Archive for September, 2007

From the poetry book ‘Is it any wonder’

September 25, 2007

The Essence of Kwani Nights

 By Eudiah Kamonjo

I gave them what they wanted

The reality and the dreams

The truth and the not so truths

Those Kwani? Night lovers

 I told them about my first orgasm

Right here on this stage

When Shailja Patel held her first slam here in Kenya

Even before Dennis did a heart-stopping poem for Lilian Muli

Before Marion told us about being black and proud

Before Smitta’s mind-bogging phrases about Russia

Times when Winyo’s mellow voice drained us

In pools of music

Before MC Mageria’s ‘Kitu kuruka…kitu kupaa..’ catch

Those memories that hold the very essence of Kwani nights

 Before rising from my seat,

 I asked myself“Why the heck am I doing this?”

Now I know, what they say is true

“We write, not because we have the answers but so we can find the answers within those written lines.” 

I told them of things inexpressible in ways other than poetry

I told them of inequality and rape

Of AIDS and wars

Though little I’d seen of these…. 

It was two years ago when I first met Kwani?

She welcomed me though my voice was shaky

Developed me, gave me freedom

To say whatever I wanted, however I wanted to say it

 When everyone else put the words in their heads

She allowed me to retain my raw version

To retain it as a pure read

And though my paper trembled…I went back….Still… 

These rare nights…these Kwani nights

Are like a drop of dew in a desert

Or an extra large ‘phallus’ in a sea of isolated men

These Kwani nights

That cause both ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’, sometimes ‘booos’

When artistes step onto the stage 

A myriad more nights will soon come up

But nothing will ever be like Kwani Nights

My two years with you are memories to behold 

Dressing up or bringing a date

Did not quite tickle my fancy

What really mattered and still does

Is wining, dining and talking with Kwani

With you guys….you…

What really matters and still does

Is the very essence of Kwani Nights    

From the poetry book ‘Is it any wonder’

September 25, 2007

Castles and Prisons

 By Eudiah Kamonjo

Everybody knows that they’ just pranksters

Power hungry freaks from head to toe  

Why do we listen to their bickering?

And butt naked lies?

Why do we watch the news at 9?

Expecting something better to be said???

Only to see them make utter fool of themselves

Isn’t it enough that our taxes

Keep them at Runda

Isn’t it enough that our shoes are worn out

From the long walk from Umoja to Westlands?  

Has in this place remainedNo chosen one

Is the most sought out justice

The toughest to find?

  

Hope?I feel like we have lost it

Yet I know it lingers somewhere beneath

Peaceful bliss, justice and a nations’ success

I still haven’t seen 

 Yet when my small black ass

Lies on that skinny mattress

My dreams reveal to me a nation most great

You know…..-like Guinness  

A lie, a deception, an inhuman face

A heart so mean,Hidden in the name of leadership

 Your castle, our prison

Will come to an ultimate end

Like an unexpected ejaculation

 In the mid of a bj      

WHEN POACHING WAS LEGAL

September 24, 2007

WHEN POACHING WAS LEGAL-and elephants bore the woe

By Eudiah Kamonjo

It is said that imagination is better than realization. We all imagine what the scene must have been like before there were any fences to keep away wild animals. Imagining further how much wild animala must have been killed while poaching had still not been declared illegal is a picture that’s hard to fathom unless you were alive then to see the real scenes first hand. 

Before co-operatives like East African Wildlife Society were formed, thousands of wild animals were being slaughtered and poached mercilessly. (Poaching is the unlawful destruction of wild animals.)

The poachers were mainly Africans of the hunting tribes whose lives depended on hunting and lived in adjacent areas of the parks, some of whom still exist.  Elephants were most at risk as the ivory from their tusks fetched a hefty amount of money in the market. Agents on Mombasa Road would sell the ivory to middle men who would take it to Mombasa, cut it up and then sell it in the black market. The ivory would eventually find its way into the Far East and Europe.

 A few years ago, Kenya witnessed a shocking scene; an elephant lay dead in the middle of the road and people (both men and women) came with knives and pangas to take home pieces of the elephant meat. Some of the people questioned said that they had not had a taste of any kind of meat in a month. In a few minutes, the villagers had taken all the meat from the dead elephant to cook at home. 

