This weekend, a popular writer lit up the internet after sharing her ‘unmotherly’ relationship with her son.In a long candid Facebook post,she opened up on how she doesnt love her son of seven years.This post isnt about her, or her son, but about the complex social issues raised by that post.

In one of her last novels- God Help the Child- Toni Morrison tells the story of a black woman called Sweetness who gives birth to a child she hates from the word go.

While Sweetness is lightskinned, with hair colour they call ‘high yellow’, the child’s skin is midnight black.Black than a Sudanese.The child- whose name is Bride- has curly hair like those naked tribes of Australia.Sweetness hates the child from the start.

Bride grows up without her mother’s love and affection.Sweetness wont even touch her daughter’s skin without a sponge or cloth.Her colour becomes the cross she had to always carry.

In the end, its Sweetness cruelty to her daughter that impacts on Bride’s life, rather than the colour of her skin. She ends up a fractured child- just like her mom. This is a recurring theme in Toni Morrison’s novels.

Many readers of the book say that Sweetness suffered from post partum depression.I have a problem with the increasing lay use of the word ‘depression’ , together with its prefixes like post partum, clinical,etc.This is because it leads to medicalization of phenomena that are social in nature.

Two,there’s the danger of lumping of complex social phenomena into a single medical condition.Which in turn leads to use of medical means to solve psycho- social problems.

So what is post partum depression?Does ithave biological roots- such as dramatic changes in hormones that occurs after birth?Or does it occur from social causes- such as lacl of support in the motherhood role? Or does it-like in the fictional example of the Sweetness above-originate from unmet expectations in the looks of the new-born baby?

We need to discuss post partum conditions in women. But while we do that, we need to avoid exploring it solely as a medical condition that requires to be solved by popping in anti- depressants. We also need to explore it as a culturally bound syndrome that originates in the mother’s pyscho- social environment.


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 decolonized our foods. And did away with overrated Eurocentric fruits and go back to ‘matomokas’ and ‘matuyas’ and ‘ngambura’.That aside, what’s the English name for ‘matuya?’ and ‘ngambura?’ Which other forgotten fruit do we need to bring back to our plates?


One of my favourite past times in Wajir was whiling away time at the Law Courts.This was an utilitarian hobby because I had several friends working there who could buy choma at the nearby Prisons Canteen after the court adjourned.It was fun seeing the same buddies wearing legal stonefaces in the court room,yet the previous night we were shouting expletives at Nghamia club after marinating our livers with frothies.But that’s life in Norther Kenya.Someday I dropped by the court and found at the dock was a young chap who had been accused of doing ‘tabia mbaya’ with a goat .Forget the legal term for his act- they can be very descriptive.Something like performing indecent acts with an animal which is against Section 76 (i) of the Penal Code as read with the Animals Act 2006.Anyway,the fellow didn’t look like someone who would go down on a goat.But I wasn’t here to judge but to extract lunch from one of my buddies.After listening to the case for a while,I deduced that the fellow had no chance.One,he was a non local.Which meant that he had slim chance of his case being diverted to maslah system-the traditional Somali courts.Maslah system is an age old Somali judiciary which resolves complicated curses like murder in a way the High Court would envy.At the essence of maslah system are two things.One, the compensation of the family of the person who has been wronged.Two, the punishment is not meted on the individual but on his kinsmen.A win win situation.This doesnt happen in modern legal system because the course of justice often prevents it.Back to the guy of and his goat.When the veterinary doctor went on dock to give expert evidence,the guy’s fate was sealed.The vet told the court that there were signs that indeed,the goats private parts(you all know which word I am avoiding here) had been penetrated.The owner of the goat which had allegedly been defiled smiled knowingly.His one hundred or so clansmen broke into loud chatter.The court was called to order.After his expert evidence,the vet doctor folded his neat folder and sat down.The accused person’s lawyers shot up.He was a short smiling fellow,who did his things slowly but meticulously.‘You have told this court that the vulva of that goat showed signs of having been penetrated?’ He posed to the vet Doc. ‘Yes’.The Doc replied.’Were there any male goats around?’ The lawyer asked.’Yes’.The vet doc replied,not aware where this was leading to.’Is it possible to differentiate whether the goat was penetrated by a goat or by a human being?”No.’The vet doctor said.’No more questions your honour.’The lawyer then sat down.The prosecution had failed to prove beyond resonable doubt that the goat was penetrated by the man on the dock.The accused was set free.The goat’s owner and his 100 clansmen left the court downcast.I am sure the clansmen approached the young man to settle the case under maslah system because for that community, the course of justice in modern legal system is sometimes the cause of injustice.


