I give thanks for yesterday, today and tomorrow, thank you for guiding us here today. Bless those who pray for us, who love (and share with) us. Bless the motherless and fatherless. Bless the homeless. Bless those sick in hospital.

Inspire those without hope, Ifa, I pray that you strengthen those without faith.  Bless our ancestors, whose shoulders we stand on.

Bless our healers and peacemakers. Bless our freedom fighters. Bless granmama dunia and our wotas. Bless all our living relatives.

Bless the pikney and guides of the peace camp & the communities we’re re/building partnerships with.

I pray for health and prosperity, not only for myself but for others.

I pray for humbleness, not only for myself but for others.

I pray for clarity and wisdom, not only for myself but for others

Forgive my sins, those that I know and those that I don’t know about, those that I have yet to commit. Forgive my foolishness.

I pray that we continue to be guided to our right/full destinies……

Ase….

The Peace of the Mango Tree

http://www.bmf.org/children/mango-tree.html

My love you, my grandchildren. Come over and sit by the mango tree. I have a question I want to ask it.

“O beautiful mango tree who gives us such refreshing shade, do you have peace? If you do, could you teach us how to have peace? You seem so cool and tranquil. What makes you this way? Can you tell us?”

Children, come closer and listen carefully to the mango tree’s answer.

“I am a member of the tree family, and you are human beings. I do not know if you can understand our peace. Even though God has given you judgment, subtle wisdom, analytic wisdom, and divine luminous wisdom, you also have qualities that cause you to take our fruits, cut us down, and destroy us.

“If you want to attain peace, do not cut down a tree, whether it is useful to you or not. And don’t cut down a man, whether he does good deeds or bad. If, because of your pride or selfishness, you think about taking revenge or deceiving and ruining another person, or of making another man suffer in any way, that will destroy your peace. It is your own state of mind that will destroy your peace. But if you can avoid bad thoughts, then you can be happy and peaceful. This is my advice to you.

“Look at me. Here I stand at the crossroads. Many people come this way. As soon as I start to blossom, they throw stones at me to make my flowers fall. They climb and swing on my branches, but I don’t mind. Even when they hit me and shake me and take my fruits, I am happy. Some people and some animals and birds like my fruits while they are still unripe. Others like them after they have ripened. When they bite into my mangoes and taste them, they become happy and peaceful, and that gives me peace. The peace they find by eating my fruits and satisfying their hunger gives me peace. When I am happy in this way, I can be so cooling and provide shade for others, and that adds to their peace and happiness. When they feel peaceful, I am peaceful. That is my secret. That is what makes me grow, bear fruit, and give cooling shade.

“If you human beings want happiness, you should be like this. No matter what happens in the world, even if you are beaten or attacked by your enemies, you should be very patient and show them compassion and love. If you help your enemies, then the peace they gain will be your peace. This is my advice to you.

” My grandchildren, did you listen carefully to what the mango tree said? Did you understand? Trees have so many good qualities, even though they were created with only three levels of consciousness. They have only feeling, awareness and intellect, but God created you with four higher levels of consciousness as well. God gave you exalted wisdom. If you would use that wisdom to attain at least the state of the mango tree, you would find peace and tranquility.

My grandchildren, as you journey through life, use your wisdom in this way. Do not waste your intelligence seeking revenge against others, because while you are chasing after someone else, your own work will be ruined. When you commit yourself to such devious work, you stray from your own path. The distance which separates you from God will become greater and greater, and you will suffer so much.

It happens this way in the world. Anyone who focuses on hurting others abandons his own path. He neglects his prayers and worship and forgets his good qualities. Because of this, he loses his peace and tranquility, and his life is subjected to sorrow and suffering. But the one who turns to God and focuses upon his own qualities, his own work, and his own path will have an exalted and serene life.

We came to this world by the command of our Father, and while we are here we must live by His commandments and establish our connection to Him. We must complete our duties in a way that fulfills those commandments, and then we must return to Him. That is our work. If we can do that, we will have peace in this world, in the next world, and in the world of the souls.

My grandchildren, think deeply about this. Do your own work and your own duty. Even when you are attacked by others, if you are good to them, it will bring peace to you. My love you. Be like the mango tree.

– M. R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen

ase…..

Betwixt en between the lines are our true (true) stories, retold in (a video diary of) the ‘Q[/t]’ werd….

http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2010/may/22/football-south-africa-world-cup

we’ve said it before, in other places, and [most  symbolically] here….

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr3uvUU4roc&feature=related]

we’re doing the best we can with what we got to entertain, and re-educate not only ourselves but others, in the practice of freedom.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2010/06/16/mb-truth-reconciliation-event-winnipeg.html

 

http://archives.cbc.ca/society/education/topics/692/

(re)building coalitions

 and (re)building solidarity with our people…

hadithi? hadithi?

nipe mji…….

 

 

[re/posted]scribbles from the den

When the idea was first hatched to put forward South Africa’s candidacy for the 2010 World Cup, it seemed a far-fetched dream. And when FIFA actually awarded the tournament to South Africa, it was, in the view of many, a gamble destined to fail. However, after six years of turmoil, controversy and acrimony later, South Africa is finally set for the 2010 World Cup tournament.

For the next month, (legitimate) concerns about the financial toll of the tournament on South Africa’s economy, the absence of concrete benefits for large swathes of the South African population, or about FIFA’s stifling rules will be put on the backburner as the world enjoys the beautiful game.

Dori Moreno

Dori Moreno is one of those unapologetically afflicted by ‘World Cup Fever’:

I have been waiting for the World Cup to arrive ever since the announcement was made that it would be hosted in South Africa. It’s difficult to get excited about something happening so far into the future. But now, the World Cup is upon us, and in just 2 more sleeps, South Africa will face Mexico in the kick off game of the 2010 World Cup. And South Africa has woken up and is alive with energy, passion and enthusiasm.

 ‘Today, the Bafana Bafana team took to the streets of Sandton, Johannesburg in an open top bus. South African fans came out en masse to celebrate and get a glimpse of their national team. The vibe was indescribable and when the Soweto Marimba Youth League played the national anthem, I confess to being moved to tears from the sheer emotion and energy of the event.


‘I think even the die-hard pessimists out there will struggle not to get caught up in the positive energy that will carry us all on a cloud for the next month. To everyone out there, I say, ENJOY! To all the visitors to our awesome country, feel it, live it and fall in love. It’s time for AFRICA!!!!’

Jeanette Verster’s Photography

And talking about the June 9 ‘United We Stand for Bafana Bafana’ parade organised in Sandton to encourage South Africans to show their support for their national team, Jeanette Verster publishes a colorful picture essay that vividly captures the national excitement.

Brand South Africa Blog

Brand South Africa Blog hopes that the unity and patriotism demonstrated in the run-up to the World Cup will last long after the tournament:

‘The past few months have been an incredible sight. Road works, bridges being built and the most spectacular, the giant eye which watches over all of us from the entrance to the V&A Waterfront. To say I feel proud would really be an understatement, although true. Undeniably through all of this is the tangible feeling of patriotism, excitement and unified spirit in the air.

‘Flags, Zakumi’s (official World Cup mascot), soccer jerseys everywhere makes me feel that we can unite as a country, evident in the progress made.

