Archive for October, 2006

Haya, Imekuwa ni Kawaida sasa kwa Al Kags kuchapisha vitabu pepe, kama “Quarterly Colour Series of Poetry”, ambazo in safu za kizungu.

Hii leo natoa mwito kwa waandishi wote wa Kiswahili hasa malenga wa Kiswahili. Al Kags ana panga kuchapisha kitabu pepe cha Kiswahili kiitwacho, Chai Tamu. Kitabu chenyewe kitawahadhiri washairi mbali mbali.

Chai Tamu ni kitabu cha kwanza katika Safu ya vinywaji vya pwani – kitafwatiwa na Maji ya Ukwaju na Kahawa chungu (au tungu).

Isimu au vuma ya Chai Tamu ni Mapenzi na Maisha Mazuri.

Kama wewe ni mshairi wa Kiswahili, au wamjua Msanii wa Kiswahili, basi usisite. Mjulishe mara moja ili awasiliane na mimi – au wewe mshairi, nijulishe kwamba upo.

Kiswahili Kitukuzwe.


eti nini?

Mwanadada fulani eti kaniuliza kama najua kuandika kiswahili, kisha akapata mshangao nilipomjibu kihakika. Mwenyewe anaishi Bongo, kwao haswa ni huko Tz lakini makubwa ni kwamba yeye hajui kuandika kiswahili vile.

Haidhuru. Jambo la muhimu ni kwamba amejiunga na sarakasi ya wanablogu – hata usiku wa manane – hii sasa ninazungumza nae kwenye hotmail – hii sijui live waya, sijui live nini… saa nane usiku. Janga kubwa hili.

Nenda mcheki Sahara Soul Food umpe karibu. Na ukimuona, mwambie “kwisha yeye. kaingia pangoni hajitoi”

One of my aunts one of whose major distinctions in life was to start my Gikuyu education at a very late age in life is visiting me from Malindi.  I took it upon myself to walk her through the virtual world of the net and as we discovered new places together, we came across Charuthi Ng’ang’a Wairia – that’s Charles Ng’ang’a Wairia.

Charuthi is a Gikuyu man based in Wilson, North Carolina and he is doing a Gikuyu blog, GĨKŨYŨ KĨA MŨGĨKŨYŨ

We started reading a story that he has been telling for a while and we were cracked up. Needless to say, we are hooked. Painstakingly reading the story aloud, we kept stopping to burst out in raging mirth and I just had to share it.

If you are a Gikuyu with just passable reading skills, I suggest you go over to and start practicing the language amidst undisguisable pleasure.

New Look

She told me that she hated the old look. I knew i didn’t like any of the themes  that were  available on wordpress – could the admin add more? – and so after much discussion and customisation, here it is now, the result of consensus. The idea is, i always exhort people to keep smiling regardless of their lot… i hope you will remember.

keep smiling

The second edition of the Quarterly Colour Series that is compiled and published by Al Kags is out. This one is bigger featuring more poets. Blue Smudges is all about easy feelings and light expressions – nice easy thoughts.

The ebook is free and the rules are simple: read, enjoy, share, republish – whatever you will, just be sure to acknowledge the writer. Do download and spread far and wide.

Download Blue smudges

A great man died on Monday 9th October 2002. He had devoted his adult life solving big problems facing Africa. His life was spent find solutions to poverty and peace among different. I didn’t see him often through out my life but every time I saw him, he had been coming from some distressed part of Africa and he was working on some peace deal or another. Certainly, he spent many years incubating the peace process in Southern Sudan until that was achieved – and then he devoted his time to building a bridge between the Southern Sudan and the world through Kenya – to ensure that that peace was sustained.

Growing up, this man ensured that I was more than educated. I was reading books way beyond my station all through my childhood. By the time I was 12, I had read Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa and I discussed it with him. I read Jomo Kenyatta’s anthropological thesis Facing Mount Kenya and I had many questions for him. The other side of the coin was that I never saw much of him. Between his work and his family, I only saw him a couple of times a year. Many were the days, as a child, I cried myself to sleep waiting for him to come take me to lunch as he had promised. Little did I know then, that my anguish of the time helped Africa find something she needed desperately.

My emotions about him as I grew up ranged over time between rage and feverish depression and sadness and insecurity and nonchalance (where I’d say I didn’t need him anyway). In frustration, I turned my back on him as a teenager and disowned him. I had a father (my step-father, who has been steadfast and reliable with me all through). But the few times I would see him, all that would be forgotten embalmed in his wisdom and quietly spoken knowledge and softly conveyed humour. 

