Kayaking at the beautiful cabins in Kibuye.

I enjoyed reading this.

Concillier Kitungulu

The Rwiza Village cabins are set right next to Lake Kivu in Kibuye, Rwanda. Kibuye is a town further from Kigali(5 hour drive) & it happens to share Lake Kivu with Gisenyi . I keep on gushing about Lake Kivu a lot because of the tranquility that hits you when you are in it’s presence – all anxieties melt away and life becomes…simple.

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Kibuye is the sleepier of the 2 towns. That said, you will never run short of activities to do – with tempting options such as sunbathing by the lake, sipping on some Skol, Primus or Mutzig, swimming, reading a book by the beautiful cabin balconies or kayaking. As Kibuye is famous for kayaking (especially in the evenings), I decided to make my stay here memorable by checking off something from my to-do list. First off, this is such an arm work-out! It is also a little scary…

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Not so fast, fascists

Upscale Shack

The images of Americans waving Nazi flags and giving sieg heil salutes in my state of Virginia sicken me. Our nation sacrificed the blood of hundreds of thousands of its sons and daughters fighting fascism, and we prevailed. Would our grandfathers be proud to see these racist shitbags parading around in their make-believe Nazi costumes today? Chanting Hitler’s slogans?

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Is The Internet Making Me Dumber? C. S. Lewis Thinks So.

With each passing day,  I become more skeptical of our beloved ‘too much’ information age with its myriad of thought leaders,  opinion shapers and loud mouths.

This is why.

Unlike long ago, when after hearing something I had time to process and make up my mind about it,  nowadays I seem to leave most of my opinions in the hands and fingers of opinion shapers. I doubt that I am alone.

Whenever we engage with new findings,  it has become the norm to check out other people’s opinions around the matter.  In most cases, we choose the ‘right’ thoughts by checking out how many retweets,  shares and likes another’s opinion has received. Tragically,  this is how we get pulled in by the popular which as you and I already know,  isn’t always the right.

This poses a grave danger.  We,  most likely, turn away from those who disagree, even if they have a point.

Yet the worst sin we commit is to turn away from our conscience, the inner prodding that might differ with the popular opinion.

Subliminally, the loud thinkers influence us so much that if we aren’t careful, we stop forming our own opinions and instead rush to see what so-and-so has said in order to form our truths.

I have met people who agree that the information age is turning us into thought puppets. I can’t say for sure if this is true or false.  However, I have personally made a choice to not let others-people and media too- provide all answers and solutions to the world around me.

I am also hoping to create a gap between the time I read something and when I let myself respond to it. I am looking for the time between stimulus and response. Fingertip and brain.

As C. S. Lewis says, ‘When Freud is talking about how to cure neurotics,  he is speaking as a specialist on his own subject, but when he goes on to talk general philosophy, he is speaking as an amateur. It is therefore,  quite sensible to attend to him with respect in the one case and not in the other… ‘

P.S. I have absolutely no issue with thought leaders,  if anything, I absolutely admire people who’ve  taken time to grow themselves into the best they can be in their fields. However, it is becoming more difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff and as such it is important to always have your own intellectual growth in mind even as one exposes themselves to the millions of not-so-subliminal influences out there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The city in the sun

Literary Chronicles

By Gloria Mwaniga.

In a far away land,

to the east of Nairobi,

There lies a strange city in the sun.

An old and ageless city.

Where girls abandon their clothes.

And men stay in the water like fish

The sun rays burn brightly and heat up the city.

The water is salty and warm,

Madafu is the drink that sells in that old city.

Where soil is white and sandy,

And the beaches filled with locals and tourists.

The buildings tell tales,

of Vasco Dagama and merchants,

Who traversed the land in the early years.

Drinking spiced teas and biriani at Eid.

They say that the water carries mysteries,

of jinni women and queens of the sea.

And the shells carry voices,

of lovelorn lovers lost in the vast waters.

The locals sit under coconut trees,

The shirts abandoned to keep the heat off.

They tell tales of sea…

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Will Two Rivers Survive?

urbankeystrokes

Well, of course it will. What we don’t know yet is whether it will thrive.

More than four months after its Valentine’s Day opening, I finally deigned to venture down the first time. A friend and I went on a Sunday night.

There was not too much business, but I do remember Nove Coffee was packed. There was a decent crowd around CK Square (haha!), but they were attracted by the football on the large screen, and below, the fountain lights.