‘*** I love SA ***

‘The feeling I hope for South Africa is that we stay this way long past the end game is played. Everyone is watching and can see that through working together and progress, we can be pushed into another league and be part of a set of countries people all of the world would like to visit sometime in their life.

‘So, Bafana, we are behind you 150%, make us proud and do your best.

‘Visitors to South Africa, our country is beautiful, take the opportunity to visit places off the beaten track you’ll be pleasantly surprised and p.s. don’t forget to shop!’

Constitutionally Speaking

Even as the excitement builds up, there is anger just beneath the surface over a number of (FIFA-inspired?) decisions which do not benefit South Africans. One such issue is the apparent blanket ban on public gatherings in many municipalities for the duration of the World Cup. Constitutionally Speaking argues that:



‘If this is true, it would mean that parts of South Africa are now effectively functioning under a state of emergency in which the right to freedom of assembly and protest have been suspended. This would be both illegal and unconstitutional. Other reports have suggested that such orders were indeed given, but that the police are now backtracking – probably because the police have realised that they are breaking the law and that the order, in fact, constitutes a grave breach of the law and the Constitution.

‘It is a sad day indeed when the police itself become a threat to our democracy and our rights because Fifa and the government want us all to behave and shut up for the next month and to forget about our democratic rights.’

Scribbles from the Den (and betwixt en between the lines: a video diary of the ‘Q[/t]’ werd)

Scribbles from the Den takes us back 20 years to a memorable World Cup game which is now part of the football folklore and which credited to have changed the World Football Order in favor of African countries:

‘Exactly 20 years ago on June 8, 1990 at the Giuseppe Maezza Stadium in Milan, Italy, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, “a humble team with an insignificant past” to quote the Miami Herald, defeated Argentina, the star-studded defending World Champions led by Diego Armando Maradona, in a thrilling Italia ’90 World Cup opening game that came to be known as the “Miracle of Milan”…



‘The victory over Argentina was merely the beginning of Cameroon’s Cinderella story which came to an end only after England ousted the Lions in an epic quarterfinal game that is also part of World Cup folklore. Cameroon’s brilliant run in Italia ’90 in general, and its historic win over Argentina in particular reverberated around the world and changed the Football World Order forever…

‘The aftershocks from that memorable Friday afternoon at the Giuseppe Maezza Stadium would be felt years later first with FIFA increasing the number of African teams taking part in the World Cup from two to five, then with the “browning” of European leagues which opened their doors to players from the continent and in the process unearthed African football prodigies such as “King” George Weah of Liberia, Same Eto’o of Cameroon and Didier Drogba of Cote d’Ivoire.’

Up Station Mountain Club

As the football fiesta goes on in South Africa, Charles Taku, a lead counsel at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania, wonders whether Africa has any reason to celebrate as many states turn 50:

‘Africa is sick; very sick indeed. It is safe to state that at 50, there is nothing to celebrate. Rather than celebrate, Africa should be engaged in a moment of soul searching to find out where we went wrong and to generate ideas about how to resolve the myriad problems afflicting the continent…



‘There is no gainsaying that Africa is a victim of its colonial heritage. It is also true that many African problems are self inflicted. For that reason, according to Peter Schwab, Africa is its own worst enemy.

‘As Africa enters the second half of the century, there is a compelling need for it to eschew all pretensions to celebration and to use the opportunity of the moment to search for viable solutions to its plethora of problems. Our collective failure enjoins us to do a lot of soul searching at this point of our history rather than celebrate a failed past in anticipation of a bleaker future. Africa and the black race in general need to take their destiny into their own hands once again. Time has come for all black people of this world to invoke the spirits of Marcus Garvey, George Padmore, CLR James, the Osagyefo Mwalimu and others whose mere mention of name give us the inspiration, courage and hope to start all over again, in seeking a path of glory they once laid out for us.

The time to build and improve on what they started for our collective survival in a mercilessly competitive world is now. Waiting for dictators that preside over the destiny of most of the continent at present to pave that path to glory is simply foolhardy, if not suicidal.”



Kumekucha

Kumekucha explains how he believes the ruling elite plan to rig the August Referendum for the proposed new Kenyan Constitution:

‘Folks I am afraid that I have more bad news for you concerning the new constitution most of us are yearning for. Let me start by confessing that for a person with my years of experience I was rather naïve to believe that those who own Kenya would ever allow for an electoral system that they did not have any control over. The truth is that the so called “tamper-proof” electoral roll has already been tampered with and non-existent voters introduced. And since it is NOT the same electoral roll that we will go to the general elections with, the only conclusion is that the intention is to rig the August 4th Referendum.

‘The game plan by the powerful owners of Kenya is for the NO camp to catch up with the YES majority so that the difference is around 20% or less. What will then happen is that NO will win with a very slim majority. Enough to deny most Kenyans what they are yearning for so much that they can no longer sleep too well. Those wh o have read the document and realize the sweeping changes it will bring into the country and the deadly blow it will deal to impunity.

‘What really scares me is that so far these powerful forces have been able to get things done through the NSIS and have even influenced the judiciary to make certain bizarre rulings. To me that is evidence enough that they are quite capable of going ahead with their well laid plan even as the president tires himself crisscrossing the country campaigning for a new constitution.’


BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Dibussi Tande blogs at Scribbles from the Den.

 

Dis’ werd on the ground: [is] doing the best we can to provide (revolutionary) pan-afrikan media coverage of the world cup.

So we celebrate Ghana’s Black stars victory not jus’ over Serbia, but in the struggle for afrikan liberation, manifest/ing in the past moons en years (en long ago), symbolised [most significantly for dis’ series on the q/t werd] in other historic events

[such as:- A.L (Afrikan Liberation) D-ay]

http://www.voiceofafricaradio.com/news/351-the-history-of-african-liberation-day.html

So, it’s only fitting that, in honour and memory of our great ancestors, we commemorate this post to the anniversary of the death of Walter Rodney,  a(nother Pan-Afrikan) King.

http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/65084

I give thanks for yesterday, today, and tomorrow, for bredrin and dadas in solidarity, for all the love and resources shared amongst ourselves, and all people liberating not only themselves, but others.

I pray for my families, friends and their families…….Bless our brothas and dadas, cooks, healers, mamas, peacemakers, our children, the future generations and (gran) mama earth. Ase. Ase…….

The q[/t] werd on the ground is doing it true true world cup style….working for unity everywhere from from Ayiti to Zimbabwe,[like in this hadithi] where we give thanks for the fiya, earth, air en wota this time! Mo’ blessings to people (practising and) speaking truth to power!

Hinche, Haiti-

An estimated 10,000 peasants gathered for a massive march in Central Haiti on June 4, 2010, to protest what has been described as “the next earthquake for Haiti” – a donation of 475 tons of hybrid corn seeds and vegetable seeds by the US-based agribusiness giant Monsanto, in partnership with USAID. While this move comes at a time of dire need in Haiti, many feel it will undermine rather than bolster the country’s food security.

According to Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, leader of the Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP) and spokesperson for the National Peasant Movement of the Congress of Papaye (MPNKP), the entry of Monsanto seeds into Haiti is “a very strong attack on small agriculture, on farmers, on biodiversity, on Creole seeds… and on what is left our environment in Haiti.”

While Monsanto is known for being among the world’s largest purveyors of genetically modified seeds, the corporation’s spokespeople have emphasized that this particular donation is of conventional hybrid seeds as opposed to GMO seeds. Yet for many of Haiti’s peasants, this distinction is of little comfort.

