Intelligent. Kenyan.

Published: 3 years ago

On Important Writing And New Years

It is important to keep talking, keep discussing, keep creating and keep imagining. It is also important that we dwell, that we refuse to move when all around the world insists that we move forward. A perfect time for this sort of reflection is when the year comes to an end. This week, instead of moving forward with a new essay we would like to linger on the essays that spoke when everything around demanded silence.
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by Wambui Mwangi
“The usual gloss of ‘mutumia’ is that Gikuyu womanhood is a reserved dignity and composed serenity. This gloss is unsurprisingly the one enforced and circulated by patriarchal and misogynist cultural interpreters. The natural condition of a woman is to dwell in silence, to persevere mutely, and to communicate speechlessly. Silence becomes a woman. Silence is what a woman, in be-coming a woman, becomes. Silence is becoming in a woman because silence is the be-coming of a woman. A woman is silent. The presence of a woman is the presence of silence. Silence is a woman.”
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by Rasna Warah
“In the colonial period, Africans were only encouraged to come to the city to work, not to move permanently. Many came as single male migrants, leaving behind wives and children in their ancestral villages or British-created “reserves.” They lived in Nairobi, but were not a part of it. Nairobi belonged to the whites.”
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by Shailja Patel 
“Political office is a job. You’re elected, you have an assignment, you get assessed on your performance. You get promoted if you deliver, you get fired if you don’t. And when your time is up, you fucking go.”
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by Mehul Gohil 
“The mall is flooded with water. The sprinklers must have come on at some point. You have to walk in gumboots. Without gumboots you improvise. Like some of the other tenants, I put my booted feet into two Nakumatt plastic carrier bags and tied the handles around my shins. We were like moon men with blue and white plastic bags on our feet.”
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by Keguro Macharia
“I am leaving the United States, resigning from my job, and moving back to Kenya. As I have been trying to narrate this move to those who have known about it—over the past year—I have wondered about the partiality of the stories I was telling. They were not untrue; they were simply not what I really wanted to say, not what I permitted myself to say. In the most benign version, I have said that I cannot build a life here. Some might reasonably say that I could build a career here, as I have been doing, and build a life elsewhere, perhaps negotiate some kind of contract that would permit me to live here for one semester and work in Kenya for the rest of the year.”
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by Patrick Gathara
” It was not, as suggested by the NYT in a later piece, a renewed self confidence that drove us. Quite the opposite. It was a fear, a terror, a recognition that we were not as mature as we were claiming to be; that underneath our veneer of civility lay an unspeakable horror just waiting to break out and devour our children. We were afraid to look into the mirror lest our face fall in the sink.”
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by 3CB
“The average woman isn’t afraid of being raped by strange men in a dark alley. She knows enough not to go there. The average woman is afraid of being raped when she’s in a matatu on her way home, and the only other woman in the matatu has alighted. She’s afraid that if she follows the other woman and alights at that stage, far from her own home, she might be attacked by random men outside. But she’s equally terrified of staying in the matatu and having the men inside turn on her.”
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by Kenne Mwikya and Okwiri Oduor  
“I did not register for a similar reason. It was not out of apathy, I shared in the concerns and anxieties that gripped Kenya. But the ruling elite, no matter what masks they wore, had interests more similar to each other than different. And for me, the prognosis was poor. There was little I could identify with, and even that little was flimsy. It was not enough for me to take part in empty ritual. I was very interested in the youth and women agendas, for example, but the political parties presented them in a way that was completely different from anything I had in mind. After looking at what the parties said about women and the youth, there was no way for me to select any of the aspirants. Had I chosen to vote, I would have been forced to use different criteria to make decisions on the political leadership. This was unacceptable.”
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by Jacque Ndinda 
“I am awkward with absence  and I wonder if one can avoid it, but all this wondering is just nonsense.  I know that as long as human relationships exist, then presence and absence are to be anticipated. They are inseparable binaries. One makes sense only in the being of the other.”
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by Berrewa Jomo
In Nairobi, she was the first African woman allowed to perform nursing duties at The Agha Khan Hospital (then a clinic) and later as a theatre nurse at the European Hospital (present-day State House Road Girls High School), though officially she could only have the designation (and remuneration) of subordinate staff.”
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by TheMumbi
“When I am older and now tell the Kenya Police, they will laugh and say: “That’s your uncle. Your uncle can’t do such things. You must have been teasing him. You must have been playing. Are you sure he did that? Maybe you are imagining things. Your uncle loves you very much, go back home and apologise to him.”
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by Orem Ochiel
“Of course, I have a general idea of where these types of clinics are located.  I can point any needy person in the proximate direction.  Having often spent the same requisite amount of money, I can tell whoever needs to know exactly how much is required in order to procure the necessary operation.  I can helpfully include some information that only experience confers, namely that one’s expenses are not limited by or to the end of the operation.  Hang around the relieved girl long enough and the expenses will mount.  This must be planned for.  The operation costs so much more, in pure monetary terms, than the nominal amount.”
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By Panoramic Don
“Nairobi’s proximity to the Rift Valley has lent it a unique geography with the city roughly divided into two halves of varying elevations. That the city is quite limited in terms of acreage only serves to better highlight the striking difference in altitude between its Eastern and Western halves. As you approach Nairobi’s Eastern boundaries from Athi River, you are in a relatively flat area: the Athi plains. This flat area stretches North-South from Ruiru, across Eastlands, Industrial Area, the Nairobi National Park all the way to Rongai in the South.”
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From Brainstorm the essays that were most popular are:
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by Brenda Wambui
“The word Africa carries too much connotation, and responsibility. I am no longer willing, or worthy, to carry an entire continent’s fears, dreams and expectations on my shoulders, or to be its unofficial ambassador and spokeswoman. I relinquish this duty. “
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by Michael Onsando
“My biggest issue, recently, with good men, is our inability to speak up against these things. We spend so much time defending their “goodness” that we never really speak about the badness in the world. It’s been said, severally, by many feminists, that in order for equality to exist men must be able to speak up in forums where there are no women, and say certain things are wrong.”
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by Nkatha Obungu
“It doesn’t matter how many memes and inspirational quotes we put out there about beauty; the real message being heard is in our values; our subtle everyday microagressions; the un-subtitled actions that pile up to form the bulk of our existence. We can’t put out messages that height and weight and skin colour do not need to be a certain way for a woman to be considered beautiful; and then go ahead and put a certain Barbie-like standard on the pedestal.”
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It would be presumptuous to assume that this list is exhaustive – it isn’t. What Kenyan thinking would you like us to dwell on? Share in the comments. From the Brainstorm team: thank you for the support and criticism in 2013. Looking to grow, think, debate, learn and love with you all in 2014.
2 Comments.
  1. okasungora says:

    genius! (also, just to let you know, personally having trouble with the like button)

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