I decided to hold off on an opinion and returned later, this time alone.

It happened to be Idd that night. You knew right from the main entrance, with the surging throng of excitable Somali boys. For Idd, Two Rivers was the destination, and the place was heaving.

At the entrance were these two Nissan matatus these young men had rented which couldn’t get any further, because security.Inside was…

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OF STEAMY SECRET LOVE AND A SEASON OF CRIMSON BLOSSOMS.

Senegalese author Mariama Ba in her much acclaimed novel So Long a
Letter shines light on the stifled lives of  women she perceived
growing up in Senegal.

In the book, Ba highlights the helplessness, sorrow and resignation of
the protagonist, Ramatoulaye. We are taken into the intricacies of
Ramatoulaye’s life when, after the death of her husband, she writes to
her best friend, reminiscing about the past and also speaking about
her present  state as a widow in a very  conservative  and patriarchal
Muslim society. Through this book,   Ba discloses for the first time,how culture can stifle.

I have just finished reading a book I dare term the sequel to Ba’s. It
is the debut novel of  Nigeria writer Abubakar Adam Ibrahim. Seasons
of Crimson Blossoms  tells the story of Hajiya Binta Zubairu, a  55
year old widow in conservative  northern Nigeria who decides to,
against conventional wisdom, fall in love with a younger man in his
20’s. Abubakar rebirths Ramatoulaye. He also modernizes her and
boldens her by making her more in charge of her own life choices.

It was Leo Tolstoy who, at the beginning of his controversial classic
Anna Karenina, declared that every unhappy family is unhappy its own
way. As Season of Crimson Blossoms begins, the widow Hajiya Binta
Zubairu’s family is unhappy in its own way. Having lost her husband to
a mob of religious zealots in Jos and her first son Yaro at the hands
of police, Binta is deeply unhappy. She lives with her sister’s child
Fa’iza who is also haunted by a violent death she witnessed.

Binta , whose story is set against the backdrop of the  volatile
north, leads the ordinary, quiet life of a faithful Muslim housewife;
performing her ablutions, saying her Subhi prayers, reading the
Qur’an, attending Madrasa  and sewing. Besides this, the only other
thing she seems to do is steep herself in regret and nostalgia,
thinking about how she could have  better loved her deceased first son
whom tradition forbade from showing affection.

All this changes one afternoon when Binta returns from Madrasa to find
a youthful burglar named Hassan Reza Babale in her house.  He cames to
steal her property but leaves instead with her heart. She warms up to
his touch, the first male touch since her husband died a decade
earlier. A pious person, she is of course appalled when the masculine
touch arouses deeply buried sexual feelings and is quick to blame
Shaytan for sowing impious thoughts in her mind. Reza manages to
successfully awaken her long abandoned womanhood.
We sense that this encounter, grimy as it is, is the turning point of
Binta’s life. The author writes:
‘He took her things and left, having sown in her the seed of her
awakening that would eventually sprout into a corpse flower, the
stench of which would  resonate far beyond her imagining …’

Abubakar masterfully curves out the tale from this point, putting into
it just the right amount of suspense to whet our appetite for more and
then breaking our hearts with the harsh, judgmental, self-righteous
reaction of, not only her closest family and friends but also the
larger society, a people that know not how to forgive and forget.

That he chose to set his novel in Northern Nigeria, a region largely
ignored by many Nigerian writers is plausible. It shows that Abubakar
is unafraid of loving his homeland, to which he dedicates the book.
And he writes with a true patriotsm, a love for his country that’s not
blind. He dares to steep the prose in Nigeria’s recent political
history, thus affirming Achebe’s long standing argument that a writer
must engage in the politics of his day.

Abubakar writes splendidly, drawing pictures with unforgettable
phrases like this:
‘She dreamt in sepia. Like rust-tainted water running over the
snapshots of her memory, submerging her dreams in a stream of reddish
brown’
The choreography of his language is brilliant and the metaphors are
breathtaking. The prose begets poetry and the phrases are so perfect
he must have bled over. His sentences have poignancy and passion.

I liked  too how he handled the female protagonist in the book. In the
liberal spirit of the 21st century, he lets Binta choose her lover
without caring that he is younger than most of her children. As a
girl, she was forced to marry a stranger thrust upon her by a
dictatorial father. As a grown woman, Binta lets sexual attraction be
the guiding light of her new relationship; a bond in which she gets as
much as she gives, a liaison in which her body is no longer a source
of shame but of pleasure to herself and the man she chooses to give
herself to.

