Peace of Land

Sarah and Faith Muoria

 

Recently, my parents grabbed themselves a piece of land. They paid for it though, unlike your favourite politician. They say they want to build themselves a retirement home, leave the city and never come back. They chose Malindi as their future home. They sat down in a silent meeting of two in the living room and discussed how they had lived in Central, Eastern and Nairobi provinces but never been to Coast. So instead of getting an SGR ticket to Mombasa for a weekend like everyone else, they just called Douglas from Urithi Housing and Cooperative and he gave them an offer they could not refuse.

 

Their reason for settling in Malindi still beats my logic. We are Meru people, we have a romantic affair with Mt. Kenya. We wake up to the sight of the snowcapped Lenana, Batian and Nelion. Malindi was just far-fetched, but who understands these ones anyway but themselves?

 

Personally, I have never been to Malindi but it sounds like a place with no Wi-Fi so it would be a total buzz kill for me. It sounds like a place you go to retire though. A place you build a two bedroom tiny mansion with a lot of living room space and an extremely huge master bedroom, but because you do not want your kids or your relatives to bother you, it almost has no space for guests. In fact, it only has one extra bedroom. An extremely tiny one. The kind you open the door and, BOOM! You are in bed already. The kind that are prominent here in Nairobi, particularly, Roysambu. Bedrooms that are inhospitable. You make one wrong turn while sleeping, you will wake up hugging the wall.

 

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Cuffs of Stupidity.

 

Living in Nairobi is not an easy task. Surviving is not difficult, but then, surviving is not the same as living. The other day I was just minding my own business, reporting to work, my first job, for the first day, then all over sudden, I found myself in a police cell. Mind you, it was my very first day at work where I was supposed to make an impression of positivity and intelligence but there I was in a cell with drunkards and smokers hurdled in a corner for two hours, for simply being stupid. This is a true story, I swear! You know you people like carrying me stupid so much.

 

So this is what happened, it had just stopped raining but there was still faint traces of light downpour sparkling reluctantly to the struggling rising sun. I had just alighted from a matatu from Kiambu, and I was headed to board another to Mombasa Road where I was starting out as a Software Engineer. I was new to Nairobi, I actually still am. I never master anything in this town. It is as if buildings migrate at night. But recently I have mastered how to get myself to Kencom anytime I am lost. The other day, the one before this one, I went round and round Archives Building like thrice trying to find Choppies Supermarket at Commercial. I was frustrated. I ended up asking a taxi driver who pointed a place I had been through twice! I felt stupid. It is in Nairobi that the forest monkey realizes that it cannot outsmart the grasslands of the savanna with its climbing proficiency.

 

Anyway, on this day I alighted at Commercial. The day before, I had asked kina Francis the Lone Puppeteer to draw me a map of the city and for like an hour and a half, they described to me where to go and where to assiduously avoid. They told me that if I found myself on Luthuli Street, I would come out of the other end with neither money nor shoes. These people are good at scaring people. I, therefore, paid more attention to where I should avoid more than where I should go.

 

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The Road to BAKE Awards

 

The day I met Mukiri is unarguably the most important day for the art that we have both practised through the years. She had this wildness in her eyes, a blazing fire that I automatically became determined to match. Now, looking back, the things we have done to get stories or to get images for a story, I can silently confess that it has been insane!

 

This is not a love story, if it was I would have started by describing her hair all the way to her cold feet. That one I will tell another day. This is about a journey, the kind that has no destination.

 

When I started writing, back in June 2014, I came up with a tagline, ‘Art denotes Peace’. I thought that it was impossible to practice art when you are not at peace. The peace stood for peace at home, in the country and even peace of mind. Generally, just peace. It is quite a paradox considering that artists have the most tortured minds and lives in history. Artists transform tragedy and the conflict in their lives to pieces of art that the world appreciates years and years later.

