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Kenya, Will You Marry Me?

Philo Ikonya

Publication Year: 2011

On my cell-phone the time is 3.00am. I am not holding a religion in my hand to check the hour, just a cell phone to orient me. This is a June morning and it is cold here. I turn in my bed and close my eyes. The map of Kenya appears first vaguely on my mind. It has no in-land features but this shape I see is definitely hers. Burning borders. Red inside. It is not the red of wine or even Christmas. We are not in celebration. Inside burning borders she is a deep reddish brown color; angry red. Coffee red. It is a red which disturbs my mind. [....] The taste of injustice is bitter. It kills the minds and souls of the living. How do we close chapters of the pain of a nation without closure? You are new. I know you. I love you, Kenya. From your earth, your soil, I was created because it is your earth my parents ate. Yet still, I have to ask you if I can step on your soil today. If you can please accept me to walk on you here and there, for this I will always plead. My feet you see, are my heart! They love you. I feel your pain directly from the soil into my heart when I walk on you. And you have been hurt so many times.

Published by: African Books Collective

Cover

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pp. c-ii

Title page

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p. iii-iii

Copyright page

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p. iv-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Prologue: My Bed of Thorns in Nairobi - June 2007

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pp. vii-x

On my cell-phone the time is 3.00am. I am not holding a religion in my hand to check the hour, just a cell phone to orient me. This is a June morning and it is cold here. I turn in my bed and close my eyes. The map of Kenya appears first vaguely on my mind. It has no in-land features but this shape I see is definitely hers. Burning borders. Red inside. It is not the red of wine or even...

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1. Birth pangs

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pp. 1-6

I did not know that a quarrel between people- who are not the father and mother of the fetus, can lead not just one, but many women to miscarry. I learned that one early morning when on the first day of August, 1982 Kenya woke up to news of a...

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2. Our home

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pp. 7-18

I am often outside our house always staring at the bamboo patterns, I see how our house was made. Being so small, no one really bothers what I am doing or what I see. Dark fingers from long bare hands press small beige bamboo canes into a rectangle. Wet clay accepts the halved bamboo canes letting them sink in gently...

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3. Pain and balm

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pp. 19-30

Easterly wind, run the earth, turn me into hope. We are back to today and all attentive. Kenyalin is the first to ask a question. “I am always listening to good things, but am losing strength and faith. It is hard to live in a slum area. Some even say we should not use that word. When friendship and...

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4. My head is in my heart

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pp. 31-36

Story! story! story! My story and Savaiva’s go beyond story. That is why I say, story! story! story! as if it flows like a river. Let your big story also come. We all have had fathers and mothers and we have this land. Aaiya, what have I said? My written story is beyond this written one. It falls off the edge of...

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5. Stories- our bricks for a home

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pp. 37-46

Umoja, Pamoja and Nyanjiru know so much. Kenyalin tells them to insist that I tell my story completely. She wants to know how I came to know freedom.
The sound of the rain is a happy one. When the rain rolls down on the tin roof we are rich enough to have, they say, we sing. Sheets...

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6. He departed, they told me

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pp. 47-58

That season, De Gado, the maize no longer showed off its silky hair which they called kimira in my language, meaning mucous. Mother had to buy fertilizer as we could no longer rely on mulching and she also bought cow dung for a good crop. Grandmother Em -whose husband’s land was vast before...

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7. Tracing little graves

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pp. 59-66

All of you have sung a chorus begging that the stories do not stop. You say that at another time you will tell your own stories. You must do this. You say that in my story, you hear your stories. I agree. You beseech me to carry on in sweetness and in pain, till hope makes us live. I will take your...

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8. Mami’s curfew is endless

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pp. 67-76

Nyanjiru must know, she wants to know what other trials Mami has endured. Nyanjiru says to redeem a nation you need people who never tire of suffering and pain. Mami’s two beautiful girl-angels, Cherita and Mut, were walking and pretty and now they are crawling. These are my two...

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9. We build, you destroy

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pp. 77-84

All live in this meeting that is life. In this meeting we eat and in it we live. We drink and we sleep and never stop. All are in this meeting. Wherever they are, they are thinking, making things and they never stop. Jogu knows that. Nyaga nods. Hariri, Achieng’, Ang’ and Savaiva, all keep going with...

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10. Change

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pp. 85-94

“Are you Change?” Nyaga asks me. If you are Change,” Nyaga says, “how could you take pride in your Father’s crooked house?
He wonders why I continued to live there if I was so ready for change. I ask Pamoja to allow me go back to explain this better. I...

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11. Women in the ring

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pp. 95-100

Savaiva, women have never had an easy life. Do no be cheated. Many of them in marriage are as if they are single. When we speak of hunger, let us count how many hungers we know. The meeting is gathered in warmth to listen to this....

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12. Grains of maize

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pp. 101-106

De Gado was made from a maize cob. Yet people used to ask him if maize could save anyone. That was not simple teasing. It was violent. Hunger is great violence. The pain of helplessness is terrible starvation. The women who carry beads for long distances are very hungry. At home Mami...

