Items filtered by date: August 2016

The first time Ange heard this term, she thought about an actual shower that was given to a bride-to-be. But bridal shower was a slightly different notion to an actual shower. It was a showering of gifts and affection at a ‘bridal shower party.’ By 2016, these parties had evolved into elaborate events where attendees had to match clothes and look their best. The only think lacking was a legion of paparazzi and a red carpet. Indeed, Rwandan bridal showers have been imported straight from the American culture.

When Ange finally attended her first bridal shower, she knew that it would also be her last. She hated it. What hit her was the way these parties were organized: The gift gathering was coordinated by the bride’s close friend, also referred to in contemporary lingo as BFF. She would snoop around for other young bridal friends, young female family members and would add them to a WhatsApp Group named Bridal Shower – Bride’s name.

In the first days, the messages would be courteous, polite, well-mannered and femininely suave. Then slowly, as if the bridal shower attendants pulled by an irresistible string, would start sharing the most up-to-date, insane, sometimes riotous jokes of Kigali, stolen from other WhatsApp groups. And finally would come the ultimate mission: The Best friend forever who was also the Group admin would share a list of items, as long as the Nile River, to potentially offer the bride.

It was as if all of the bride’s friends dreamt the previous night about offering gifts and they were waiting for an extra push. The list would comprise a mountain of domestic items as if the future Mrs had no plans of equipping her house with stuff she would personally choose. The catalogue would be made of numbers sometimes ranging from 1 to 100, including items like kitchen utensils, bed sheets, dustbins and cleaning soaps. Then the friends would play the friendly game of being a good friend by dividing between themselves different numbers. In order to motivate others, the admin would launch the mission by typing:

Njye, I’ll take number 6, 18, 37 and 65.

Dies were cast. It was very important to pick up your numbers right after in the brief time-lag when affordable numbers were still available. And you would gain a bonus of likability that might push the BBF to recommend you as a faithful friend and a potential bridesmaid. The admin would send polite but gently aggressive reminders that the bridal shower date was coming soon as if they did not know! The list numbers had to reduce, girls had to generously prove that they were true friends.

Few days after the initiation of the compte-à-rebours, the admin would send tenacious reminders, sharing the vacant numbers. That would put too much pressure on the ladies’ purses but they would give up although they had other pressing needs and hadn’t budgeted for this in their tight economical lines. They would create tangible reasons in their minds that would permanently blow away the depressing, gloomy sentiment of guilt:

“We’ve been friends since high school.”

“Yarantabaye papa yapfuye!!”

“Elle ferait exactement la même chose pour moi!”

They were too afraid to dare to show up to the ceremony without an offering. Otherwise, they would be disqualified as friends; no one cared whether they had to borrow money or whatever sacrifice they had to make. No one cared that they had planned to offer a different and more meaningful present to the future bride. The bridal shower admin would never get discouraged which would make Ange believe that she had a real mission. A few days before the actual gathering, which had now become key in Kigali marriage celebrations, the best friend would send at least three reminders:

“Ladies, here are the free numbers, please pick them: No 11: Fridge. No 19: Water dispenser. No 21: Rice Cooker. No 83. 12 kg Gas cylinder. No 92: Bread toaster.”

Expensive utensils that sometimes could be indispensable for a house to function; at least in the African, Rwandan kitchen. That’s why Ange hated Kigali’s Bridal showers; wondering if Kigalians- female Kigalians, did get time to surf on websites such to get an idea of how to organize a successful American bridal shower.

The upsetting part of it that would piss her off was the lack of minimum originality and creativity. was Ange remembered how Melanie Trump had been severely ridiculed for plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech. Yet most bridal showers were similarly guilty of zero originality!

Ange thought how it was much easier to call others duplicators and ignore similar imitation on ones part. But Ange was still open to the idea of offering a financial contribution to a person-to-marry, because this is something that resonated with her values, with her Rwandan culture. That culture that had its own version of pre-wedding gatherings where old women would give marriage tips to young females. If not, Ange would rather prefer imihuro, evening gatherings before the wedding where sometimes young people would devote themselves to fleshy, sensual, immoral pleasures.

