Tag Archives: writing

I watched ‘Rafiki’, Kenya’s (previously) banned Lesbian Film

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Firstly, I LOVED Rafiki. It is a beautiful narrative where every character is someone we all know, or have been at a time in our lives—maybe still are at present. Gossips, self-appointed moral justices, heterosexual perverts, desperados, hypocrites, adulterers, fornicators, individuals. We’re all in there really. It follows the tragic love story of Kena and Ziki, two Kenyan girls whose fathers are competing candidates for political office. During the opening credits, members of the audience hollered and cheered at the screen at what I assumed were recognizable faces, possibly friends. I didn’t mind it. I thought it remarkable that for once I found myself in a theatre where it was plausible that the actresses/actors on screen could have been sisters, husbands or neighbours to any one person in the room. But I do feel it should have stopped there.

Though the love story contained many components of most love stories, it was obvious we were watching something different. Not because Kena and Ziki were particularly extraordinary in any way, but more so because members of the crowd made it a point to vocalise the two women’s attraction. I was silently disheartened by the eruption of murmurs occasioned by Kena and Ziki’s intimate moments; an intense study of each other’s faces or the intoxication of their physical endearment. What should have been a privilege to witness was so easily interrupted by what I assumed was discomfort, or perhaps an audible study of the unusual. In truth, I found the clapping that met the end of the movie perplexing. I could not understand how so many members of the audience who had made such an effort to remind us of their presence, responded with an act of praise. Where had the respect been—the appreciation for moments that belonged to Ziki’s quiet stare or Kena’s conflicted desire? I feel strongly that we owed them our silence and attention, not our commentary. Given the delicate nature of what is many peoples reality in countries where being homosexual can get you killed, for an hour and 23 minutes we owed them the floor.

There is this horrible scene in the movie where the two women are mercilessly beaten by a mob of bigots upon being discovered kissing in their safe-place, having been followed by the nosy gossip and her daughter who instigate the attack. The next scene has them sitting on separate ends of a bench in a police station, visibly bruised and bleeding. Two police officers watching them jokingly ask which one of the two women plays the role of the man in their relationship. When their parents arrive to pick them up, Ziki’s father slaps her across the face and scolds Kena, before ordering his daughter to get into the car. I cried. I don’t think I’ve cried in a movie house since I watched The Lion King back when I was still in single digits. I found myself wiping runaway tears from my cheeks, though I managed to hold back most of them.

It was the rejection these young women faced that resonated with me most. They no longer qualified for the comforts of human decency, all because of a personal choice. Attitudes in this country have a way of making you feel like you have to live on the brink of apology. I’m not a member of the LGBTQIA+ community but I no greater reflect what prescribed human symptoms are championed in this land, and I certainly could not rely on a vocal majority to countenance my personal Unkenyan declarations and preferences. Kenya’s patriarchal standard has written implied laws for love and care, the same way it writes scripts for women to read from. It’s no wonder why our order of the day is not building a country we can all be proud of—it’s condemning a different flavour of love and humiliating human beings for being human beings. Is love not as per the one who does the loving, and made beautiful by the one who is looking to be loved in that exact way? Why can’t it be the choice we are all at liberty to make without fear of condemnation or prosecution?

I don’t know why there was so much talking during that movie but it reminded me of a quote from Ernest Hemingway:

“The beast at the bullfight is the crowd.”

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“Jesus, she’s my mother.”

I’ve been looking for God again. My sisters keep asking me to pray for them and my mother says the two of us should be praying together, holding hands at night and speaking assuredly to what we know is there; really what she knows is there that I no longer seem to be able to find. When I was a kid I remember the eldest of my sisters believed my prayers always went to the front of the line. Now in the wake of disconnect my other sister is convinced much of our progress is spent on my unbelief. I’m just exploring ways to curl my dreadlocks.