“The foundation for Haiti’s food sovereignty is the ability of peasants to save seeds from one growing season to the next. The hybrid crops that Monsanto is introducing do not produce seeds that can be saved for the next season, therefore peasants who use them would be forced to somehow buy more seeds each season,” explains Bazelais Jean-Baptiste, an agronomist from the MPP who is currently directing the “Seeds for Haiti” project in New York City.

“Furthermore, these seeds require expensive inputs of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides that Haiti’s farmers simply cannot afford. This creates a devastating level of dependency and is a complete departure from the reality of Haiti’s peasants. Haitian peasants already have locally adapted seeds that have been developed over generations. What we need is support for peasants to access the traditional seeds that are already available.”

Who is La Via Campesina?

We are the international movement of peasants, small- and medium-sized producers, landless, rural women, indigenous people, rural youth and agricultural workers.

We defend the values and the basic interests of our members. We are an autonomous, pluralist and multicultural movement, independent of any political, economic, or other type of affiliation. Our 148 members are from 69 countries from Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas.

here’s (yet) another article by my brotha (of another mama), simiyu barasa

Nairobi, KENYA – ‘Pornography is the theory, Rape is the practice’ -Robin Morgan

Pornography has, literally,been viewed from all angles. In universities, ladies have dropped from literature classes after reading Ayi Kwei Armah, D.H.Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and David Maillu’s After 4.30, claiming that they are pornographic. Yet in the movie halls films on sex are the craze, and one can’t visit any room without finding the roommates reading glossy porn magazines. One of the ladies, disgusted by all this, almost burnt magazines because the pictures used to advertise cars “expose too much” of the feminine body and thus are ‘pornographic.’ She claims that pornog raphy subordinates women, triggers and promotes violence against women, is immoral, dirty, perverted and bad. But is pornography really to blame for all this?

There has been controversy even in the feminist literary circles, where one group advocates for a total ban on pornography because it denigrates women and another group promotes pornography because they think that it liberates women. It is therefore important that all gender activists debate on the contemporary literary dialectics of feminism, female sexuality and pornography.

What exactly is pornography? Probably the best attempt at its definition is given by Andrea Dworkin, a feminist writer, and her lawyer compatriot, Catherine Mackinnon. Known as the Dworkin /Mackinnon ordinance, it summarises pornography as “. .. the graphic, sexually explicit subordination of women through pictures and/or words” that also includes those in which women enjoy being raped, are seen as sex objects, reduced to their sexual organs, are seen as whores by nature, or as being penetrated by objects or animals.

When our girl says she walked out of the movie hall because the pornography shown there depicted women as sexual objects, she implies that a woman is a tangible object. Raping a woman indeed is treating her as a sex object. Is it the same as in Dambudzo Marechera’s streams of consciousness in House of Hunger, where it is the mental act of fantasizing about having sex with her, a similar case of treating her as a sex object?

By focusing on the ‘body’, we exclude the ‘mind’.

Linda Moncheck in Feminist Politics and Feminist Ethics recognises liberal feminists who see sexual objectification based on physical bodies as what has domesticated women, shackling them to domestic duties and making them mere sex objects to their husbands. They have to eradicate this and press for access to economic and political power that will emancipate them. This is through doing ‘mind’ jobs like astronauts, doctors, etc.

In literature, and especially writing by women, this creates a problem. Don’t women want to be treated as objects of sexual pleasure when they dress up nicely for dinner? Is this not a form of sexual objectification? What then makes one form of sexual objectification good and another one bad?

In the movies and drama, don’t the women want to hear their perfect figures praised? They surely do not want to be treated like philosophers and discuss Cartesian dualism in bed, neither would a movie having a Wole Soyinka discussing African mythiopoesis during foreplay sell.

Linda goes further to show how valuing the mind over the body is no liberation for the woman who enjoys physical sex. Patriarchal societies can even use the superiority of the mind, which such feminists want, to make them ‘sexual’ factors e.g. when a male worker finds his female senior a turn-on due to her brainy nature (“I find her attractive, not because she is beautiful, but because she is intelligent”)

Social feminists seem to offer an answer to this when they propose a rejection of the metaphysical distinction between the mind and the body, and hence a rejection of the moral and aesthetic evaluation we place on the mind at the expense of the body. However this use of dualism would be a paradoxical fall into the anti-feminist trap of using the same traditional values defined by the same patriarchal society they intend to free themselves from.

Our girl also said that pornography subordinates women. One wonders why, in the South African theatre circles, and even causing more controversy when staged here in Kenya, feminists put up a production of The Vagina Monologues that was, to some conservertists, nothing short of vulgarity bordering on pornography.

One is also reminded that in December 1985, Richard Shchener’s Prometheus Project was staged at the Performing Garage in the U.S, to critical acclaim by gender activists. Its central image was the link between the Promethean fire and the Hiroshima bombing. At the end, Annie Sprinkle conducts a masturbation show-within-show. Psychoanalytic feminism supports this as true feminism celebrating women’s genitalia.

When our girl claims that Maillu’s ‘pornography’ about bar room prostitution is for ghetto people and thus is not an art but dirt she invites Marxist feminism to task.

Some feminists see banning of porn as a class argument, where the middle-class identity in a bourgeoisie culture protects itself from contamination.

In Kenya, what people despise as ‘pornography’ are films shown in the Eastland area, while “Kamasutra” and its likes being shown in Nairobi and the Fox Cineplex are seen as ‘erotic’ movies.

Erotica is defended as High Art and as about sexuality (Florida 2000 cabaret shows, D.H.Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Jackie Collin’s Hollywood novels, Playboy magazines and a host of other ‘White’ publications).

Pornography, in turn, is ferociously attacked as back-street trash that needs to be banned because it is about power and sex as a weapon (Mugithi nites in our pubs, Maillu’s After 4.30, and Okot P’Biteks Horn of my love). But where is the boundary between erotica and porn? Erotica is simply the pornography of the elite.

Other feminists, like Jacquelyn Zita in her article ‘Enclitic,’ see a ban on pornography as perpetuation of male dominance. It divides women into good ‘respectable women’ protected by their men (husbands, boyfriends and fathers.) The bad women are out there in the streets unprotected by men. This marks off the privileges of upper-class women against the economic and sexual exploitation of lower class women exemplified by Maillu’s Lili.

Even Susan Sontag, a feminist, is one of the best defenders of porn, for it is “extreme forms of consciousness that transcends social, personality and psychological individuality … because sexuality is the main force of humanity”.

To argue that Maillu’s works are immoral and full of perverse acts would force us to jump into metaethics. If literature is for freedom, then whoever says that pornography is bad has the right to give us advice, but not to impose it on us. Moral advice needs to have justification. Male chauvinists can argue it is an invention by females to serve their agenda.

If our hypothetical outraged girl searched for them in the moral market place that is religion, she can find it exists in all of us. If she links it to the deviation from normalcy because sex is for procreation not literary production, she steps onto the toes of radical feminists who view heterosexual relationships as essential in maintaining the oppressive phallic nature of men, for sex is seen as a manifestation of the anti-feminist violence implicit in the discourse of the dominant power structure.

The fundamental question now remains are we saying that pornography does not subordinate women? Are we saying that CAP.63 sec.181 (1)(a-e) of the Kenyan constitution, which says that anyone caught with pornographic material is liable to be imprisoned is obsolete?