If poachers’ intention was just the tusks for ivory, then what happened to the elephant that died during capture? The meat was used as food. Wealthy tribes and lovers of game meat like the Chagga were always ready to buy it. 

The methods used to catch game were utterly barbaric. Traps were set but remained unnoticed for weeks before the poacher finally returned to find a gross skeleton. Herds of elephants were at one point found having fallen from a deep pit set by poachers. They died of thirst and hunger before the poacher arrived to take away the tusks.

Poisoned arrows were more widely used compared to fire arms. Acokanthera, a potent poison obtained from the bark of a tree known as ‘wild coffee’ was used. It is still being distributed to date. The poison breaks down the red corpuscles of the blood causing cardiac arrest and works quite fast when fresh. When stale it works much slower weakening the animal gradually. In 1952, poaching reached such extreme levels that there was an active consideration. However, at the time the Mau Mau was emerging and this rebellion overtook the poaching scene.

The poachers usually worked in groups of not more than 50 mostly lying in ambush near water holes. They would fire at any elephant within range and then follow the weakest ones until they dropped dead. The poachers would then take the ivory and other trophies and either carry the meat with them or leave it for the vultures to finish off. Mostly, the mother elephants were killed by the poisonous arrows and the baby elephants would die of starvation.  Wardens were also attacked by the poachers themselves as they tried to escape arrest. Poaching of ivory has lead to loss of Government revenues-a least but worthy point to note on the poaching effects. An exhibition was once held to enable people to see for themselves what actually happens during poaching. Photographs were shown exposing the crude methods used ensuring the truth reached people; especially those who thought the scenario of poaching was being exaggerated.  

These animals needed the greatest measure of protection and a couple of Societies and co-operations were formed to fight for the rights of animals.The East African Wildlife Society formerly the Kenya Wildlife Society has since 1961 been at the helm of elephant conservation efforts in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya and hope to extend further a field into other African countries facing wildlife extinction. The society aims to preserve both wildlife and the environment by disseminating information on the unique East African wildlife. The initial establishment, like everything else starting up was a difficult undertaking. A proper basis for its establishment was needed alongside a written constitution based on basic policies. 

EAWS was meant to be a trust but the initiators realized a Society would be more effective.

It relies heavily on financial assistance but if backed by the international public, would go deeper into wildlife conservation efforts.EAWS has also embarked on anti-poaching approaches; joint operations over a large area by monitoring activities of game poachers. The other solution to the poaching problem is the elimination of receivers; without a ready market the poaching business would fail. The laws on poaching need to be reviewed, and a jail sentence written instead of allowing fines.      

From the book ‘Unlimited Spirit’

September 24, 2007

What it means to be Rasta

By Eudiah Kamonjo.

  

To be respected

To be shunned

To be a lot less likely to ever

Be president

‘If I was president *2’

  

What it means to be Rasta

To be loved

To be lonely

To long for the day

We shall really be free

Free from our very own minds

  

What it means to be Rasta

To dance to the fullest

To live to the fullest

To love with earnest

  

What it means to be Rasta

To walk by the street and see

Eyes ‘roll out’ ‘roll out’

What it means to be Rasta

To walk by the guards and

Get a double check-up

  

What it means to be Rasta

To live for the day

To look for a way

 To get through a day at a time…..  

‘My kind of joy’

September 20, 2007

A Day at Olosho-oibor

 By Eudiah Kamonjo.

I had spent a sleepless night; tossing and turning in my bed wondering how tomorrow would go. The cock had crowed and worried the heck out of me…I had to get some sleep but….it was not forthcoming. I only got to sleep when it was already daylight. I therefore woke up much later than I had planned.To try and not look very town-like, I put on my black flowing dress and a bolero. By 11 O’Clock, I was in town where I took a matatu to Ngong.  I still hadn’t learnt to pronounce the name of the place I was going to and I knew I was going to have a hard time.

The place was Olosho-oibor; this was where the Maasai cultural show was taking place. My arrival at Ngong was one filled with so many memories. See, I used to live here once and I miss the fact that I could walk up to the Ngong Hills to get a quite atmosphere for writing anytime I wanted. Still, I tried not to think too much of this place that I once called ‘home’.Dad had told me that I could get vehicles to take me to the venue. I asked a driver for directions and walked to a number 126 saying this matatu would get me there. But when I asked the driver, he told me that they do not reach Olosho-oibor. I was petrified. What if I had just gotten into the matatu without asking?

