A good memory: in the 1980s, Kenyan women had discovered European and North American hunger for ciondos. Women would buy ciondos, pack them in suitcases, travel to Europe and North America, and raise school fees. In my imagination, the streets of New York smelled like freshly-woven, brightly colored sisal. I would accompany my mother to Kariorkor market, where I’d watch women sitting next to each other, chatting, sharing space, and weaving. Weaving was a communal practice with expansive geographies. Aesthetic labor in a global economy—with all the possible meanings one can attach to economy.
It’s a good memory because it makes my fingers tingle with the remembered texture of sisal as it takes form; my nose itch with the abundance of ciondos; my pleasure centers light up with the excitement of going to the airport to pick up my mother, who always remembered to pick up a box of Quality Street chocolates at duty free, as a dutiful mother should.
Multiple failed attempts at weaving a kiondo have taught me to respect the skill and patience and dedication and craft of weavers, almost always women, and always women in my memory.
If you have been reading Kenyan women over the past few months, you might have noticed the following:
Weaving with zinduko, Hearth Mother, Akitelekmboya’s blog.
Woven alongside M. Mwangola News to Note: Loud Enough to Hear Ourselves and continuing the “Women in Leadership” conversation with Margaretta Wa Gacheru
In conversation with: Wambui Mwangi, Betty Muragori, Phyllis Muthoni, Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, Ngwatilo Mayiwoo, Margaretta wa Gacheru and Jean Thevenet
Weaving alongside Dr. Mshai Mwangola News to Note, Jean Thévenet A Knotted Weave and Phyllis Muthoni The Words We Use. And for those warriors of memory like Dr. Wambui Mwangi (Laboratories Have Advanced) but especially for all of us who are befuddled by the simplest of things.
Weaving from Kenya and Australia and France and South Africa, along and across geographies that have yet to be named, geographies whose names are being woven into being.
If our metaphors accent us, root us, find us, discover us, then weaving places my “r”s and “l”s. Simply it names how I envision and practice aesthetic and academic labor. To weave is to imagine into being, to labor at being, and being collective.
Kenyan women are continuing to weave.
In poems and photographs, fiction and creative non-fiction, anecdote and memoir, journalism and critical prose. Kenyan women are weaving.
Don’t take my word for it.
Read them, see them, experience them weaving.
And to the many others whose words and images and worlds I have yet to encounter.
Thank you for creating new possibilities for how we can inhabit and re-make the world.