As these thoughts ran through her mind, an online survey reached her laptop screen. The question was simple – what do you think about Rwandan bridal showers? Her answer was even simpler. She simply clicked on ‘dislike.’ With no regrets.

Ohh respectful Africa, my mother, my love, my land, my blood, my dust, my vein, my paint, my shape, my home, my comfort, my peace.

Ohh beautiful Africa, my sorrow, my pain, my tears, my nightmare, my war, my fight, my battle, my blood, my unrest, my discomfort, my agony.

I am your child, the blood of your blood, the darkness of your soils, the warmth of your sun and the end of your cries.

I was born here; I hold all my hope in my red hands as my ambition. I work for you till blood stops running in my veins. I dedicate every single thought of my mind to your re-beautification. You are as beautiful as your children are. As beautiful as I am in my blackness, in my darkness and in my shyness. I did not learn how to love you as children naturally esteem their parents. I am among your last-borns, but not among the latest, not among your bastards. I am your child of honor. I inherited your beauty and ugliness.

Mother Africa, I heard from the father you gave to me telling me that your richness is your ugliness. Your golden richness attracted your damnations. You are cursed with plenty of abundance. Such as any beauty, you have so many dredgers. You have been sold, assaulted and raped in front of your noiseless descendants.

Your richness I mean your ugliness is tremendously copious, inexhaustible, infinite, eternally renewable. It unwillingly seduces capitalistic souls who are not necessarily your own children’s spirits.

The 2016 African Union summit Followed 26 other precedents.

Do these Summits offer you Hope, Africa?

Does your whole heart rejoice that the ugliness will be kept inside your territories without reinforcing and creating another format that elects you as a dumping ground?

How do you feel Africa, are you joyfully moved as a newlywed woman?

Are you worried as a sterile female concerned that her husband will search progeny elsewhere? How do you feel Africa?

How do you feel when your children follow the American or European dreams as if you are not an equal continent?

Do you feel betrayed, indifferent or tired of these struggles?

Talk to me Africa, my mother! Murmur in my ear your dream for me, for all your children so I can start dreaming. Comfort me before I worry, talk to me it’s urgent don’t just send me to God, don’t just confront me to my rough present.

My time is running. Gun and racial violence are taking another step in the US, England has exited the European Union and elected a female Prime Minister, France is hit by another attack, there are unending fights in the Middle-East, more and more farmers on your land are suffering from a new, easily overspread, uncountable, uncontrollable, unstoppable disease. Experts call it climate change. My time is running and I can’t catch it. It slides between my fingers; it tears through my black body. My time is rushing as your children drown in the great Mediterranean. Aren’t you tired that their blood dilutes the cold waters of yesteryear warm sea?

Wake up and don’t be lazy, mother. Wake up and share your views. Don’t be a hard-hearted, unpitying, merciless and ruthless mother. Speak for yourself, for your children. What are your hopes for the African Union Summit that happened in Kigali and those that will come in later years? What is the dream you dreamt for all of your children?

Talk to me mother, Mum I want to hear your warm voice in these uncertain times. I can’t hear your nearly snuffed voice. Wake up Mama, talk to your daughters and sons. What is the African dream that your sons and daughters should claw at?

Well, if you dare to remain silent. I will think for you as it is my responsivity, our responsibility as your intellectuals.

I see the African dream at the horizon. The horizon looks like the endless beauty of the Indian ocean from the Tanzanian side. The horizon is a warm sunrise that reflects a smell of magic on this ocean and burns my black feet as they sink in the soft shore sand and darkens my skin color. The horizon is what I want now and not a random promise in the future. I want to craft a contemporary, attainable dream for you, mother Africa. Not the projection of statistics that create false hope in the desperate hearts of your children. I don’t want to dream of the Agenda 2063 because I am not sure if my life expectancy allows me to see the 63 sunrises. I want to dream now because in few hours my eyes will close again in deep sleep. I want to wake up tomorrow morning with a dream painted on the mirror of my soul. I want an African dream made of discernable letters, real words, short sentences and a meaningful paragraph that defines this common dream for African sons and daughters, a paragraph that my heart can easily memorize and above all believe.