Abubakar doesn’t paint his story with broad strokes, he pays attention
to detail. His characters are sensitive and their domestic incidences
plausible. The conversations too are delightfully realistic which
shows that the writer is an attentive observer of his surroundings. I
found my emotions enmeshed into those of the characters once  it
occurred to me that beyond the boubous, hijabs and perfect makeup, lay
mothers and sisters who yearn for  love and understanding even as
they morph from victims to creators of their own circumstances.

Abubakar has gone a step further. He has redeemed the modern writer.
Through the seriousness and thoughtfulness he accords his prose, he
has proven that the modern writer, despite endless chatter on social
media platforms, is still capable of emerging as a deep, scholarly
thinker. Abubakar has undoubtedly, like Achebe said of Adichie, also
come to us almost fully made.

FIFTH DRAFT…A REVIEW

Fiction books published with NGO funds usually contain stories that push the agenda of the NGOs.

It is therefore a relief to find that Lesleigh Kenya’s newest anthology Fifth Draft, cannot be said to be pushing an NGO agenda. The collection was launched at the Goethe Institut in Nairobi on December 10.

Fifth Draft, a poetry and prose collection, was birthed at a workshop funded by the Italian NGO CEFA. Diverse in theme and content, the book contains vivid tales and poems. From uptown wives, night runners, lustful priests, slum dwellers and religious extremists, the collection tackles diverse aspects of life.

The stories and poems speak to all, despite the invisible social, religious and economic differences that are bound to divide.

If indeed it is true that the faculty we employ upon poetry at the first reading is sensual, then the poet Mwangi Gituro opens our minds’ eyes sensually with his poem Bless Me Father for I Have Seen. It is an innocent observation by a child of a lustful priest. The persona, a young Catholic faithful, confesses that he has seen the way the priest stares longingly at other little boys going naively about the Lord’s work.

The first two stanzas, reproduced below, aptly sum up the hypocrisy of some men of the cloth who forget that their flock are watching their actions more than listening to their words.

Bless me Father for I have seen/I have seen the way you look at John/ as he paces up and down the altar in the service of the Lord/The way you cup your hands around Charles  as he hands you the chalice/The way the sides of your mouth lasciviously twitch as you place the host on Peters’ luscious lips

The strength of this poem lies in its combination of childish innocence and religious deceit.

Mainouna Jallow’s short story The Bake Club of Tailorflower Lane is fresh and exciting. It unlocks the lives of the expatriates whose privileges give them time to fuss over extramarital affairs, personal trainers and failing marriages.

Jallow boldly lets us into the lives of this class of Kenyans who are very present but tend to be pushed to literary peripheries because of our fetish for “poverty porn.” The story follows the daily lives of three high society women and also shines a light on the lives of Nairobi’s rich.

Mwende Ngao’s Toilet Paper Thief is a coming-of-age tale that tells of the hurdles of city life for the young. Anxious to move away from home and be “independent,” Koki, grapples with delayed pay, joblessness and lack of money. Then, unable to cope with the numerous demands of the concrete labyrinth, the good girl turns bad, throws caution to the wind and gives into a friends-with-benefits relationship with a man in a blue Subaru.

And yet, this is not all the book offers. There are other stories. Some quite impressive, like Mtheto Kadoko Hara’s A Sentiment for Leyla, which beautifully tells of love, sacrifice and religious extremism from Malawi to Nairobi’s Westgate mall.

Others quite chilling, like Powell Omolo’s The Chosen, which talks about the life of a young man who has inherited night running powers from his Legio-Maria grandmother and is trying to come to terms with his newfound powers.

Less impressive stories dot the Fifth Draft as well. Stories which one feels require much more work. Stories which perhaps if the authors had kept revising, would have become better in their fifth drafts. These stories include the Fifth Draft by Eutycus Mola, which is simply a collection of beautiful phrases that the writer seems clueless what to do with. Stories like How To Snatch a Monkey by Atandi Anyona, which is meant to be humorous but fails and ends up putting off the reader.

Yet there is a lot to like in this book. Starting with its publisher, Lesleigh Kenya, which is a new outfit in the country. The firm proves that meticulous editing and good quality print are something we can hope for and should demand from our local publishers.

This article was first published in the East African.