 

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Welcome to the Family

 

I walked from school to home, the same way I had done for the past six months. It was an uncomfortable five kilometres walk, hard to imagine walking to and fro each morning but the white man was sharing all his knowledge, all the people had to drink from his cup of wisdom. Every African parent in my village sent their kids to school stating the importance of becoming knowledgeable like the white man.

 

 

So we went to school. Got hit several times on the butt for being late or being indiscipline, but it was acceptable to our parents, therefore enforceable to us. We knew nothing and he knew everything. Times were changing fast and no one wanted to be left behind.

 

 

In the hilly outskirts of Murang’a town on one cold and windy evening in June. I was barefoot as most of us were in a six-month-old white man’s green uniform that was only worn on school days. It started like a commotion from the boys that were walking home a few paces ahead. They had heard a gunshot up ahead. They were getting excited and they quickened their pace to get a glimpse of what had transpired for the white man to shoot from his killing machine. I was barely interested but as I kept walking, a dump and cold feeling settled in my gut and I also began walking fast.

 

 

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Mukiri’s Birthday

 

 

“It is going to be a good holiday”, she points out as she walks into the balcony from the living room.

 

 

 

I turn towards her momentarily before I gaze back to the wilderness, thoughtfully, looking at everything and nothing at the same time. She is in flowery short pretty skater sun dress. Her hair is brown on the edges, it has always been brown like the colour of her skin since I knew her. It would be difficult to see her in my head with black hair, weird even. She is bare feet. She will not be having that dress on for too long, I think privately to myself, not because of me and my sexual advances but because of the heavy clouds gathering above the roof. She will have to put on something warmer. I start to say something about this but then I stop and just let out a heavy loud exhale.

 

 

 

It’s a wooden cabin magically placed in the middle of the Aberdare forest. It was my choice for this unplanned holiday which she heavily objected with a beach idea before she gave in. I won a choice for a holiday destination, it was a slippery slope. Therefore, I carefully choose to avoid suggesting what she should wear too.  A man can only win so much. Instead, I say more slowly that I am not even sure she hears…

 

 

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Fatherhood

 

My mother once threw a shoe at my face. It was a nice sneaker, she had bought it for me as a birthday present from town together with the cake, but when she got home, I was nowhere to be found. My friend had invited me to an adventure to the forest, so without the permission of the house help, I disappeared not to be found for the entire Sunday. That day when I came home with a dry skin and filthy clothes from swimming in the river, I saw the freak on my mother’s face, and I could have almost sworn she had been worried sick to the level of tears. She could not even speak to me, she just gave me a blank worried stare and there the shoe came flying to my face. The house help took me to the shower before she threw the other shoe or the cake. The memory I hold on to from that day was her the expression on her face, scared and resigned.

 

 

 

I have a son now. He is seven years old. It is just him and me now; his mother left when he was five. She said something about feeling unfulfilled in her life. That motherhood was not going to be her eternal task. She wanted to travel, discover and build her career.  Before she left, she took a piece of my sanity away by dragging me through court hearings with regards to the custody of my son. She said she wanted to keep him and that he would be better with her because I was always working and the judge agreed.

 

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Damien

 

 

Moved to Nairobi last week and found a journal in the clothes cabinet of my new apartment. I am as pleased as anyone would, to find out that the previous owner of a place I now call home, was contemplative and took time to write a journal. Other people find possessed dolls and hidden cult caskets, I found a journal. Reading another person’s life in their own handwriting, to a writer is like discovering treasure. They are honest, vivid, raw and bare. It might be against the law, but if the law was a little bit interesting, we would all read the constitution on vacations.

 

 

Well, we are a family, let me share, a little for everybody. No gluttons please, there is enough to go round…

 

 

March, 2013; Protective Parents.

Mother will not let me leave the house. She has been going on and on today ranting about discipline and responsibility. All because I left piled dirty dishes in the kitchen sink. It is a bunch of bullshit. They wanted me to pass my final high school examination, and I have given them a clean 75 points KCSE certificate.

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