strange, that the closer I come to myself, the closer, I feel, I come to Africa.
I sometimes hate melodrama, and I hate it even more when it comes from me, but I’m really
not being melodramatic here. I do border on it, of course, especially because I
am trying to be a creative writer, and there is that delicious tendency to
cloak every word with some sort of…drama.
But, really, there’s something here.
My “coming to Africa” moments may not really be all that…momentous to someone else (and perhaps worse, not really tragic at all), but to me, they’re everything. So I’m just going to go ahead and tell you what they are, and will even dare to hope that you might be inspired, somehow:
1. Cutting my hair, going natural: there really is something about this. I didn’t do it for wildly noble reasons, I just did it because I missed how big my hair used to be before I permed it. And there is this very, very, exciting thing about cutting hair, the drama maybe (of course). But seeing myself now, taking care of my hair now, letting it be as it was “born” to be, kinky and coily and tough and natural, seeing that maybe I was born with all I needed to be beautiful, makes me feel like I’ve just gained independence.
2. Writing: see, I never thought that one could actually make a career out of writing. We are born with future professions, particularly in the African context. “This one will be a doctor,” is more often than perhaps anywhere else shouted in the labour ward, once a child is born and this upon someone’s examining their big, healthy arms and legs and deciding that indeed the child is born for medicine. I see children on TV boldly announcing their future career choices and I can only hope that they know what those words mean, and that it is not what they have been told is impressive. I did always know I would be writing, but alongside something else. Something bigger. Something worthier. Something that would make sense. This other thing was sometimes medicine, and eventually became law. This year, because of a series of maybe unfortunate events, I sorely needed a distraction. And so I started writing again. And I started attending literary events, learning how to write. And I started being around people to whom writing was not just a hobby; writing was an art. I remember my first day at the literature forum at the Goethe Institut that I don’t even remember how I ended up at and it was like rediscovering joy. It was the first time I knew these things were done in Kenya; literature, as an art, and not just as part of KCSE, was okay in Kenya. It didn’t go with Ngugi. And then I started feeling that thing again. Like I was coming close to Africa. I think that maybe there’s an African instinct, or maybe I’m going mad. It’s the same feeling you maybe get listening to Miriam Makeba or Daudi Kabaka or even Tony Nyadundo or Les Wanyika or Them Mushrooms or those wildly popular Nigerians. That you’re home. And so maybe music is my other coming to Africa moment, beautifully shelved in other moments.
Coming to know myself for me has been, perhaps inexplicably, like growing in “my Africa.” There is a very...sublime feeling I have by the sheer fact of being African, by the response I have to our music and the response I have to myself when I am being real, honest with myself. And honesty has become like an addiction now, because whenever I am true to what my heart calls for, I feel life.
And I love it.