AND, CUT!


Mulembe Nation, specifically the Bukusus and the Tachonis, are caught up in a socio-cultural tussle with the CS for Health.

The old wazees down yonder insist that they have to cut their boys who have come of age this August.CS Kagwe, on the other hand,says the timing is bad.That they cant cut because of the prevailing Covid-19 condition.

This conflict between culture and the pandemic is interesting for students of culture and society.Largely because its challenging paradigms and upsetting orders.I am following it with glee.

The Mulembe nation adheres to age old male initiation rites that have remained largely untainted for years.Not even Covid can halt it.And for that, I have lots of respect for them.

Their rite is communal, complete with the frenzied cultural razzmattaz and beats of Isukuti.It is a social glue for the various clans of the Mulembe Nation.

The process is purposefully painful.The purpose of the painful ritual- which is not limited to the Bukusus but common in most ancient cultutes- is to mortify the body as a way of understanding that the energy of the soul is indestructible.Pain ceases to be pain to who has given it meaning and a purpose.

And therein lies the power of the initiation.

The initiation rites of Mulembe Nation are a far cry from the way we do our things in the House of Mumbi.Our male intiation is an obsolete rite- devoid of the cultural confetti it used to have say 100 years ago.

Our boys get their pencils sharpened in sanitized hospitals by clinical officers under local anaesthesia.Sometimes female ones. I can count the surviving Kikuyus who faced the knife by the river on my five fingers.

In addition,our rite is a private one- it lacks the communal fire that engulfs the initiation rites of the Bukusu.Or even those of our cousins like the Ameru or the Tharaka.

Lastly,and more importantly,our rite is devoid of the vigorous socialisation that went together with it back in the day.Its heavily censored by the modern ethos thats it has lost meaning.Heck, we even forgot the dizzying initiation songs that went with it.

In short, male initiation as carried by the House of Mumbi in modern times is no different from clipping ones fingernails.

Yet, if there is a community that discriminates others based on the cut,then its the house of Mumbi.If there are men who suffer communal hubris because of being circumcised, then they are the sons of Mumbi.

Going forward,the House of Mumbi should rethink male initiation.Its time we allowed our boys to decide whether to undergo it or not when they come of age.

Why?

Modern Kikuyu male intiation is a culturally vestigial rite.It serves no purpose other than giving Kikuyu young men a false sense of superiority over other communities that do not cut their boys in hospitals, before female nurses.

Thaayu!

THE FRUITS WE LOST


Matomoka.A fruit that was in abundance back in the day.Until we were lied to that an apple a day keeps the doc away and forgot about these fruits.

This fruit,known as Custard apple, is said to have many benefits, one of them being cancer fighting properties.

But you wont find it in our supermarkets.Its not even common in our rural markets.Our kids know only of apples and pomegranates and such imported fruits.Imported fruits that are laced with chemicals so that they can last on the shelves long enough.

Its time we decolonised our foods.And did away with overated Eurocentric fruits and go back to ‘matomokas’ and ‘matuyas’ and ‘ngambura’.That aside, whats the English name for ‘matuya?’ and ‘ngambura?’

Which other forgotten fruit do we need to bring back to our plates?

THE WEDDING(PART 2)


My problems after agreeing to stand for Wa Njeris wedding started even before the actual wedding date.

A day before the wedding, he called me up and told me that I had to have my looks spruced up at a certain unisex barber shop in Thika town.

I protested, saying that I have a personal barber called Karis who shaves me but sometimes nicks me because he shaves while watching football. Wa Njeri insisted that I couldn’t stand for his wedding after being shaved by a backstreet barber so I had to go to Thika.

The things they do in those kinyozis should be declared soft porn.First they unborn your shirt and knead your neck till you start talking in Gujarati.Second, they tickle your entire chest till all the county headquarters of your body get tingly.

Finally, they tickle your scalp with a metallic thingie.This makes the Governor of your bodily capital city-which is where all things start and end for men-salute the young lassie doing the massage.The salute might last a whole day but I digress.