Porn is not the subordination, but a depiction of the subordination of women.

Maillu’s After 4.30 does not subordinate women. It exploits an already existing misogynist attitude for commercial gain.

It shows how bosses exploit their secretaries like Lili after working hours, with one eye on literature and the other on the market value of this controversy. Such works, to quote Dworkin, show how women are humiliated until they finally realise that the ‘O’ in each of their body orifices is a ‘zero’ which symbolizes their nothingness in a man’s world.

These literary works do not encourage violence and rape but they reinforce the already existing negative attitudes towards women. It makes women fall into patriarchal mental slavery that makes them full of contempt for their bodies, so much so that they hate seeing themselves exposed in public. This confines them to domestic spheres.

Literature does not support this. It seeks to resist any systematic devaluation and humiliation of a spec ific target group, be it race, class, or sex.

It however accepts that this might be difficult to engineer if it were to involve tampering, not just with the circulations of magazines and books, but with the modes of thoughts and fantasizing which are not the prerogative of one sex only.

Our hypothetical girl should return to the Literature Department of her hypothetical university and learn that such works like Maillu’s tap into already existing stereotypes. She should also, by now, realise that Maillu, Armah’s and Lawrence’s works are not pornography for they do not fulfill the Dworkin/Mackinnon ordinance.

Literature does not condone pornography. Instead, we should all castigate some of those numerous movies and magazines that go further to represent such evil acts in order to gain financially from the amusement of others. We should condemn pornography and its businesses. It thrives by exploiting the profoundly pernicious enjoyment too many men find in the pornographic images of demeaning subordination.

Blogger’s note: as a pan-afrikan(ist)/feminist, I’d have to disagree with the premise and conclusions of my brotha (in another place, not) here, in his ‘literary’ analysis of the connections between pornography and feminism.

In my (not-so) lil’ ‘one-of-u-people’ position, najua that black feminism is intersectional and sex positive, fundamentally implies that we should not only condone [consensual] pornography but also educate ourselves en others about all the ‘good’ tings’ there are in our sex/uality, so that we KNOW  the difference between de good, bad na taboo.

So that we continue to legislate en support anti-oppressive (re)visions of  the current statutes on pornography, rape, sex work, sodomy, marriage, our right to assembly and privacy…

the bigger point is that , in (honor en memory of) audre lorde’s teachings, ni kama the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house……..na tukona de powah of afrikan fractals.

 Literature, like a gun, depends on the hands it is in.

You ended your literature, blood and doves article with that (poignant en) powerful line, and I agree/d with you in that other place, not here, ndugu…..

precisely because literature CAN and HAS been, like a (loaded) gun, we have to be careful about using it to encourage the criminalization of some of the very people we claim to be advocating for, and strive instead to emulate the ‘good’ in us, doing the best we can to educate in (and for) the practice of freedom, au siyo?

One can play Russian roulette with a loaded gun, kill oneself or an/other (son of a bitch), en you can also remove the bullets, continue to play pretend, jus’ so everyone can continue to ‘think’ you’re tuff’, you can try to hide your darkness, buried deep within.  And ofcourse there’s always the (other) option of Jus’ change/ing and embracing our true true stories, spread(ing) love, (to) gain over/standing.

dear ndugu, literature does actually celebrate, glorify and pathologize sexuality in so, so many ways, WE  all know, because we see, hear, taste, embrace en witness this around us, so what about reflecting the light of sex/uality and decolonising methodologies?

Literature does not condone pornography. Instead, we should all castigate some of those numerous movies and magazines that go further to represent such evil acts in order to gain financially from the amusement of others. We should condemn pornography and its businesses. It thrives by exploiting the profoundly pernicious enjoyment too many men find in the pornographic images of demeaning subordination.

So your conclusion may be way off base [depending on where you look at it from ofcourse], pornography does not equal images of demeaning subordination, and it is not only (too many) men who find profoundly pernicious enjoyment in consuming these images…..the issue may be in jus’ what you glossed over, the consumption of….and these new ‘pernicious’ traditions of debasing [fe/male] sex/uality.

 if we weren’t living in a white supremacist capitalist partriarchal society, and instead in say an indigenous afrikan martriachal society, then there might be way less consumers than actors, lovers, priestesses, freaks, hos and those old couples needing to spice tings up..in that kinda world, everyone would be free to enjoy consensual sex, with guidelines and rules to all relationships influenced by the individual, the ‘village’, and principles (based on something) like maat/ubuntu…..

Look at all the sex/ing around us…why do you think it ain’t that simple to jus’ reclaim (philosophies on) sex work and build bath houses (and temples) for the ‘chosen’ ones?  And why is there much less good porn than there is those straight ‘lesbian’ or cheesy ‘gang-bang/er’ ones?

Maybe we need to advocate more for the institution of affirmative action policies in the sex (work) industry, which would eliminate a lot of the ‘oppressors’ (strategically mis-identified as mostly) straight.white.men (!)

Our (kinda) feminism advocates consensual Sex acts for anyone, anytime they want it, no cop harassment, and as much sweaty, positive sex as you want or can afford instead.

Where [sex]workers are employed in safe spaces and paid fair wages.

 In other words, our kinda feminism practises the vision of a society that respects hos and mamas for their priceless gifts and ancient legacies.

So, dear ndugu, why don’t you listen to what your SISTA has to say on the issue of pornography, if you ask me nicely, I might even introduce you to some delicious, dangerously profoundly enjoyable, totally feminist porn flicks, like champion or crash pad, and there’s many more that (not only) I(‘ve) enjoyed, so I know the differences between good, bad en nasty porn out there, and I gotta confess I quite love the jood stuff,

dear ndugu, asante for writing out and sharing your thoughts on what is necessary to rebuild solidarity with OUR  cause, the liberation of not only all afrikan people, but all oppressed people , may we move forward ever with our growth and unity! The bigger point is, dear brotha, can we be friends and share resources?

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Blogger’s note: In memory  and honour of Elijah Masinde’s anniversary, we dedicate these stories to (deepening our connection with) our ancestors, bredrin, dadas en pikney.

The Bukusu are one of the seventeen Kenyan sub-tribes of the Luhya (Bantu group of) East Africa.

Calling themselves ‘BaBukusu’, they are the largest single ethnic unit among the Luhya nation, making up about 17% of the whole Luhya population.

The other Luhya groups in Kenya are ABaTiriki, Maragoli, ABaNyore, ABaKhayo, ABaMateka, ABaNyala, ABaSamia, ABiSukha, AbiTakho, ABaShisa, ABaMarachi, ABaTsotso, ABaKabarasi, ABaTachoni, ABaWanga and ABaMarama.

Origins
The Bukusu myths of origin state that the first man, Mwambu (The discoverer or inventor), was made from mud by Wele Khakaba at a place called Mumbo (which translates to ‘West’). God then created a wife for Mwambu, a woman called Sela.

Mwambu and his descendants moved out of Mumbo and settled on the foothills of Mount Elgon, from where their descendants grew to form the current Bukusu population.

Other traditional stories relate of a place of origin called Misri, from Mizraim (Hebrew for Egypt).

Anthropologists believe that the Bukusu did not become a distinct grouping apart from the rest of the Luhya population until, at the very earliest, the late 18th Century.