Dad was telling me that I was late (it was already 10 O’Clock by the time I’d gotten to Ngong) but I was determined. Today was the day; I couldn’t wait until next year.The driver then gave me directions to a spot where I’d find a pick-up that would take people going to the show. I had to walk a few metres again before I asked a Maasai woman for more directions telling her I was going for the show. She directed me and then as I stopped to buy some more airtime, I asked the shopkeeper just to be sure I was in the right direction.There was the matatu/pick up, I could see the blue leather cover that was supposed to act as a rain barrier.There was a Maasai woman fully clothed in Maasai regalia and a young man who no-one would mistake for any other tribe owing to the gap between his lower teeth.Another tall Maasai jumped into the vehicle and I watched in awe as they got into a very animated conversation with the woman. What was running through his mind? I wondered.They were all smiling, exposing their trademark gaps on their lower teeth.Their wonderful language and respect for each other was amazing to say the least.

The fact that these people are always dressed like this and walking bare feet but  were obviously richer than me-not just in terms of culture and happiness but what they owned.The pick up was overflowing with luggage, some of which contained goods that were going to be sold at the show while others were headed to their households.The driver walked towards the vehicle and even before he talked, I already knew he was Maasai. He was very tall and good-looking. He was staring at me …I stared back, not at all intimidated.

I then realized I had failed in my dressing, I still looked like a town girl, it seemed.I had earlier asked the young man seated beside me whether this was the right vehicle to Olosho-oibor and he said yes. Now, he explained to the driver that I was going to the show. I hastily enquired “Can we go now?” he answered, “Yes, we are going to the show.”I was restless.

I felt like I was missing a lot. Five minutes, ten minutes passed, we still hadn’t moved. The young Maasai started telling me about how nice it was the day before (Friday).That the event had been running for three days; since Thursday and that it had been happening for over 10 years. Wow! I was wondering. ‘How come people don’t know about this?

’This took me back to last weekend 8th June, my friend Piri from South Africa had come to play rugby at the Safari Sevens and he’d told me how much he was mesmerized by the culture of the Maasai and that he was dying to meet one. He even paused like a Maasai so that I’d see how much he’d seen postcards and photos of them. My collegues and I were bursting with laughter at how well he’d managed to imitate them.

I was deep in thought when the pick-up finally took off. Dad had told me It’d take about an hour for us to get there. The dust road was really rough and I had to hold on tightly to the metal bars above my head.I was seated between two very tall Maasai men and I continued to watch as the man and woman continued their seemingly endless happy conversation not understanding a damn bit.

At some point, the wether got really chilly and my fingers grew numb, but I had to hold on tight to the cold metal bars, now with both of my hands.The fare was Kshs.60 which was being handed over to a woman (not a Maasai) who I was later to learn was a kikuyu married to the Maasai driver.We picked another young man on the way and I noticed he was looking at me strangely.When he started talking, he was telling everyone that he was carrying liqueur to sell to the attendees. Later, looking straight at me he said. “I like your dreads.” Turning to the lady beside her, he continued, “You know, I used to have dreads and I’m still a Rasta to death. If my kids won’t have them, I will know they ain’t mine.”“You know, rastas are very respectful people. Look at even the way she is dressed-covered to the heel. Rasta ladies cover themselves and I just wished you’d have also covered your bossom appropriately. You know, even when you say hallo to a Rasta lady in the streets, she will always reply unlike other ladies,” he finalized. Lets just say I was ……..

The rest of the journey was undramatic and as we approached the show grounds-I called Dad to let him know that I was here.I made friends with Nais (her real name) and we walked around the venue together talking.Everyone seemed to know her; I was soon to learn that her family is considered to be very wealthy inspite of the semi-permanent structure she’d pointed at as their home.The Maasai were cooking various foods and preparing hot beverages under trees on the traditional three-stones.Others were displaying their colourful bead-work while the men were preparing soup, nyama choma and boiling the famous red-bark (a herbal-drink that enhances the Maasai’s libido). Of course I had to taste this stuff. It was great   but of course it didn’t work on me……is it because I’m a woman? !!!!!!
The MC was talking non-stop in fluent Maasai such that I felt left out but still very welcome to taste and experience their wonderful culture.There was a crowd of people (of all ages) surrounding the field.Today was the final day and there’d be sports activities going on. The elderly men were racing each other and playing football-this was absolutely hilarious!. The dancing and cattle exhibition had already taken place the day before.Drugs and animal feeds companies were also exhibiting their products and they admitted that the turn out this year had not been as good as it was last year but that the sales were good enough.