Anyway, after the tingling neck and chest massage accompanied by a shave, the girls speaking that nasalized Swahili characteristic of Nairobi girls told me to spread my fingers out. They filed them with their dainty fingers and then went on to apply some substance on them.

‘Hey, no lipstick on my fingernails.’ I protested.
What would my daughters say if I went home with my fingernails splashed with bright red colour like a drag queen?

‘Inaitwa clear nail vanish mzee.’ Missy Nasal explained in that nasal Swahili again. A Harrier Aunty type of a lady who looked like the owner of the place explained to me the procedure is called manicure and was part of the services for the entire bridal party.

The manicure didn’t cure the man in me but just added to my troubles. When I was done, I was slapped with a bill of Ksh 2,400 for the whole service. Weddings are con jobs-that’s a whole crate of my favourite poison that could make me and my friends sing goats for a whole Saturday evening.Anyway,I paid up and went home with an empty pocket and a tingly chest and confused bodily county headquarters.

Come wedding day,I sat throughout the ceremony regretting about the Ksh 2,400 that I paid in exchange for a tingly massage and a shave. I thought about all the fun I would be having with my boys club if I was at home.

As we left the church, a young girl with cherubic cheeks smoother than Murang’a avocadoes started showering the bride and the groom with grains of rice.Haki weddings are so wasteful-do they know how much a kilo of pure aromatic Mwea pishori costs? Anway, I let that vanity pass.

More drama awaited us at the reception. When we arrived there, a dreadlocked young chap calling himself MC something took the mic and danced us almost to death.

He started with Mugithi where we all held our shoulders and did the train dance. The he switched to rhumba and we had to shake our bums-including imaginary ones for us men who are flat like long distance truck drivers. Kidogo kidogo he switched to isukuti and we shook our shoulders like we were in a Bukusu circumcision dance.

That wasnt enough;next we did chini kwa chini for a whole half an hour.A session which men enjoyed for some reasons that I dont know.Its at this point that it dawned on me the entire bridal party was wearing matching inner garments which I had mentioned earlier.

You cant sing the tribal music of all the 42 tribes of Kenya and be normal again. By the time we took to the high table, my body ached with a hundred aches in a hundred places.

Food was brought and I noted that the rice was of poor quality than that which had been scattered into the air by the chubby girl earlier.What a waste.After that we sat on the dias,drinking litre after litre of sucrose.

Luckily,my cousin Shekow Josephine along came and hopefully my salvation.

‘Have you brought me something stiffer- a man cannot live on soda alone.’ I asked her.
Too bad she had not time for that.

The gifts session came.Wa Njeri had ferried his entire village into the wedding in his mono- eyed pickup.All the aunties gifted him with a multicoloured kiondo.His village cousins gave him washing basins.There were no uncles because uncles do not attend weddings because they know how boring they can get.

When I couldnt stand the boredom anymore, I went to the dias to present my gift to the newlyweds. I congratulated my friend for bagging himself such acute girl. She sure looked resplendent in white and that silver tiara.But why do wives dress to kill during weddings then cook for their husbands the same afterwards? Food for thought.

Anyway, I noted that my friend Wa Njeri looked so happy.Unlike most weddings where grooms looked gloomy-like they had just chewed cayenne pepper.

‘Mundu,you look so happy today,’ I whispered to Wa Njeri’s ears as I handed him my bahasha.

‘I have to.’ Wa Njeri quipped.

‘Convincing her to marry me is one my biggest accomplishments.’

And so it is for most men.

THE WEDDING(PART 1 )


This Saturday marks two years since my friend hoodwinked me to stand for his wedding in Thika.

It all started one Saturday morning when I was lazing in the house pretending to be reading the papers.But looking for an opportunity to sneak out when missus was not watching me.Luckily my phone vibrated with certain urgency.

‘Mundu wa Njambi, come over I buy you meat at Kenol’.

