Monday, September 26, 2011


Juxtaposition. My high school teacher had a knack for throwing big words around. Ahhh Mr. Kamoni…those literature lessons were just so we could see how garrulous and loquacious you could be while using words resplendent in superfluous grammatical theatrics. See what I mean? It was all hogwash but my vocabulary was vastly improved just so I could keep up with the exploits of one Chief Nanga. But I digress (as he so often did). Juxtaposition was one of the words he would pull from his repository and it is the one that jumped into my mind this past weekend.

A few weeks ago I had an early session at work and after that, I found myself seated in a bus eager to get home and start my weekend. The bus hadn’t left Kibera when it had to slow down to pick up more passengers. Here I was confronted with a few things. Firstly, on the right were flags draped for sale in preparation for the Kenya-Guinea Bissau match that afternoon (OLIECH!!!). On the radio, they were extolling the virtues of the Kenyan athletes in South Korea bagging medals on behalf of the Kenyan population. The paper on my lap informed me how the ICC hearings were going. Someone had apparently mentioned something to the effect that there are no IDP’s in Kenya and that people who live in those camps do so of their own volition.(I might need correction on that since no one could say something that stupid)

 A moment later the bus started moving and we drove past a spot made infamous by the 2007 post election chaos. At that time, a camera crew had caught what for me has become one of the enduring images of that period. I’m sure you’ve all seen the footage of a guy in Kibera who turns a corner and walks into a convoy of armed AP’s. The man, in green slippers, takes off with the policemen in tow. Up to that moment, it had `always  been a funny moment but at that point it became seriously grave. This was the enduring image of my country for someone.

Last night I sat watching Grey’s Anatomy (yes guys you are allowed to watch it) and some episode showed a bunch of African kids flown in from some vague country to get treatment. As per American standards, the cast members chosen looked South African, sounded South African spoke Swahili and were plagued by all the issues associated with CNN Africans. (CNN Africans are the ones shown starving at the expense of their dictator octogenarian presidents live lavishly while stoking the embers of a civil war that contributes to some disease.) And I was angry at the portrayal. We’re better than that, right? 

But then ask a Kenyan what it means to be Kenyan and you will find that we are our biggest critics. Our biggest stumbling block. I also find myself confused when the same question is posed to me. Do I stick to the pride that wells up inside me when Nameless’ ‘Coming Home’ starts playing or do I just keep my head under after reading the newspaper. I’m forgetting what it means to be Kenyan. Or maybe I never knew. Do you?

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