. The tortured souls of black slaves dance on worn asphalt, feeding on the hope of the breathing corpse. We invest in antiquated propaganda, seeking life in what has long left the earth and re-birthing the very sin that has pilfered so much of what bore our freedoms. We have sought the power of God in man, forcing generations to abide by words of the wicked. Such words that resuscitate regression and smother equality; the ones they use to substantiate the transgressions of greedy governments. We bow before goons because we fear a loss of lifestyles we do not even enjoy. The African dream, corroded by corrupt politics; tax payer dollars, funding the demise of taxpayers. We have become an essential part in our own degradation- the water and sunlight that photosynthesize a broken system overrun by callous predators. We watch them stick their hands in the mouths of our children and spill the blood of our suffering. Collateral, they call us, underpriced security for their depraved schemes. How has it happened that we are captives again, to more men? Is this what they had in mind- our parents and those before them. Are these our best lives? Those that insist we live.

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