They moved into Central Uganda as part of a much larger group of people, many forming the eastern extension of the great Bantu migration out of central Africa.

(See Origins of the Luhya.)

Settlement
Together with other Luhya groups, the Bukusu are thought to have first settled around the foothills of Mount Elgon. This area was already inhabited by Kalenjin warrior tribes, and the Bukusu and their neighbours had to build fortified villages to ward off the attacks of these tribes.

The first fortified villages were built at a place called Silikwa (sometimes called Sirikwa). Following repeated attacks and unfavourable weather conditions, folklore has it, a council was held at Silikwa and it was resolved to migrate south and east, where spies are said to have reported large, unsettled lands. However, a section of the population was reluctant to move and stayed behind when the main tribe moved.

Those who stayed behind are said to have become the Ugandan BaMasaaba tribe. Those who left moved into what is now Bungoma district of Kenya, to become the ancestors of the current Bukusu people.

Currently, the Bukusu mainly inhabit Bungoma district of Western Province, which is bordered by Kakamega District to the east, Busia District to the south, Mount Elgon to the north and Uganda to the west.

A large number of the Bukusu are also found in the Kitale area of Kenya’s Rift Valley province, as well as in Lugari-Malava district.

The BaMasaaba of Uganda are very closely related to the Bukusu, with many shared customs and a common dialect of the Luhya language.

Previously, the Bukusu were referred to as the ‘Kitosh’ by the neighbouring Kalenjin community, a name they despised. The reasons for this are not very clear: in some Kalenjin dialects, “Kitosh” means “people of the earth”. This could have been a reference to the agricultural Bukusu, or to the fact that they lived on the lower foothills of Mount Elgon. Following vigorous campaigns by community elders, the name Kitosh was eventually substituted with Bukusu in the mid 1950s.
A replica of a Bukusu hut at the Sarova White Sands Hotel in Mombasa, Kenya.

Traditional life
The Bukusu lived in fortified villages, and did not have a structure of central authority. The highest authority was the village headman, called Omukasa, who was usually elected by the men of the village. There were also healers and prophets who acquired great status because of their knowledge of tribal tradition, medicines, and religion. Elijah Masinde, a resistance leader and traditional medicineman, was revered as a healer in the early 1980s.

Family
Bukusu family structure was traditionally modelled on the generic Luhya family structure. Families were usually polygamous, with the first wife accorded a special status among her co-wives……….
Children inherited the clan of their father, and were not allowed to marry spouses from either their own clan, or their mother’s clan. The first son of the first wife was usually the main heir to his father, and he had a special name denoting this status: Simakulu.

At birth, children were usually named after grandparents or famous people, or after the weather. Male and female names were different: male names frequently began with ‘W’, while female names usually began with ‘N’. Thus, for example, a boy born during a famine would be named ‘Wanjala’, while a girl would be named ‘Nanjala’. Both names share the same root word, ‘njala’, from ‘eNjala’, the Bukusu word for hunger.

Initiation
The Bukusu practised (and still practise) male circumcision. It is thought that they adopted the practice from contact with the Kalenjin at Mount Elgon. Others argue, however, that the presence of the practice in the other Luhya tribes indicates an earlier adoption, before the Bukusu settled at Mount Elgon. In ceremonies that were spaced about two years apart, young boys of a particular age (usually about 15 years of age) would, on getting the go-ahead from their parents, invite relatives and friends to their initiation.

The initiation was a public event, witnessed by all. Going through the operation without showing any sign of pain was (and still is) thought to be an indicator of bravery. Once circumcised, an initiate became a member of an age-group. There are twelve age-groups, forming a cyclical system, with each age-group lasting for 8 years. Once the last age-group has been reached, the first is restarted, and so on. For example, the “Bachuma” age-group lasted from 1980 to 1986: every Bukusu circumcised within this period (that is, in 1980, 1982, 1984, and 1986) belongs to that age-group. In 1988, the “Basawe” age group began, and lasted until 1994.

Female circumcision was widely practiced among the Bukusu, until government campaigns put an end to the practice in the 1980s. However, some clans still continue the practice in secret. [depending on where you look at it from, it could also be that the practice died a few generations ago]

This is especially the case around Mount Elgon, where the neighbouring Kalenjin tribes also practice a form of female circumcision. [fafanua.]

Although circumcision was universal among the Bukusu, the form of the ceremony varied according to the clan. In particular, the festivities and ceremonies accompanying the final stage of initiation, when the now-healed initiates came out of seclusion to rejoin their families as ‘men’, were specific to clans, and have been handed down largely intact to the present day.

Marriage
Young men got married at about the age of 18-20, while girls got married at about the age of 16. There were two types of first-time marriage: arranged marriages and enforced eloping. If a young man came from a well-to-do family, he would ask his sisters to find a girl for him to marry. The ability of a potential wife to cook well, bear children and work in the fields were the main attractions in a girl. Once a girl was identified, an emissary was sent to her parents to ask for her hand. The girl had no say whatsoever in the whole matter: bride price would be discussed, and then once it was paid she would be sent off to live with her new husband. This form of marriage is still common in traditional households today.

In some cases, however, the young man would be from a poor family and could not afford to pay the likely bride-price. Traditional society allowed such young men to abduct the girls they intended to marry. (The girl had to present an opportunity to be ‘abducted’, so her cooperation was essential!) The couple would then leave their home to live with a far-off relative for a while, until the young man acquired enough wealth to pay the original bride price, as well as a fine, to the parents of the girl. This practice has since died out.

The Bukusu highly approve of intermarriages between themselves and BaMasaaba. This is because they have quite a number of similarities in their codes of conduct, marriage customs, circumcision traditions and even folklore. Among the most famous of Bukusu marriage customs is the immense respect accorded one’s in-laws. A lady, for example, treats her father-in-law with a lot of deference and respect, and they are not allowed to make physical contact in any way. The same is true of a man and his mother-in-law……

Cattle were very important: they were the main means of exchange, alongside cowrie shells (chisimbi). Most values, from the beauty of a girl to the price of a field of land, were expressed in terms of head of cattle. Possessing cattle wealth and prosperous agriculture, the Bukusu were sometimes not only admired but also envied by neighboring communities.

Occasionally intermarriages used to take place between them and the other communities. It was common practice for Kalenjin neighbors to give Bukusu their sons to look after their herds of cattle. In times of famine, which are said to have been frequent amongst their Kalenjin neighbors, the latter used to even sell their children to Bukusu. Bukusu also used to send their own young boys to grow up with Kalenjin or Maasai families, in some cases for espionage purposes.

Death
Being sedentary pastoralists, they had time to care for their sick and bury their dead. A sick person was looked after till he recuperated or died. When a person died, he was buried in a grave with a warrior’s weapons if he was an elder. Several functions were performed during and after the funeral ceremony. Ordinarily, burial pits ranged from 3-4 feet in depth, much shallower than today’s. Sometimes wild animals like hyenas exhumed corpses from graves and ate them. Should such an incident occur, people looked for the presumed skull of the desecrated body, and when they found it, they hung it in a leafy tree.

When the family of the deceased migrated, they brewed beer (kamalwa ke khuukhalanga) for the ceremony of transferring the skull with them to the new home or settlement. An old woman was entrusted with the responsibility of conveying the skull to the new site. Burial of the dead was thus, to say the least, ingrained in the Bukusu traditions.

