It’s Not Right

It was the late 90s, and I swore to practice dance affirmative action: I would only dance to songs by black musicians. Practically, this meant I spent more time off the floor than on—Cher was always an exception. Whitney’s song—Thunderpuss mix, I believe—became an anthem, expressing my frustration with limited dance time and my general... Continue Reading →

Dear Kenyan Teenage Boys

I have been told that you do not read. This Christmas, please ask those who love you and buy you things to get you a copy of John Cleland's Fanny Hill, available in the Penguin edition at Text Book Centre and Bookpoint for the princely sum of Kshs 180. You will thank me. I assure... Continue Reading →

“I’m Not Listening”: Kenyan Whiteness

Kenyan whiteness is righteous rightness. Hyper-corrective toward non-whites, hyper-aware of its privileged status, hyper-willing to exercise its privilege and whip the natives into place. A blustering white man yelled obscenities at my cab guy. When I subsequently confronted the blusterer—it’s that kind of day—he insisted: “he broke the law,” and repeated several times, “I’m not... Continue Reading →

Medical Emergencies

The Kenyan education system considers medical doctors, including dentists and pharmacists, to be our best and brightest. In our competitive—and elite-making—public education system, medical doctors are the cherry on top, the prize, those who have proved themselves worthy. Medicine is not considered a vocation; I write this understanding how the term “vocation” can be misused... Continue Reading →

At War?

Despite the guards who routinely search us as we enter Sarit Centre, Yaya, Westgate, but not Junction (curious, that), these being high-end shopping places, and despite nervous titters about bombs and terrorists, Nairobi feels indifferent to the war. Mainstream newspapers barely cover it—a recent article in the DN, treats an excursion into the “Somalia jungle”... Continue Reading →

Reading Caroline Nderitu

Caroline Nderitu is, arguably, Kenya’s most public poet. As the Profile in her collection Caroline Verses notes, since August 1996 her “unique brand of original performance poetry has become a regular feature at government, corporate, educational and charity functions. She has “a poem for every occasion.” I am boggled by Nderitu’s 15-year career as a... Continue Reading →

World AIDS Day & Rape

A friend tells me that 50% of schoolgirls in a local primary school have been raped. That is, girls aged from 6-14. Elsewhere, it’s 70% of the girls. I’ve yet to find numbers on the boys. Of the over 5,000 cases still to be tried from Kenya’s Post-Election Violence in 2007-8, not a single one... Continue Reading →

Unprotected Territories

As yet more articles flood the newspapers about Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto, and Raila Odinga, I wonder about the names and lives of former residents from Kiang’ombe and Mitumba whose houses have been torn down by the government. Strikingly, while press coverage of Syokimau, a middle-class enclave, has offered story after story of bank loans... Continue Reading →

Locating War

On October 21, 1952, a day after the official start of the emergency in Kenya, colonial forces bulldozed my maternal grandfather’s stone house. My grandfather had, by this time, already been arrested and placed in detention, along with many other Kenyan men. His crime? He taught in an independent school in Githunguri. This scene is... Continue Reading →

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