When I grew up, we met up and agreed to work towards friendship. And this we did over time. We fell into an easy rhythm and slowly I came to know the man. I also came to accept that the man who had now become my friend was Africa’s property and not mine. I came to be grateful for the long phone calls that we would have to talk about our passions and the lunches that we would have to discuss culture and our individual passions. I grew to cherish his comments on the views that I penned both on this blog and elsewhere. I grew to accept.

I accepted that I would never know what he was like as a father to his children, as a husband to his wife, as a land owner (if he was), I accepted that I would never know what his favorite music was or what he was like during weekends and evenings by the fire. I accepted that was for his kids to know and cherish. I accepted that I would know his brain, and that I would learn people and their characters through him. I accepted that he would mentor my young career into where I need it to go.

And I learnt a lot from this great teacher. I learnt how to communicate with people. I learnt how to handle people. I learnt how to remain even tempered no matter what. I learnt not to sweat the small stuff. I learnt to know my world and my culture and other people and their cultures. I learnt to make peace. I learnt to make my dreams come true obstinately.

And now, he has left for the next world.

I must accept that I will no longer have lunch with him and never again will I dial his number. But I shall speak to him. And now, I must accept that I need not fight my emotions and resist my anger. He once said to me, “rant and rave – its good for you. Then accept what you cannot change and make peace with yourself.”

I have gone through the process and in the final stage of things, I am writing this to accept what is my reality. I am also writing to acknowledge the man who through out was consistently there even in his absence. I am writing this to pay homage on behalf of Africa to my sensei.

A great man has passed on, Africa. He has left Southern Sudan, or Kush (as he hoped it would one day become) largely peaceful and firmly on its way to prosperity. He has done his job.

A great man has moved on. I cared about him and in his special way, he me.

As I say farewell, I have to say this out loud in Public, something I never had the chance to say before for some reason:

Daudi Waithaka is my father.

Good bye, father. Farewell sensei.

(I bow.)


7 year old saves mom

05:24 PM Mountain Standard Time on Monday, October 9, 2006

By Claudia Rivero / 3TV reporter With her mom and friend by her side, seven-year-old Makena Washington may not know why she was the center of attention but her mom Phyllis Kamore certainly does.

“They told me if she hadn’t called when she did, you’d be gone, not gone, they said dead,” Kamore said.

It happened two weeks ago at their Peoria home. Washington noticed something was wrong with her mom.

“I was shaking her and I was saying mommy, get up get up,” Washington said.

Phyllis had suffered a diabetic seizure. Her sugar levels were dangerously low.

“I was afraid my mom would die or that I’d be left alone if she did,” Washington said.

Washington remembered what her mom had taught her to do in case of an emergency.

“She taught me if her sugar is low to give her a teaspoon of sugar and put it in her mouth, and if I can’t then call 911,” Washington said.

That’s exactly what she did.

This is part of that call:

Operator: Makena, is your mom able to talk on the phone?

Makena: I don’t know she’s, um, sleep but she’s totally hot.

Operator: Okay.

Makena: I don’t think I can wake her up.

Washington was also able to remember the security code to allow the paramedics in. And even showed them where her mom kept her medication.

“I have to push up to reach the medication that I want to get,” she said.

And because of her extraordinary efforts, the crew from Phoenix Fire Station 58 honored this pintsize hero with a certificate and a doll.

Kamore already has a place for the certificate.

“It’ll go next to this picture of Makena dressed as an angel,” Kamore said. “I didn’t know she’d end up being my angel.”

As for Washington, she already knows what she wants to be when she grows up.

“A fire woman,” she said.

I was yesterday informed by two girls who go toboarding school that the reason girls in secondary boarding schools get fat is that chicken feed is put in their food. Also, they say that parafin is put in the food as well, to stop them from having those sexual urges…

Could someone verify this?

It is a big deal when the wwomen are beaten (read:battered) by their spouses. Some men are battered by their spouses and girlfriends. Where do they go? Is there in Kenya an organisation that takes care of battered men? What is the male equivalent of Federation of Women Laywers and Coalition of Violence Against Women (COVAW).

Anyone? A lady that I asked this question said: “they sort themselves out.” Don’t you think this is unfair?

A couple of days ago, I was able to experience in one evening, the disparity of people’s lives. I was able to mingle with the upper middle class on the one hand and interact with the destitute within the space of two hours. It has had me thinking for the last two days how abstractly we view other people’s lives and how different the experiences are.

The first part of the evening, I picked up this beautiful lady and we headed off to listen to Imani Woomera, a poetry and spoken word diva in Nairobi where she was set to enthrall our lives with erotica. Saxo, the upmarket jazz bar where she was due to perform is tastefully furnished in various shades of red and the walls are lined with interesting black-and-white, well mounted photographs – in some cases of jazz personalities.