Economic activities
Bukusu accounts indicate that both agricultural and pastoral economies have been practiced by the tribe for as long can be remembered. This is authenticated by the vast amount of knowledge they have about farming practices, rich pastoral vocabulary and the broad variety of legends connected with pastoral life. Today, they farm mainly maize for subsistence and sugar cane as a cash crop in the Bungoma area, as well as wheat in the Kitale area. Cattle and sheep are universally kept, cattle mainly for milk, and sheep for meat and ceremonial functions (when a sheep usually has to be offered to elders for sacrifice). Larger or polygamous families will usually have a team of oxen for ploughing and hauliage within the home. Chicken, a traditional delicacy, are nowadays reared on small to medium scales for commercial egg production.

Politics
The Bukusu currently form one of the main support bases of the governing coalition in Kenya, through the Ford-Kenya political party. Previously, they were mainly associated with opposition to the Kalenjin-dominated reign of former President Daniel Arap Moi.

Notable Personalities
Among the more notable Bukusu personalities past and present:

Maina wa Nalukale, a seer who was reputed to have foretold the coming of the British colonialists
Elijah Masinde, resistance and religious leader
Michael Wamalwa Kijana, former vice president of Kenya
Masinde Muliro, former minister and opposition leader
Musikari Kombo, current leader of Ford Kenya

References
Ayot, Henry Okello (1977) History Texts of the Lake Region of East Africa. Nairobi, Kenya: Kenya Literature Bureau.
Barker, Eric E. (1975) The Short History of Nyanza. Nairobi, Kenya: East African Literature Bureau.
Makila, F. E. (1978) An Outline History of Babukusu of Western Kenya. Nairobi, Kenya: Kenya Literature Bureau.
Were, Gideon S. (1967) A History of the Abaluyia of Western Kenya: c. 1500-1930. Nairobi, Kenya: East African Publishing House.

© The Wikipedia

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Elija Masinde (also spelt Elijah Masinde) was a traditional leader of the Bukusu people of western Kenya.

Early life
Born around 1910 – 1912 in Bungoma district, Masinde started out as a footballer, going on to play for Kenya against Uganda in 1930. By the early 1940s, he had risen to the rank of a junior elder within his community in Kimilili area, and became increasingly anti-colonial. In 1944, he led a number of localised defiance campaigns against the colonial authorities, and was imprisoned as a result.

Dini Ya Musambwa
While in jail, Masinde claimed to have been given divine interpretation of the Old Testament of the Bible, and proclaimed that a “Black Jesus” would come to liberate the people of Kenya from colonial oppression. When he was released, he formed a sect called “Dini Ya Musambwa” (Bukusu for “following of spirit[s] of the ancestors”), and gained huge followings in western Kenya.

Detention, old age, and death
Upon Kenya’s independence, Masinde was detained by the government of Jomo Kenyatta for almost 15 years. He had been accused of formenting religious hatred. He was released by the government of Daniel Arap Moi in 1978, and lived quietly in his native Kimilili area until his death in 1987.

It is reported that, before his death, Masinde pointed out to his family the spot where he wanted to be buried – he wanted a huge sycamore tree uprooted to make way for his grave. The family decided to bury him elsewhere, though, but were thwarted when a spot they chose for his grave turned out to be a hidden grave. They took this to be an omen and proceeded to bury him in the spot where the sycamore tree had been.

References
*Makila, F. E. (1978) An Outline History of Babukusu of Western Kenya. Nairobi, Kenya: Kenya Literature Bureau.
*Alembi, Ezekiel. (2000) Elijah Masinde: Rebel with a cause”. Nairobi, Kenya: Sasa Sema Publications Ltd.
http://experts.about.com/e/e/el/Elija_Masinde.htm

 

BLOGGER’S NOTE:

this post is a(nother) preview of the Q/t werd: a (real/raw en) mystic, organic, us-people driven caravan of  pan-afrikan myths, legends en our (kinda) super/s/heroes….we’re celebrating and (re) mapping the intersections of our diversity with werd! Sound! (en di) Powah! (of love)

These are some stories we know, that (not only) I heard (en read) many times before, from many different (kinda) folks,

you can do anything that you want with these hadithi, share them with others, cry about it, get angry or forget it, but don’t say you’d have lived your life differently if only you’d heard this story, now you know….

[We warn you, we have not only just begun! 😉 ]

http://www.kenyaimagine.com/Social-Issues/Literature-Blood-and-Doves.htmlLiterature, Blood and Doves
Wednesday, 26 March 2008
 As the media went into a frenzy celebrating the ‘5th Anniversary of the Iraq War’, my friend Jackie via chat asked why they were saying this like it was a happy event, like a wedding anniversary or something.We quickly came to the Kenyan situation and said next year we shall probably have our first Anniversary frenzy celebrating the post Election violence that was ethnically motivated and marked our descent into hell. Some people will actually be celebrating killing of others like it is a happy Birthday celebration. My friend aptly summarized it – “it will be warm and syrupy and Julie Gichuru will preside over the televised version on a talk show.”

But what lessons does it teach us, we practitioners and consumers of literature? It teaches us that from the roots, the development, and the eruption of the violence, literature (like other Kenyan institutions) was misused to fuel the ethnic violence. (‘Literature’ is here used loosely to mean the written, the spoken, and – as recently redefined by technology – the blogged, the SMSd, the graffitied, the rapped, the sung, the videoed.)  Literature in all the variety of its forms was abused to propagate negative tribalism and ethnocentric hatred of others, as well as misused by its practitioners, (lecturers, students, readers, editors of literary columns and internet bloggers,) to mis-interpret what are otherwise noble folktales, as well as to disparage fellow literary icons simply because they were from the ‘other tribe’. There was also the noble opposite, especially in the aftermath of the outbreak of violence, when writers and practitioners of literature used literary works and personalities in an attempt to address the violence, hatred and propaganda being bandied about by agents of ethnic hatred hiding under the veil of democracy.

The process of slanting the ideological and thematic strands in stories for political expediency was similar to the Nazi effort of the early 1930’s when the NSDAP sponsored the research and publication of folklore that had Nordic-Germanic symbols and themes of German supremacy, which they then used to galvanize the peasantry, and the population at large, in the belief that they were a pure master race. Alfred Rosenberg’s Kulturgemeinde issued in its two main journals, Kunst and Volc and Volskum and Heimadt, folktales with that intent. German Literature professors, especially in folklore, were pressured to align their research findings with the National Socialist Weltanschauung. An innocent story like Little Red Riding Hood, in the Grimm brothers’ Children and Household Tales (1812), was, for instance, turned by the propagandists of the Third Reich into a symbol of the German people, saved from the evil Jewish wolf. In this way, Adolf Hitler spread his hate against Jews, homosexuals, clergymen, gypsies, mentally challenged people, and all those not of (what was thought to be) pure German blood. In Rwanda, hate publications, stories and folktales were similarly mis-interpreted to propagate Hutu and Tutsi animosity.