Do all of your children feel represented when they observe the High Officials you sent to African Union Summits to discuss important issues, issues that matter for politicians and their political interests? Talk to me Mother Africa. Because I want to know your expectations, your anticipations, your highest predictable outcomes when the whole Africa meets in these summits. I know you can fathom the hope of your children and guess if it’s achieved. Do they impatiently follow the news on TV and await the resolutions from the summit? Or do they sneer in front of the tinted expensive cars carrying the Officials? Do they feel that their taxes are wasted in long discussions without concrete conclusions where satisfied stomachs fall asleep in the afternoons, missing the opportunity of painting the African dream for me?

The ultimate dream is … I sit and hesitate to define it. I want it to be exclusive, I want it to resonate with all of your new-borns. I want all Africans to buy, consume, own, believe and love the DREAM. …those who can still believe in it and build it to its ultimate end. I am afraid that our souls are desperate, hopeless and turned into a new oceans of bitterness. Their horizon has stopped shining in the warm mornings since the time you started breaking your word into sinned, sad, irretrievable pieces.

The African dream: The African dream should be that way of living… hesitation is still knocking on my door. I am tempted to dream of the era of my ancestors where abundance, prosperity and family ties reigned but if I shape such dream for you Africa, will you buy, consume, own, believe and love it? I have in mind all of your children especially those who were born after yesterday’s sunset.

The African dream is a temporary dream, a dream that all of the African children believe. Believe in possibilities, probabilities, prosperities. It’s a dream that our all stomachs are fed by the delight they prefer, all their illnesses are treated, all children are properly educated, all adults get dignifying job opportunities. It’s an Africa of joy, family-country-continent unit, collaboration and celebration. It’s an Africa of dignity, pride and generosity. It’s an Africa where a man from Mali can start a small business and believe it can make a living. It’s an African where a woman from Botswana can make and sell her handcraft items, it’s an African where a Kenyan fisher can catch gigantic fishes, sell them on the market and get enough money to re-invest in his business, buy a Tusker beer and dance Nakei Nairobi in his evening. I can paint dreams for all African nations but I want to borrow their thoughts. I want to paint their own dreams.

It’s an Africa mixed with the ancient and the contemporary. It’s an African where a North African man is not feared as terrorist, where a black child is not only perceived as a wretched immigrant or disdained black poor. It’s an Africa of families with manageable children, I would propose three or slightly four. It’s a land of warm sun, hot music, crazy dances, fried, non-fried food, fertile soils, strong friendships, oral and documented stories, unbreakable spirits, real compassion, social gatherings, happy unions, genuine love, real solidarity, local values. It’s an Africa where all African people dream to develop and sustain so they can see their children growing on their own land because they would have dreamed, created and realized a dreamed place. It’s an Africa where we will have fought low self-esteem, self-destruction, mental and metal barriers. It’s an Africa where traditions espouse modernization but both remain distinct entities, contributing to each other but remaining faithful to themselves. It’s an Africa with its own conspicuous mark. It’s a property of respect. It’s a dream of the African warmth shining from inside and outside of Africans’ hearts. It’s an Africa where blackness is not a weakness just a difference, where blackness is not a source of complexes rather a complementarity to humanity. It’s a dream that we just sow that rare seed of believing that Africa matters. It’s about daring to believe that Africa is home, true home for all of us. It’s taking that scary step and starting to test the beliefs of our ancestors, their vision and hope for this marvelous land.

I dream of an Africa that can inevitably hurt but also completely heal. An Africa that mischievously takes but also generously provides. It’s a dream where all children start thinking about changing what needs urgent attention rather than hypothetical plans of running away from home, from selves. It’s a dream of belief. Belief in the red, soft, African soil. It’s a belief in Africa. A belief in Africans. A belief in ourselves. A belief in myself as an entity. As option. As a choice. As a chance. As a hope. As a gift. As a present. As the only present. As a future. As the only future. As a believer. As a thinker. As a speaker. As a defender. As a guard. As child. As a daughter. As a son. As a mother. As a father. As an ancestor. As a god. As destiny. As a creator. As part. Of Africa.