There were fewer tourists than i expected but it was obvious that everyone there had been looking forward to this rare event.

 

From the book-‘All over the place’

September 20, 2007

The Maasai Cultural Show June 2007

By Eudiah Kamonjo.

  ‘A Maasai without culture is as a zebra without stripes. If we abandon our way of life, our next step could be extinction’

-Kakuta Ole Maimai, Founder of the Maasai Association. 

The Maasai are one of the few communities that have retained their cultural values and generate a lot of interest the world over. They are a famous warrior tribe in Kenya whose lives center around herding cattle. They drink fresh blood and milk from cows and goats which they believe makes them strong, they sometimes mix blood with milk. Most people only have the image of tall lean mean clutching spears and dorned in red attire. Well, there is more to the Maasai than has been told.

 The Maasai Cultural Show is an event that has been going on for over ten years with an aim of exhibiting the cultural values of the Maasai community as well as harmonizing education and culture.This years’ event was held on the 14th –16th June 2007 at Olosho-oibor in Kajiado District and was officially graced by the District Commissioner. A number of tourists were present at the venue to experience the Maasai culture, the famous Maasai beadwork, Maasai traditional dances and traditional preparation of meat and soup. We were surprised to note how they conduct their greetings; younger people have to bend when greeting a person older than them, this older person then touches the back of their heads as if blessing them. Manyattas, which are semi-permanent structures, had already been constructed at the venue. These take about a month to set up (an activity carried out by women) and are built out of branches, twigs, grass, cow-dung and urine. When this dry, they are as strong as cement and do not smell at all.

 The Maasai are pastoralists who believe that God entrusted his cattle to them. Their wealth is hence measured by the number of cattle they have acquired. A livestock exhibition was therefore a necessity which saw a couple of cattle owners win various prizes.Every year, issues concerning the community are addressed. This years’ theme was ‘Climate Change’ and the community was educated about the changes that have been going on during the drought periods. There were lots of competitions, sports and business activities going on. It is at such an event that veterinary services, animal feeds and drugs get their stocks literally flying out of the shelves.

It was also at this very event that we met Musaite Ole Tunda, the Maasai herdsman who found J.M. Kariuki’s body (a famous Kenyan politician who had been said to have disappeared but was found murdered). Ole Tunda told us that people still travel from the city to enquire about this controversial saga that has never been solved. 

The event is organized by an NGO; Simba Maasai Outreach Organization which has been working with the community since 1993.The NGO deals with the general community development which encompasses food security, water, education, cultural preservation and gender issues. Daniel Rogei, the Programme Officer at Simba Maasai Outreach said that the event kept getting better and better every year.“More schools, individuals and groups are coming from far and wide to participate in the event,” he added.Over the years, the organizers have had a few financial and political challenges but believe that the event will soon be acknowledged as a major event. 

Preceeding events will go a long way in ensuring the Maasai way of life continues to be appreciated and enhanced.         

From the Poetry Book-They Told it Best

September 12, 2007

WHEN HE WAS MINE

By Eudiah Kamonjo.

When he was mine

I uttered he wasn’t or remained mum

I left him at home in search of an art

Like a rampant hippopotamus on heat

With exquisite adrenaline the night I hit

When he was mine

I felt he wasn’t not even a dime

Though he spoke of love, passion and bliss

I spoke of tomorrow, tomorrow and tomorrow.

When he was mine

My body was fulfilled though robbed of rest

But my soul with emptiness it throbbed

My spirit wavered like a bird looking for a worm

I tried to leave

But I was too attached

Well, until the holy of holies

Hit me with a bolt of madness.

When he was mine

I was the diligent ‘wife’

The ‘sassy mademe’ of night

But at dawn I wished for Venus

Sometimes Brunus or both

When he was mine

I was feminine and vulnerable

Away, I fought ruthlessly

And I felt like a man

I think I carried with me his manly side

When he was mine

I wanted to leave

And on that day

The House of Yahweh

Said the world would end

I left….

Now, I have no idea

Whether I still live in the same world

All I know is

He is there

And I am here…..


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