The crowd was a largely corporate crown and I noticed a few members of the Corp. Diplomatique and some clearly well-to-do corporate types who had paid a cool five hundred shillings for the two hour event. A number of middleaged (well, in their forties) women sat in the table next to hours and whiled the performance away chatting about their house, pools, car and kids among other hoity-toity subjects. At one point, my date got quite irritated and asked them to tone it down, a matter that they quickly ignored.

It was interesting to note how often, the ladies pulled out their expensive phones from their designer hand bags (almost always pulling out their car keys first) and after a few seconds placed them back. Or the way all their fingers were laden with gold rings, wrists with gold watch and bracelets and necks with gold necklaces… it was especially entertaining to see them pretend to enjoy Imani’s rendition of “exclusive” by politely clapping and nodding approvingly to each other how much they enjoyed the art involved. Most interesting was perhaps the announcement of one that she makes a point of going to jazz bars just like these in the cities that she travels to, whenever she does.

It was entertaining to watch to young twenty-somethings make their way to Imani during one of her breaks to gush at how wonderful she was and to exclaim how “I had no idea!” while dramatically holding their chests and looking sufficiently enthralled.

Well. Yes.

After the evening was over and I had delivered my fair dreadlocked maiden to her residence I decided that I was decidedly peckish and that I would go down to ambassador area on my way home to find something to peck at. I ended up at a restaurant next to Munyiri’s (every real Nairobian, I understand, is well acquainted with this establishment, where they would stop after a long night of vigorous dancing at the Carnivore). The interesting thing is that that one block where the Ambassador Hotel is on Moi Avenue never sleeps. The three maize roasters were doing a roaring business – well blazing at least.

A number of girls and women of varied ages stood around provocatively in jeans and fancily designed skirts chatting away and trying not to be obviously marketing their particular brand of customer service. A drunkard staggered a few steps away from the upstairs bar that he had popped out of, bumped onto the wall and a few people and eventually fell onto a little puddle by the wall and – I guess – decided to rest there for a while he gathered the strength needed to get to a matatu and home (well, he was asleep by the time I was leaving there).

The restaurant I walked into was not busy and the waiters stood around by the counter and had an easy banter, A few tables were occupied – all by one person each – by people who seemed lost in their thoughts and in the business of shoving food down their throats. A woman seated at a table in the centre of the shabby-ish restaurant particularly caught my interest.

She was maybe in her thirties, and neatly dressed though she was a little shabby. She was sharing her dinner of rice, stew and cabbage with a baby, who I guessed was about 6 months old. She was dressed in a jeans skirt and black shoes. Her toes had peeling black nail polish and her hair was long-ish but in its most natural of states, combed into a pony and tied with rubber band. Her baby had a brown sweater on and a green and white shawl with matching socks and mittens.

Her eyes were far away as she chewed her food (when she wasn’t spooning some of the dish to the child or herself). She simply seemed to be. I couldn’t help what her life was like. What I found most striking is the fact that she had no bags, which are generally common with women with babies (containing nappies and things) – not even a hand bag.

What was her life like?

Next to the window sat a man, seemingly in his sixties. He was dressed in a thoroughly faded and threadbare grey suit and shoes that while intact, had seen many better days. His hair clearly had not been combed for a while and his beard was scruffy. He sat ramrod straight in his seat with a folk and knife and expertly ate his chapatti and stew dish quietly and with seeming aristocratic (it’s the only word I can find to describe it) dignity.

Presently, my take-away meal was handed to me and I walked out thoughtfully. At the entrance I was stopped by this man in his thirties, who was dressed in faded jeans, reeked of alcohol and sweat and whose bloodshot eyes peered at me through wire rimmed glasses.

“Excuse me,” he said to me with a conspiratorial smile, “have you a light?”

He was dangling a cigarette in his hand close to his mouth as if in readiness for my production of the required match. I was struck by that lucid and very clear diction but most of all, in his way of framing his words. The average Nairobian who speaks passable English would say, “do you have a light?” if at all they used the word light.

I apologetically said that I don’t smoke.

He said, “Good man. I’d suggest you don’t start. I’m averse to the habit, but one must while the night away, mustn’t one?” His English was so refreshingly good and lucid and old fashioned that I would have stood there for the rest of the night chatting with him. Then he floored me: “to each his own, devil and angel, alike.”

He abrubtly turned away and moved to the nearby maize roaster and after exchanging a couple of lewd jokes in fluent Gikuyu, bent over the stove, lit his cigarette and weaved away.

I had not even had time to answer him.

In the car, as I drove away, I answered him absently, “yes, one must.”

I read that quote in a classic many years ago and it was one of those phrases that seems to stick with you as you grow and when he said it, that exact way, I have been unable to stop thinking of him. What is his story?


To each his own, devil and angel, alike.