This is my contemporary dream for you Mother Africa. Can you buy, consume, own, believe and love it? Can the African Union summits buy, consume, own, believe and love it?

Talk to me Mama. Talk to me Africa.

Ohh beautiful Africa, my sorrow, my pain, my tears, my nightmare, my war, my fight, my battle, my blood, my unrest, my discomfort, my agony.

Ohh respectful Africa, my mother, my love, my land, my blood, my dust, my vein, my paint, my shape, my home, my comfort, my peace.

The high fashion supermodel that always caught the attention of both men and women for her high Janet Jackson cheek-bones and the body figure that was well complemented by her elegant height is mama Jabali. The young delightful sight was approached by many baring complements; some wondered why a goddess like her existed amongst them. She was consulted to give advice and coach “wannabe” models during beauty pageants, guaranteeing a win to the models that followed her word to the letter.

Jean-not her real name-who as a freshman ran for a crucial student’s council seat had given birth. The Gender and social welfare contestant was not only strong willed in politics but also in group discussions where she made subjects clearer and willingly lessened the burden of group assignments by offering to tackle the tough questions. Her intelligence offered a memorable narration of Greek mythologies, biographies and environmental systems to her attentive audiences. She was too busy for the juicy celebrity gossip, “that crap will fill space in my brain for nothing” she would lament dismissively adding that it did not make sense to obsess over the lives of people who had made it in life.  

The only things I had in common with Jean is that we both showered but I am pretty sure she showered more times than I did, on top of which she carried hand wash and several packets of both wet and pocket tissue. She cautiously watched where she sat, washed her fruit before eating it. By fruit I mean even the avocado and bananas that came with disposable covers or rather peels. I admired all these thus my ability to narrate it without leaving any detail. There is no way I could have matched that kind of hygienic standards.

I accepted my special place in the society as a tomboy, thanks to her girly standards that I could not keep up with. She has put on a little weight but that is not a bother to her as evidently indicated by her WhatsApp status “I know I weigh a tonne now... yes it’s totally worth it” at the end of which she has added the emoticon of a boy child’s head. She is therefore forced to share her younger brother’s clothes.

The young conservative, devoted father and partner was glad to receive Jabali. He worked two jobs to ensure the mother and child had a solid landing once they came back from Jean’s parents’ home. Whenever he did not visit he called and left an “I love you two” text message shortly after hanging up the call. This made Jean smile and sigh with relief as she passed the message of love to Jabali with a kiss on every inch of his face.

Two of my friends and I made sure to see baby Jabali before he outgrew the cuteness that comes with the new born. Jean who speaks in a low tone stands up with a grin between her now rosy cheeks that instantly informs us that chances are we could be dealing with a totally different person and so we should recalculate our moves and conversations. She stands up to give us light hugs and later on let us know that she was avoiding giving us our dream shower filled with milk. Her breasts were full with milk and any slight squeeze resulted in the serious oozing of it.

The bottles of hand wash had doubled in quantity; this was shared with everyone who dared to ask to hold her son. “Jabali caught flu, I did not like it. He now has a rash on his tongue which makes him very uncomfortable hence the caution”, said Jean protectively

“Forgive me for being too cautious it comes with the job” she adds amid a guilt smile. Jabali was sleepy the entire time we were visiting with them for he had not slept the entire previous night. For this reason Jean asked me to spend the night to assist when he would be stubborn again.

I was allowed to sleep earlier because according to Jean, I would be the one to keep an eye on the bubbly and cunning Jabali at night. I was awoken by tales of Jean’s experience, she spoke of mothers who experienced post partum depression for finding it tough to handle the aftermath of child birth. She consummately narrated a story of a woman whose family was furious for thinking black magic was used on their daughter who was now acting like a mad person. We were joined by her expectant friend who listened keenly to the recommendation from a woman who had barely come close to experiencing such. “Take time out and watch birds play in the trees, even if it cries, give your brain a break” Jean advised expertly.