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Today is Mother’s Day and for most of my adult life I have resolved that I am merely living off the words my mother speaks to God, a principle that has not yet lost credence with me. I often wonder where this view comes from. Whether I paid myself in wishes to think that the one who has loved me most consistently can somehow save me from this world. That her knowing when I was a child what to feed me so I would grow, where to nurse me so I would heal, what to tell me so I would believe—that all of this made her super, extraordinary, so much bigger than the world she fought to keep at bay. But the sad and slow approach of circumstance and choice exposed her mortality. And so I came to the edge of the earth where my mother is only human. I think this is where it all began, the point at which she was no longer the closest thing Jesus had to an equal. Blood and water flesh and bone fighting her own demons, crying to the tune of lamentation and so unsure of this life, although hopeful it will ultimately be good. So determined to be here when brighter meets the day. It has taken me much of my adult life to accept her humanness, to know that she too cries in her lonely hours. That I have the power to break her spirit and her heart though she has refused the thought that either will ever be reason enough to unlove me. For all the power she surrendered to love so unconditionally those she has sacrificed for, I wonder why she is blind to mounting regret.

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For my mother, I wish you the better half of joy and an easier life ahead. I will never be you because we were never meant to be the same people, but I hope what good I am capable of (that I live long enough to realize) you can see yourself in. I also don’t ever want to love like you love because I’m not sure I can endure the heartache of being mistreated as you have been by us all. I hope you keep praying because for now, yours are the only prayers that are said where we dwell.

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As for my unbelief. Well.

 

 

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I wanna go home.

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When someone you love, loves.

Long distance love is hard. It’s caring for people in ways you can’t ask to be thanked for and making peace with how much their absence will affect your joy. It’s finding the familiar in all the stages you’ve missed—a constant that makes it so that there is, hopefully, always space for you, even when their lives are so different and their behaviors so unrecognizable. It’s meeting their new loves, learning their new habits and accepting the new order of priorities they have chosen to acknowledge.

I have known and loved my friend Jay for over 15 years and going to India for her wedding was the first time we have seen each other in 12. She continues to laugh like she invented funny and the sincerity of her affections is still so precious. Most notably different? Her joy is abounding and it shows in how confident she is when music compels her to move. If ever she was stunned by the magnificence of the rainbow, I am almost certain it too has been arrested by the splendor of her worth.

I figure the pictures might do a better job summarizing the experience:

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At the end of Hindu weddings, the bride and groom are escorted out by their friends and family. It is at this point that the bride has to say goodbye to her immediate family and close relatives as she now belongs with her in-laws. I am told it is emotional for everyone; spectators and those close enough to feel the change in dynamic. Indeed as I stopped, camera-in-hand and surrounded by strangers brushing tears from their cheeks, I witnessed Jay weep as her arms found the warmth that raised her, holding tightly for the last time. It was a beautiful moment and one I feel fortunate enough to have been present for. I watched as her father took off his glasses to subtly wipe tears from his eyes and as her sister savored her embrace to steal as much time as she could manage. I watched as her mother smiled bravely, and wondered where she sourced her comfort and strength. It scared me to think that I have loved her so long and not once in the entire wedding did I need to fight back tears or summon the strength to keep it together. I say ‘scared’ because it made me question whether we are still as close as I’d imagined. I thought perhaps the distance did in fact have an adverse effect. Why wasn’t I as emotional as everyone else?

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Alas, as I packed my clothes in preparation for my flight, it dawned on me that in truth our teenagehood had been bought out by her new reality. We probably won’t ever have another sleepover where we laugh at nothing on the living room floor of her parents’ house in the dark. I won’t get to play pranks on her with the help of my sister when she’s spending the night at mine. Even those things that for so long have been impossible with continents between us—even those we will no longer be able to do should our continents meet. That sense of loss her family and some of her friends felt, the one I struggled to connect with during the wedding, well it finally hit home. She belongs to something I am in no way entitled to. The dynamic of our friendship will change yet again and hopefully that familiarity that has bonded us all these years, will survive the changes.