Once upon a camel in Habaswein, I had one Sheikh Hassan as my landlord.That soft spoken man with a goatee dyed the colour of Royco was an Islamic Education teacher at the local secondary school.Some end months,I would tell him that I had gone to Wajir town to get my pay to settle his rent. After drawing my salary from KCB Wajir,I would go to Ngamia Club for lunch.At around midday,the air would be shattered by the landing of a big Jumbo called Juba Airlines in the nearby Wajir airport.That humongous thing that could fit a small village plus all its grunting camels used to charge Ksh 3,800 to Nairobi then.I would weigh between going back to Habaswein to pay rent and going home to see my children.The children would win,finally.Or love would win over financial obligations.Thus I would board the big jumbo and by 3pm I would be at Tea Room,waiting for a matatu home.That thing was fast.When I would get back to Habaswein,I would play hide and seek with Sheikh,seeing that I owed him rent.At some point,we would meet,him sitting on the mat outside his dash just after Maghreb prayers.Dash is a man’s ‘thingira’ in Somali.‘Habari ya nyumbani?’ Sheikh would ask,a thousand watt smile lighting up his face.’Salama.’ I would answer.’Na habari ya bibi?”Na watoto?’His salaams would go on in the elaborate salaams style of pastoral communities.If you have camels they even ask ‘habari ya ghamia’.Then I would weave a tall tale on how I used all the rent money for some emergency at home and he would quip:’Hakuna shida.Mungu atapeana.’And that would end it-until another month’s rent would become due.But rent was not the only point of conflict between me and the amiable sheikh.Every evening,we would go to the local police canteen which we called Mabatini to shoot breeze and generally pass time.The maître d of the only shanty hotel there was an Embu lady called Muthoni.Now,Muthoni was infamous for serving chicken with one leg or one wing missing if you placed a full chicken order.However,she made up for those small failings by cooking the illest goat head I have ever known.We used to call it ‘headache’ for no particular reason.Muthoni kept a horde of dogs which customers were obligated to feed as they ate.Otherwise if she noted you were mean to her dogs,she would been mean to you and disqualify you from credit.To be on her good books,I would drop the dogs some morsels as I ate.Which in turn made the dogs befriend me-just like anybody else who did that.Come the time to go home,the more than 9 canines would accompany me home in the moonlit lanes,playing and cajoling and being generally naughty.One day the dogs and I arrived at Sheikh’s compound to find him saying the 8 oclock prayers.The dogs went around him,some particulary naughty ones wagging their mangy tails at the Sheikh.Mind you,dogs are ritually unclean in Islam.The following day,the Sheikh warned me that those dogs should never come to his compound again.I protested,saying that I didn’t invite them but they just followed me.This happened several times,until I had to tell Muthoni to tell his dogs not to follow me.She ignored my pleas, so I changed tact.I told her that her canines are flea infested-and might even have rabies.And they were the sole reason Habaswein hadnt rained for the previous two years.The following day,I was withdrawn from Muthoni’s credit worthy list and had to eat on cash or starve.Her dogs too withdrew their nocturnal escort services-with immediate effect.Of course with orders from their Master.When the Sheikh noted that I had amended my ways and discarded my mannerless mangy friends, he started inviting me for dinner.Which we ate sitting cross legged on a mat outside his dash, the stars shining our way.This saved me from starving since Muthoni had withdrawn her credit services from yours truly.Sometimes its better to lose nine unwanted friends to retain one valued friend.


Before my uncle settled down in the village, he lived like a hobo. He loved the road, and found its freedom seductive, like a dimpled glass.He cursed like a black movie screen icon-all the while hopping from one pub to another.

When I came of age, he had just reached that age when women buy aging creams to slow aging, and men buy fast cars for the same reason. Those days, he swaggered around with the front buttons of his silk shirt open, to cool the high octane testosterone fire raging in his chest

One odd Saturday, he woke me up roughly and tasked me to polish his new Renault 4- then fondly known as Renault Roho.Its inside smelt like asphalt, desire, and dreams. It was wildly popular then since it was the first car to come with a humongous derriere- like a slay queen. Slay queens later copied it- fashion is cyclical.

With a scratching melody coming from the radio and our hair flirting with the wind, we hit the road. On the way, we gave a lift to an old couple headed to church. They commended us on how swanky the car looked- with leather seats and AM radio.My uncle then beamed with pride like a goat fed on those leaves called ‘mukenia’ which made them smile.Then chimed:’

‘Gaka kanyuaga ime ta ngiria.'(The one imbibes fuel sparingly like cricket does on dew.)When the old couple reached their destination, the old lady alighted half-heartedly.