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13. Yours was a loving womb, Mami

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pp. 107-114

Ang’ wondered if we ever helped anyone else in our home. I told him that if you never did that- help- you just could not live. Ang’, it is 9am when the sun dances with sweet greetings announcing it will get much hotter by midday. Before we finish our tea, lonesome Wiki, the man we baptised...

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14. Stepping on sun-baked mud

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pp. 115-130

De Gado and Achieng’, tell Ong’ and Umoja that the entire world is here at home. We do not have to go far to see it. It lives here in our villages. Yes, even the skyscrapers of big cities are hidden in our sands. Big river ships and planes too. All we need to do is to discover them....

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15. Baba and Mami, Sing for my land!

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pp. 131-150

Pamoja and Umoja, I tell you, you are descendants of Baba. He is your ancestor. On the morning of a public holiday, Baba would shave and sing, shave and sing before rolling up and turning down his socks to just below his knee on exactly the middle of the calf of his leg. You know the part that...

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16. The waters are bitter

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pp. 151-158

You know I love you all. I love you Pamoja, I love you Umoja. De Gado, Eboni, Ang’ and Hariri, you know it. You know my love Nyaga and Gige, you saw it. If I have to ask you, Pamoja, you who reminds me of Umoja, Unity, in the oneness and the healing of Afrika, where can it be found?...

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17. De Gado has a dream

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pp. 159-168

Eboni, you say you are neglected when I speak. Let me tell you about beauty which in life must be a lover of humor and joy. It is hard for me to see unhappy beauty. People who know pain know beauty also....

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18. He put a song in my breast!

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pp. 169-176

Ang’ and Savaiva, do you know what song that resists can do for us? It can re-make us. It can do more things. I am searching. I know we need more than song. Just let us start somewhere. Maybe like the 33 miners of Chile we need to go deep and then hold on to a continent’s life....

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19. Skating over life and history

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pp. 177-190

Pamoja asks what if they do not remember that women ever did anything to redeem our nation. She knows that women did many things. She is furious at the thought that often they are forgotten. She takes over suddenly and speaks addressing herself to Kenyalin and Umoja directly....

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20. Everybody is pointing at my nation

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pp. 191-196

Achieng, Ong’, and Kenyalin, it is not only my children who are embarrassed when they speak about our country abroad and everywhere. Even if you want to say you are of a new generation, politics at home drags you down. Baba above is ashamed that all are pointing fingers at our nation. Pamoja...

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21. Headstand. We are Baobab women with all medecines

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pp. 197-204

Hariri asks me what has gone wrong. Why have I stopped my romantic dance and started the difficult almost impossible work. How can we have a revolution if we oppose bloodshed Jogu, Gige and Ong’ ask. Listen one and all. Women shed blood all the time. This is our revolution. Sometimes they shed it for custom...

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22. Not without mother and son!

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pp. 205-210

This is not a still picture. She moves even now. A woman in Mt. Elgon checks in her handkerchief knot to carefully see if her voter’s card is still in there. Another one does it in Kiabuu, in Kisumu and Mombasa. In Elgon, she rubs against her identity card and she feels glad. She does not want to...

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23. Whispering over lake Turkana

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pp. 211-216

All of us, Let us join hands with Pamoja, De Gado, Hariri, Umoja and all of us: Acheing’, Ang’ Kenyalin, Jogu, Gige… all of us. It is a new world. Everything is different from anything I have seen in Kenya. I put my hard brown ankle high boot on the ground on a piece of black rock. It was as if the hard...

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24. The Bird of Paradise and the missing signatures

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pp. 217-228

Pamoja and Umoja, we have fought each other to the ground long enough. Let us fight to fly off he ground together. So it was end of December 2007 and the year 2008 was into its second month. Finally, do you see that it is pens and not pangas that do it? That it is not signatures but many words and...

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25. The Exodus

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pp. 229-230

Kenyalin, Eboni, Achieng’ and Ong’ call the others. Let us arise and go.

We walked down the wide and winding tarmac path that goes downhill to our gate in a city flat, my little friend and I, talking and laughing about many little things....

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26. Hariri- As beautiful as beauty

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pp. 231-234

Hariri. Your name means beauty. Fear kills beauty, all wisdom and truth. Do you remember this rural woman who said to the powers above in Ukambani, “Niwatunenga thayu! You have granted us peace. The peace of eating what there is to eat without fear, no matter if it be cassava...

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27. The wedding of marriage

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pp. 235-238

There, at the bottom where the Bird of paradise plant raises its crane, where there is a clump of daisies and the plant called Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow which are continued by a low bush of bougainvillea that line the road, there at the beautiful place where Kenya is always waiting to marry...

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Epilogue

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pp. 239-242

You are new. I know you. I love you, Kenya. From your earth, your soil, I was created because it is your earth my parents ate. Yet still, I have to ask you if I can step on your soil today. If you can please accept me to walk on you here and there, for this I will always plead. My feet you see, are my heart! They love you. I feel your pain directly...

Back cover

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p. bc-bc


E-ISBN-13: 9789956579815
Print-ISBN-13: 9789956579792

Page Count: 252
Publication Year: 2011

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