Jean lied on her back held her legs by the toes; she pulled on the legs and simultaneously thrust forward as if trying to stand up. The expectant lady, who went by the name Esther, watched, closely without blinking as Jean demonstrated the easiest way to push the baby during labour. Esther burst into laughter but stopped immediately on reading the message of concern on Jean’s face

At night Jabali was up as expected and therefore I was asked to wash my hands or use the hand wash before embarking on my duty for the night as the nanny. The first few hours were smooth, I held him and he instantaneously fell asleep. His sleep lasted less than five minutes after which a short cry followed. The cries were mollified by a gentle rocking as advised by mama Jabali or a pat on the back while Jabali was leaning on the shoulder. There are times Jean took Jabali to breast feed him this was triggered by a loud continuous shrill that sent Jean to her feet. “I know that tone” Jean would say as she stood with her breast already out or a made up song which started with soft humming. This was the last time I held Jabali for that night, I slept and the next morning Jean told me, Jabali together with her went to sleep at mid night.

I came back home to my parent’s place only to realize the chicken that had roamed the house with her two chicks replicated the same behaviour as Jean. The chicken picked fights with anyone or any object that dared come close to her chicks. It caught bugs and looked for bits of spilt foods to feed her chicks. The announcement for food was made official with a clacking call from the mother chicken as the chicks ran responding with an exited squeaky call.

The chicken mother ensured every single chick was present for cuddling under her wings during breaks and at night. One chick died and therefore the only thing left behind to carry on the legacy of the family was one loud chick. The feeble creature made the same loud noise as if missing its sibling but was silenced when offered grains of rice. It followed the mother chicken around. Any attempt by the mother chicken to leave was a chance for the loud cry to resume.

June and July are cold months in Kenya, for the past two months I had made a habit of wearing my sleeping bag even during the day. I was not going to take chances with the cold that saw us record the highest electricity bill since the year started. Apparently 17 degrees is not cold at all according to a friend in the UK. In light of the facts presented I allowed the remaining chick to join me in the luxury of the warmth and cosiness of my sleeping bag under the watchful eye of its mother. It took pleasure in the invite and hardly made any noise while at it. The chick took short breaks to feed but made sure to locate even warmer spots near my armpits and even behind my pony of hair when it came back.

I remembered Jean using a heater to warm her room and ensuring a thick layer of Vaseline covered Jabali’s delicate skin in addition she made him wear layers of clothes. I also recalled the noises that alarmed Jean, prompting her to breast feed Jabali or to simply hold him, they were the same noises the chick made, when it was alone or when it was uncomfortable.

The last chick passed on two days after its food sack was badly severed by a careless cousin who accidentally stepped on it. I eagerly fought the compulsion to shed a tear or two when I saw it squeaking helplessly; lying immobile on the spot beside the ball of food it had consumed that day. In less than three minutes it was up on its feet. Jean did not equip me with the knowledge of what to do if that happened, so I tied tape around its neck amid protests from its mother who had to be restrained. The tape was gone by morning. Its efforts to feed were rendered futile since the food escaped through the opening, which it ate again. The food sac dried leading to its death.

GN... If one happened to visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) which is located next to Nairobi National Park and opposite Banda school on Magadi road, the embodiment of the mother elephant by humans is witnessed. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust was established by Dr Dame Daphne Sheldrick in memory of her husband. It has managed to raise and released over 150 orphans back into the wild. Since 1977 DSWT has been rescuing abandoned elephant and rhino calves and assigning a care taker to ensure the absence of the cow is not felt. A blanket is used to cover the calf and it is fed every two hours with formula milk which contains less fats. Elephants have a poor digestive mechanism therefore cannot be fed using cow milk. The care takers go to the extent of ensuring the calf does not spend nights alone by keeping it company throughout.