It was my friend Chege Wa Njeri.Whom we call Wa Njeri in short.Wa Njeri rarely buys anything so this was an opportunity to make him pay on all that I have bought him since our days in college.

Before he had cut the call, I had already put on my Jomo leather jacket and cowboy hat. Then hit the road to Kenol.Shortly, I was at Bombay Inn at Kenol- the place where burnt meat sizzles like small volcanoes.

‘You see this man, we have come from very far with him.’

My friend starts, using the waitress as audience.She is called Wanja, a daughter of Mumbi with dimples each worth a plot along Thika Road.The hills of Murang’a have girls I tell you.

I nod.

‘Ebu give him one to wipe dust with. I dont like anybody joking with this man.’ Wanja promptly serves me a drink.

Wa Njeri continues massaging my neck,preparing it for slaughter.

‘Wee, Wanja, bring that meat.If its overburnt wee bit, we are not eating it! I dont want aibu ndogo ndogo before this great man.’ Wa Njeri shouts at the waitress.

I smile sheepishly- its good being polite to your benevolent host you know.Moreso when he is in an ultra philanthropic mood.

‘You recall the day we got stranded at Habaswein and fed on camel meat and pasta for four days?’

I nod twice.Wanja the dimply lassie clears the table.Wa Njeri asks for two rounds.

‘You recall the day we flew from Wajir to Nairobi and then the small plane refused to remove its legs when we were about to land at Wilson?’

I nod thrice.Wa Njeri asks Wanja to bring us three rounds.

My mango shaped head has by now figured out that on this blessed Saturday that the Lord has made, one nod equals one round.And two nods equals two rounds.Ad infitum.

‘Man, you will die while I am in the bathroom.’
When a Kikuyu man tells you that, what he means is that he will do anything for you.

Anyway, I nod four times.With nods so hard that my head hits the table and goes shoosh until I see stars yet its not night time.

Instead of honouring me with four rounds,Wa Njeri tells me to be careful with my head since it has a very important task ahead.

After feasting on a mould of roast meat big enough to offer burnt sacrifice for a god of a small religion, we burp to tell Wanja that it was burnt well.Then we start reminiscing about our escapades in Northern Kenya.

When it started getting dark, my friend said its good that we left so that we can reach home when we could still see ourselves.

At the car park, Wa Njeri removed a toothpick from his mouth,hiccuped,then slurred:

‘Na umenye ni ukarugamirira uhiki wakwa’.
You will have to be in my bridal party.

All along he had never at any time mentioned that he had a wedding coming up.Mostly because most men are forced to do church wedding by their ‘kali’ wives.

After that , he powered his aging pickup towards Thika Road, its single headlamp lighting the way ahead like a mono-eyed ogre.This fella can buy drinks enough to float a small boat but cant replace a headlamp of Ksh 1,200.Anyway, forget him.My jalopy is no better condition.

I am not particulary fond of weddings.Most of the weddings I have attended is because either missus dragged me there.Or my little girls cajoled me to take them to see ‘Bibi Harusi’.I am yet to hear somebody say that they went to a wedding to see Bwana Harusi.Weddings arent for men.

Anyway, I mulled over the idea of standing for a wedding in my mango shaped head which was now going shoosh with ale.

Standing for a wedding means wearing a kitenge shirt that matches with your trousers which matches with your boxers.And having ladies wearing kitenges dresses that match with their headgears.Which match with their kamithis which in turn match with your boxers.
All thirty of you.

Standing for a wedding means spending a whole day with the bridal party drinking sodas at the high table until a Fat Lady sings in shrill voice..harusi tunayo! Then the place breaks into frenzied hour long dancing.

Standing for a wedding also means hearing the bride and bridegroom utter impossible vows like ’till death do us part’ or ‘in health or in pain’.
But since it wasnt my wedding and I wasnt the one to utter those impossible vows, I saw no harm in attending it.

I didnt know the trouble I was bringing myself into.I will tell you about them in Part 2.