In the Beginning

Photo by Charles Nyiha

In the beginning,

I was in a room alone, with a book and a pen.

In the beginning,

I was born into a family dripping with the hot honey of African tradition, simmering in contradiction – the ecstasy and the pain. I found myself glorying in the beat and squirming under the oppression.

In the beginning,

I had a friend called Imani. 

In the beginning,

I heard stories of a man called Francis, a man named Musakali by his village. I heard of a man, bold and tall in 1989, one of laughter and music, one whose murder made me enthralled with history and all that was lost in it, all the treasures we bury.

In the beginning,

I gave in to pride and conceit, made myself drunk on vanity, drunk drunk drunk on all of me, turned blind to blessing, turned blind to curse.

In the beginning,

I found myself alone, found myself learning to be in my skin, found myself in the walls of me – just me. I found myself opening my hands to let the insults fall in the soft of my palms as the people left. I asked questions and stared at the answers. In the beginning, I learnt that we lose—many times deservedly and properly. 

In the beginning,

I found my father – really found him. I looked at him and said that he is mine. I said, look at this man, gentle and rough. I said, look at this man, how can he carry all that cruelty in his stomach. I said, look how he carries mercy in his touch. I said – look, my heart belongs to him. I stared as he coughed hard at 5 in the morning, left the house and went to work – worked hard so that I would not know discomfort. I said, I love him.

In the beginning,

I found myself in a chapel. I felt the silence and I felt the things beyond. I sat for hours because my soul was home. I looked around and said thank you.

In the beginning,

I cried in a chapel.

In the beginning,

I heard my mother’s laugh and saw the deepening of her dimples. I saw how her eyes hold the innocence that has lasted 55 years, how her heart lies open for cheer, for friendship, for adventure. I saw mama say thank you and sorry and forgive me and I love you.

In this beginning,

I am wide-eyed and hoping. I have been asked to talk about my continent, and I am brimming over with magic. I want to break with you the bread of beauty, of life, of hope. I want to open up my world to you, I want to show you my beloved—my Africa. I want to share with you the colours and the sounds and the people and the histories and the everything.

All my beginnings have served me; all my beginnings have led up to this, and are leading to a wonderful elsewhere.

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