“Where are we going?” I asked uncle.” I dunno.”He grunted inaudibly back, his head lost in the funky Steele Beauttah song playing on the radio. He sang along loudly, like he owned the universe.At Maragwa, we bought those long green and yellow “miraru’ bananas- which my uncle called pistols.Watching too many black movies had influenced his choice of words.

Later, We then ended up getting lost- but in the right direction- since we ended up in the parking of a pub called Kahiriga.Nice cosy joint that’s not on any map. But most nice places arent anyway.Kahiriga is still there, struggling to get customers, like an ageing tart.

I was still wet behind the ears so uncle ordered Coke for me as he and his friends took hard stuff.A stocky lass called Mwihaki inserted a coin into the jukebox, which burst to life with Kamaru songs.She had this well-formed calves from climbing many a Murang’a hill. But when her hips swayed, wallets swayed too, emptying everything into hers.I wont go into the other emptying of proteins that would take place later, in the neighbouring Wanjerere Bar and Lodging.

As we were about to leave,a drunk was peeing on the tyres of our car.He had this roughly hewn face- which looked like a road map to every seedy chang’aa joint in the hood.A face that betrayed how life had wronged him.

“Shadao! If you continue peeing on the tyres of that my new car, I will cut your wee thing off!”My uncle slurred, pointing a thick brutal finger at the sod.

“Then you will need a very big knife for that.” The drunk boasted back.I am not an expert at human anatomy, but going by his frame,he could make those Mwea donkeys envious.

“You nincoompop!” My uncle cursed him back. Apart from Dr.Gikonyo Kiano,he was the most educated man in the district, and his English was impeccable.Still is. Leaning on the car’s bonnet,uncle lit a Nyota cigarette,stuck out his chest out and like a ghetto king from a blaxploitation movie and yelled at me:

“Nigga,git me ma pistol from the fuckin’ boot. Fast!”I went to the car boot and found those long bananas we had bought at Maragwa.

“Master,the yellow ones or the green ones?”I asked, feebly.

“Yellow one, idiot! The greens ones are for damn cows.”

The drunks gush reduced to a trickle, then a drip drop. Then he melted into the night like a cowardly evil spirit chased out by some potent juju.In a journey, the lessons come from the journey, not the destination.


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.


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.



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?


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.


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.


Corona has come with some welcome paradigm shifts. One of my favourite is the need for decreased bodily contact- which includes hugs.

I have never been fond of hugs.Not because they are inherently bad;but because most men dont know how to hug.I have also been influenced by my uncle who sneers at men who hug with an epithet like ‘maiyuria ndua’.Useless men.

To set the record straight, here are some fast rules about hugging for men:

A lady to a lady hug can go on forever- its one of their few inventions anyway.But a brother to brother hug should be brief- 00.5 seconds utmost according to John Hopkins University Centre for Men Studies.Anything longer than that is invasion of a man’s privacy which is a serious offence.

Most men dont know what to do with their hands when they hug.When hugging ladies,some deliberately let their uncouth fingers wander on the ladies backs.We know their aim is to pry open the bra straps.Such ne’er do wells will gnash their teeth in the same cubicle with Wanugu, Wacucu and Hitler in the hereafter.Thus saith the holy writ.

Cursed is the man who touches another man’s gluteus maximus( I am avoiding the word ‘ass’ here)when hugging.A mans sitting area should only be touched by his mom when applying baby ‘poda’ on it when young.Anybody who tries to touch it after that in the name of a hug commits an offence punishable by law as outlined in the Sexual Offences Act( 2006)

Men shouldnt look into each others eyes when hugging.Its supposed to be one shoulder bumping to one shoulder while facing the other way.Not chest to chest kind of thing like high school sissies or Mothers’ Union mamas.

The rough a hug between two men is, the better it is.Thats how the world knows we got high octane testerone coursing in our veins.Men who break this rule should have their certificate of good conduct withheld.

Ladies can hug after every hour for all we care.But no two men should hug more than thrice a year without written permission from Director of Health.When we will pay China’s astronomical debt if all we do is hug?

No two men should laugh or giggle when hugging.Mens’ hugs should be accompanied by silence.Dark aristocratic silence that says their moms brought them up well.If there has to be sound,then its only some deep grunts like the Neanderthals we are.

Thats all brothers.Go forth and hug no more.