So in the wake of my realisation and subsequent heartache, I will celebrate her joy and wish her and the truest love of her life a partnership that finds its rhythm in the chaos of every beat they are yet to encounter. May the songs of his soul keep her dancing and the light of her warmth be his home.

 

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Body Smile

Now that you know
You were better than I was ready for
It’s not like before, no
Tonight I’m making up for it all
For every time I let you cry
I will make your whole body smile

Timing’s a funny thing. We get it wrong and the encounter—the words, the fumbling, the flavors, the weather—the whole exchange is tragedy written and assembled for lamentation. All this when regret doesn’t offer much of a beat to dance or even stomp to. This song says otherwise, it sings into existence a man who voluntarily offers a parable of his shortcomings and yet goes on to imagine a love that has waited patiently for his decency. I wonder how many people would be persuaded by a dry plea. How many women would find favor with a man of no lyrical capacity, one who has simply and finally grown up but does not possess the ability communicate this so it sounds like candy? That’s the thing about music, the entire story wraps up in under five minutes. Real life is so messy, so horribly maintained. It’s just not as beautiful or as easily mended.

I hope you like the song, I’ve been playing it constantly for the past few weeks since DVSN’s new album dropped. It is quite simply a fantastic euphoria!

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Charles Bradley isn’t dead!

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As more professional athletes begin to ‘take a knee’ for racial equality and the right to peaceful protest permitted by the American constitution, it seems almost fitting that we are forced to recognize the immortal words of the Screaming Eagle of Soul. For even in passing Charles Bradley arrests the skies with powerful volume:

This world
Is going up in flames
And nobody
Wanna take the blame
Don’t tell me
How to live my life
When you
Never felt the pain

I can’t turn my head away
Seeing all these things
The world
Is burning up in flames
And nobody
Wanna take the blame

These lyrics belong to the song ‘The World (Is Going Up In Flames)’ and indeed for much of America’s black community, this soulful lamentation may well go beyond melody. An acknowledgment of even the most recent history forces a confrontation of what is, arguably, racial inequality that has cruelly rendered many black men and women residents of the heavens or overrepresented in prisons. Black athletes, activists, lawyers, educators, politicians, artists and their allies are employing diverse gestures to confront the same struggle as those who precede them. A hard earned equality as of yet unknown. This, often to the detriment of their future employability.

One cannot escape the irony of the cancerous systems crippling the African-American community and the timing of President Trump’s most recent controversial statement delivered a day before Bradley’s passing from cancer. However, one cannot ignore the capacity of the choir conducted by the creators of today’s protest songs. The ones that record a vocal account of the pain people of color have been subjected to, and the necessary quest for accountability, remedy and justice.

This week in particular, a resurrection of celebrated images of Tommy Smith, John Carlos, Peter Norman and Muhammad Ali are being widely shared beside those of Colin Kaepernick, Steph Curry and Bruce Maxwell—to name a few. Additionally, a large number of NFL players on Sunday knelt in peaceful opposition to the divisive words of their president; provoking the expansion of picture frames by claiming a seat among proponents of freedom. In the immortal words of Bradley, they are in fact refusing to turn their heads away. There is real triumph in unity—in accepting responsibility for your fellow human beings’ welfare because it is the right thing to do even when you are granted an alternative existence.

Bradley may no longer grace the musical stage with his physical presence but I like to think he is demonstrating still in his own way. By virtue of this alone, he continues to live boldly.

My soul is bleeding.

Here’s to an American Eagle! My how you soar.

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Isn’t she radiant!

I don’t love this world at all but there are aspects of it that just sing melodies of love and light. Pictures on the walls of an unsettling monotony with smiling faces that become the very stars from which I source my comfort. Vika, my beautiful friend has been through the a lot this year and yet she still radiates a hope and greatness many of us will never own. She is still such a source of comfort even in her wear. I am so proud of her independence and all that she has accomplished thus far on this earth. Here’s to the love, friendship and support we share— the happiest of birthday’s to my gorgeous one!

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