Likewise in Kenya, from smoky rural huts to the Kenyan web. In one of the hate mails that circulated in the Rift Valley and on the internet, a section of the Nandi invoked the legend of Koitalel Arap Samoei, a brave son of the Nandi community, and one of the great freedom-fighters, who valiantly led the (unfortunately, seldom credited) longest resistance against the British colonialists, until he was tricked and killed by Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen, after which the community divided once again. His heroism is one of the defining hallmarks of Kenyan nationhood: he proudly and honourably resisted imperialism and the oppression of a people by another. On the internet, as on the ground, however, the exploits of Koitalel were used to inspire the Nandi to rise up against the Gikuyu who had ‘occupied their land’; the Gikuyu it was alleged, were latter-day imperialists. It claimed the re-birth of Koitalel through Hon. Ruto, who shares the name Samoei name with him, urging the community to rally behind the reborn Orkoiyot. The brothers of the Nandi were urged to raise arms against the Gikuyu, ostensibly because whereas Kibaki was a Gikuyu and unreachable, they could get to his tribemates. The rest is history.

Similarly, a section of the Gikuyu, since the sunset years of the Moi regime, have rallied round the myth of Mugo wa Kibiru, a great soothsayer in Gikuyu land, who visioned the coming of the white man and urged his people to prepare to oppose the raider. The Gikuyus also invoked another legend, Dedan Kimathi Waciuri, widely seen as a symbol of the courageous struggle for Independence. With these two, united by the clandestine religio-socio-political Mau Mau movement that led the anti-British rebellion in Gikuyuland, a few young men claimed visitation by Mugo wa Kibiru, in which they were exhorted to lead the community against oppression by the Moi regime and his Kalenjin tribemates.

In the guise of returning Gikuyus to their pure cultural practices, the group widened and grew, eventually morphing into the well-organized Mungiki gang. When it was clear, according to the 2007 polls, that Mwai Kibaki was trailing Raila Odinga, and that, even among Gikuyu peasants, he was not a favourite due to the perceived favouring of his elitist moneyed friends, elements within the Gikuyu hireachy invoked tribal unity using the image of Dedan Kimathi: ‘we fought for Kenya’s Independence while they lazed around the lake’, there is no way ‘we the circumcised can be led by the uncircumcised’, it was said. Loose talk of ‘Kenya is ours’ was heard.

From Kenyatta’s speeches, where he is supposed to have told told MPs opposing his seemingly tribalistic governance that “My people drink milk in the morning, your people in the afternoon” to imply that former had a right to the cream of Kenya’s resources, such proverbs, and metaphors were used to spite other communities. Modern metaphors were dragged into the fray, equating the murderous mission with Christian evangelism. In an interview with Dennis Itumbi of AfricaNews, posted on kalenjin.net, a Mungiki leader (who studied at Kangaru and Mangu high schools, did a BA in Philosophy with a bias in (Religious) logic at the University of Nairobi and a Masters Degree at St. Paul’s Theological College in Limuru specializing in African Theology), a Mr Mathenge aka Mnyama, says Mungiki is “political and religious. Look when Jesus came on earth he said he was the King of the Jews. That is political. Then he said he has come to restore salvation. That is religious and that is our mission. You don’t even need to ask that question. Remember the recent meeting in Michuki’s office. Why were these politicians meeting?”  The rest is history.

Among the Luhya, particularly the Bukusu, one of their freedom fighters and legendary icons, Elijah Masinde, was invoked. The Bukusus, in an apparent bid to make them ignore the dangling of one of their own, Musikari Kombo, by Kibaki as a possible future president once Kibaki had served his full term, were reminded of a prophecy uttered by Elijah Masinde to the effect that ‘The throne would only come to Bukusu land through the path of the lake’ i.e., only Raila, being from the Lake region, had the duty to serve as Kenya’s president and pave the path to a Luhya once he retired, a fact hammered in by Raila’s choice of Mudavadi, a Luhya, as his running mate. What followed was major battle, with the differing political groups trying to outdo each other in the ‘best interpretation of the Elijah Masinde prophecy’, a resuscitation of Bukusu folktales urging caution against the Barwa (Nandi enemies), the Mango myth of Circumcision as well as Maina Wa Nalukale’s tales of Bukusu supremacy over the Luhya nation. It all culminated in a tussle of comic proportions when each group visited the grave of the legend to pay homage, donating blankets and other goodies in efforts to appease his spirit and counter the other groups appeasing efforts as a sacrilageous soiling of his name. All this for a man who, until last year, was largely forgotten in Kenya’s history outside Bukusuland.

Instead of literary scholars laying bare the selfish manipulations of these folktales and icons for political gain, they jumped onto the bandwagon, dropping their PhD  degrees and pamphlets of scholarly research to prove the rightness of whichever group they supported. Professors of literature attacked each other’s credibility on the basis of their tribe of origin. A major casualty, of course, was all those amazing works that were being done on the Mau Mau history. Suddenly, Mau Mau was collateral damage in the war for and against Kibaki. It was no good talking about it in serious forums. It was just a Gikuyu peasant war that had nothing to do with Kenyan History. No, it was the best example of we Gikuyu fighting the white man and now you want to say we can’t rule this land we shed blood for, so please write it and garnish it with sentiments of how grateful Kenya has to be to our tribe. Literary critics led the interpretation of literary works to discredit opposing tribes. An example is one review that was an unfortunate attack on an 80-year old peasant man who had slaved for over 28 years handwriting his memoirs about his life in detention, Kizuizini (Detention life), a Swahili book which I personally edited and researched at the National Archives to verify its credibility. (I am not Gikuyu so had no tribal allegiance). Despite it being a rich source of information about our history, one self-appointed ‘leading’ critic termed it ‘fiction’ saying that since the old man had a line which he said ‘we fought the white man because he had taken our land, and we wanted it back since it was given to us from the days of Gikuyu and Mumbi, our forefathers’ and since he later goes on to regret that ‘what we had fought for in Kenya, we never really got it, since those who supported the colonialists went on to grab land while many were left landless’. A noble book was dismissed as Gikuyu propaganda without proper consideration, simply because it was written by a Gikuyu; truly a case of a book caught in a war not of its own making.

It was also fashionable to dismiss Ngugi Wa Thiong’o as just another beneficiary of Gikuyu elevation. Years ago, when I was still a young brain, easily influenced by his egalitarian Marxism, a post-graduate student of high repute in the Institution I was at lashed out at Ngugi during a Black American Month symposium, stating that he was to blame for inventing the Mungiki Sect through The River Between; it had propagated the return of certain Gikuyu customs. I wrote a bitter defence in The Standard’s Literary Forum, arguing that those who founded Mungiki probably hadn’t even read the novel, and anyone who had read the novel could see that nowhere did it advocate beheading of people as a Gikuyu cultural norm. The defence sparked a barrage of hate replies and counter-replies which degenerated into tribal name-calling, after which the editor slammed shut the debate. Fast forward: Ngugi returned to Kenya after his self imposed exile; many read it as the beginning of a wider scheme of Gikuyu glorification, forgetting the return of Ali Mazrui and other fire-brands who had been demonized by the Moi Government. When the unfortunate attack on Ngugi and his wife happened, numerous emails circulated celebrating the fact with sneers of ‘The Gikuyu hyenas, look how they even eat one of their own.’ When the post-election violence broke in December, Ngugi’s remarks that some scenarios were similar to what he had written in his block-buster novel, The Wizard of The Crow , were angrily sneered at. It did not help when Ngugi wrote a pre-lection commentary concerning his impression of Kibaki, based on the three occasions they had met. The first rejoinder to that article was an attack on Ngugi claiming that he had proven that he did not think any president fit to lead Kenya unless he were Gikuyu. That article was circulated largely to discredit Ngugi as a Gikuyu apologist.

Even the new generation of writers were not averse to attacking each other on tribal bases. Some publishing houses were accused of being slanted towards publishing people from their owner’s tribal region and neglecting others in total disregard of the merit of their works. Whether that is true or not is debatable, but what is true is that the perceptions  that such and such a publishing house publishes only such and such tribes were there.

Literature had squarely entered the fray of tribalism, becoming as divided as all the other institutions which had been looked upon to deliver us from this evil: The Kenya Electoral Commission, the Judiciary, The Press, and the Church. You read or misread literature and, especially folklore, according to your tribal spectacles.

There was intense rejuvenation of folk tales that portrayed the Kalenjin and the Nandi as fit only to herd cattle. The famous story in which a cow was given to a Luo, a Gikuyu and a Kalenjin, did its rounds. The Gikuyu, it is claimed, zero grazed it, pampered it by planting and cutting napier grass for it, and it gave the best quantity of milk (to say Kibaki’s economic boon). The Kalenjin grazed it all over the land till he eroded the soil, and the cow gave a meager quantity of milk (a comment on the 24 years of Moi rule and the harsh economic times in his sunset years). The Luo, it was said, was too lazy to graze a cow day in and day out, so let it wander as he sat in his hut, knowing that whenever he needed food, he could walk to the lake, fish, eat, sleep and then go fish again when he felt hungry. This, you can guess, was spread by Gikuyu people. It was countered with numerous stories in print and oral narratives of stories with the motif of Gikuyu as genetically disposed towards thievery, and when the election dispute arose, the cry was ‘kill all the Gikuyu since they are nothing but thieves’.

Not to be outdone, the Gikuyu, particularly the Ameru, re-ignited myths of their migration to the Mt. Kenya region from Axum in Ethiopia, with links to the Queen of Sheba; thus they claimed to be one of the lost tribes of Israel. The more educated linked the Meru, particularly the Athuci, to this claim of Jewish descent. In bars, it was said that the Biblical Eden was located in the land divided by a flowing river (the Chania in this case); and that Mt. Kenya was the seat of God, who had bestowed Kibaki with the power to lead as only the Gikuyu could reign over the rest of the country.  You could not galvanise a people around their pride as the pure more strongly than this. Unless you are Hitler of course.

The folklore taught to the circumcised among the Bantu and especially among the Gikuyu were brought to the fore, encouraging distrust of other tribes as lazy. Numerous moderate Gikuyus, on trying to caution their hardliner friends about the irregularities marring the elections were taunted: ‘are you not circumcised? So why fear antagonizing a kihii (the uncircumcised)?” In the post election violence, Gikuyu youth hunted down Luos in Kibera, and Naivasha, forcefully circumcising them before either beating them or killing them. Reports from Independent bodies delving into the root causes of the violence have documented the same from the Nandi community: young circumcised youths were taught folklore during their cultural lessons, slanted to provoke them into attacking the Gikuyu in the Rift Valley, now that they were warriors. In turn, stories, proverbs and writings have cropped up which encourage what I can term the ‘Jewinisation’ of the Gikuyu: a feeling of persecution and ‘we are the hated because of being entrepreneurs’ which,  surprisingly, is getting encouragement from the learned and wealthy of the community. From hawkers to middle class homes, the Gikuyu feel besieged, and believe that they are being witch-hunted for working hard and prospering. With the Gospel of prosperity taught in evangelical churches, they have sought refuge in Christian stories of those persecuted by jealous people, and hence found solace by conceiving of themselves as an unfairly-persecuted minority, like the Jews. It resonates with the teaching of the bible; some religious people go further and rely on the Biblical hatred between the Jews and the Gentiles to justify hating the other tribe. Several blogs hosted by Gikuyu attest to this, one of the most prominent being one titled ‘Who are the Gikuyu? The Jews of Kenya‘. In Rwandesque terms, Kenyan communities claimed supremacy over others using their communal narratives, and urging the decimation of others as weeds, stains, and other negative terms. Proverbs were given tribal meanings to otherise. Communities were labeled madoadoa, stains that needed to be removed, in avenues as public as FM stations.

But fortunately most people decided to use literature in its various forms to propagate peace and provoke a re-evaluation of the whole Kenyan conflict, as well as what avenues there were to address the animosity that was fast claiming lives. The Concerned Kenyan Writers email group brought together arguably the best Kenyan writers in a dialogue of sorts, which quickly grew into a major forum for international media and literary people looking for a more authentic, alternative source of information that wasn’t censored by the commercial factors that hampered the mainstream media. Writers like Binyavanga Wainaina, Yvonne Awuor, Billy Kahora, Stanley Gazemba, Muthoni Garland, Rasnah Warah, Parselelo Kantai and others wrote fiction and non fiction articles that they posted on the site and were circulated worldwide. International writers played their part in narrating the Kenyan experience, mostly because it resonated with their own countries. Gappah Pettinah from Zimbabwe, Uganda’s Doreen Baingana and Kalundi Serrumaga are notable examples.

In December, before election day, Story Moja, a literary body in Nairobi, organized Kenya’s first Reading Festival; a story-telling competition was held. Most of the narratives referred to the General election that was around the corner, warning against the dire consequences of tribal politics as if prophesying the violence to come. The winning narrative, almost uncannily, was about kitchen tools that engaged in animosity and fought each other in their quest for supremacy, leading to a blaze in the kitchen. It ended with a plea for Kenyans not to be like the kitchen tools. But apparently some didn’t heed it. On the theatre scene, plays like Lwanda Magere which ‘pimped’ the legend of Lwanda Magere – the invincible Luo warrior who was invincible until he leaked the secret to a girl that only spearing his shadow could hurt him – were done with a modern political angle and toured the countryside. Youth from the Dandora slums organized by Patrick Shomba made a short film titled Ghetto President and aired it there.

After the violence erupted, writers gathered at the Sunday Salon to read stories of hope and love; all the admission money collected was donated to the Kenya Red Cross to buy food and clothing for the internally displaced. Similarly, a play was shown at the National Theater the proceeds of which were donated to charity. Many more events took place countrywide.

Despite the fact that literature was used to spread hate, it is not to be blamed. It is those who misused it who are to blame, in the same way that those who used the positive power of literature to ease the conflict are to be praised. One does not ban all water bodies simply because someone drowned in a river. With special reference to folktales, it is not that they are forms for hatred, but rather that people misused them.

At the end of World War II, Allied commanders banned the publication of the Grimm tales in Germany in the belief that they had contributed to Nazi savagery. Some even called for the banning of folktales and similar literary styles, but reason eventually prevailed: it was not the tales, but the manipulators who were the problem.  It is a fact that most of the folktales and narratives in our communities extolled peace and understanding. Even those that were slanted and mis-interpreted by the warmongers to spread hate are about the virtues of Koitalel Arap Samoei, Dedan Kimathi, and Lwanda Magere, who actually had virtues we all need to emulate: prominently, self-sacrifice for the communal good. Our folktales did not advocate killing of innocent women and children, and they did not advocate killing innocent people in a room set ablaze for the sake of revenge. But like everything at this insane moment in our country, truth was lost.  Literature, like a gun, depends on the hands it is in.

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Simiyu Barasa is a film maker (Toto Millionaire), and a member of the Concerned Kenyan Writers collective.