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Showing posts from 2008

Heri Ya Mwaka Mpya

Happy New Year! I wish you good health, peace and success in 2009. Thank you to all of the amazing, wonderful souls I've met since I launched Mama Shujaa just eight weeks ago - My DRUM. Thank you for beating it with me. I look forward to us exploring the different rhythms in our lives.

In the meantime the rhythm that runs through these amazing young Djembe players - Isaiah and Abdoulaye - mmpphh! Simply beautiful.




Asante sana, stay blessed! The beat continues...

Mama Shujaa.

Tell Me

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As you complete your memoir, please tell me, again. Tell me about the passion that resulted in a tragedy, in one act, the prize-winning scar. Remind me about the manuscript I helped type: Ripples in the pool, that unleashed a plethora of discourses on the protagonist, a prostitute, a mother... and quests for origins. Revive in me the drama surrounding the discovery of the hypocrite amongst us. Was that indeed a turning point in life?

Tell me about Kenyan women heroes like you, and their mystical power. So that I may continue to be inspired by my uriithi; rooted in East Africa, transmuted in the Diaspora.
So that I am reminded of the significance of correcting stereotypes. So that I am appreciative of ingenious oral narratives captured in those exciting folktales.
Awaken in me The Sacred Seed(s) from which dreams of love and hope are created. So that I may pass the tradition on to your grandchildren.
Carry me forward with the sweet harmony of your love, as indeed you have, every step of t…

Peachtree's Core

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By HANA NJAU-OKOLO

The train rolls into Peachtree Center Station,
Passengers alight.

Thick black braids projecting
North South East and West.
She heads south on the platform.

Moving in step behind her
Trusting her built-in compass
A coiffed hair-do and
A proper bespoke suit.
His meeting is southwest
At the Ritz Carlton.

Black mascara over blond,
Stiletto heels and all.
She has time to kill at
Café Hard Rock.

Ping Pong paddles in tow,
He heads west with alacrity.
The World Congress Center has
An All-Star show.

The comings and goings of folk
In this spherical gray passageway,
Dry coconut husks adorn
Solid gneiss walls
Cut from the strata of the earth.

A moving stairway towers ahead
Continually rising
To a bright light in the sky.

Multitudes of screaming blue tiles
Plastered to the left and to the right
Cry out in the light
And die in the solitude of darkness.

Lips pursed,
She sucks unrepentantly
At the marrow
Lodged between her teeth.
No. 3 at KFC.
Who’s scared? She quips.

The two-minute perpendicular ride,
An ascension that…

Mistaken Identity

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By Hana Njau-Okolo

No authentic African woman would love her goat with the same reckless abandon of my groovy friend and her boy-toy over at MyBrownBaby.

Gem Gume (pronounced gem gyüm), joined the family when a good uncle bequeathed her as a gift to the family. It is customary in African culture to gift cows, goats, or chickens as bride-price, and for celebrations like birthdays, circumcision rituals, christenings, Independence Day (not the movie), Christmas and New Year’s.

The expectation is that the animals will be slaughtered and eaten on the occasion.

Gem Gume, was one of several tokens of appreciation from my uncle who had given us his first-born daughter to live with our family in Kenya. Why? First, because at the time, educational opportunities for further studies were probably better in Kenya than in Tanzania; and second, my uncle had five children to my parents' two, at the time.

My cousin, now the oldest child became the main tour guide of, and assisted with, the day-to-day w…

Dying To Be Accepted

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Pamela Kathambi was fifteen years old when she died. Her death was a loss to her village because she was a very hardworking young lady who would have completed her education and gone on to become somebody...and helped somebody. As hard as she worked and as much as she was appreciated, at the end of the day, she had to accept herself. In the stillness of her soul, she had to like herself. She did not. The age-old internalized traditions had penetrated her spirit, even beyond the current wisdom of her own mother.

As she developed into a woman, as her breasts peeked, as her hips filled out, as she experienced her first menstrual cycle, only one act of honor would guarantee her an upstanding place in the community. That act of initiation was circumcision.

When her mother refused to let her undergo the ritual, she grew depressed. She suffered ridicule from friends and school-mates. They called her mukenye (the derogatory name given to uncircumcised ladies). She feared that she would be ostra…

Joel's Plate

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By HANA NJAU-OKOLO

Joel’s teeth chattered noisily
shamelessly betraying him again.
Ten days into Indian summer and
His built-in weather vane
was signaling the onset of winter.

“You ain’t no man!”
Pealed into his eardrums.
It’s fresh cadence seeping through,
The knotted heap of perpetual questions
Lining the cockles of his heart.

Undeserved taunts spilled from
The lips of boys and girls
With sweet pubescence
Around the school yard.

Why at no cost,
Will Joel exhibit that false bravado,
The Big Apple swagger of his hometown?

Now, choppy phrases enunciated in pain,
Trip off his tongue as he tries to explain,
To Ms. Bona Fide, once again.

“Wait a minute, wait a minute now. Let me talk!”
Was all he asked, he explained.

His lanky back retreats into the tightly woven fabric
Of the special brown chair, as he waits for Ms. Bona Fide
To meet him half-way.

The iridescent make-up on her eyes shimmers across the table,
An oasis extending beyond the hospitable smile on her face,
Warming the strident ache out of the metal plate…

Fellas, Now We Understand!

What comes to mind when you watch this video? Wacha wewe!

Baby Girl, Happy Birthday Kipenzi!

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Leo Ni Bathdei Yako Kipenzi!
Happy Birthday our darling! You are our joy, our Taji. It takes a simple perusal of your twenty-three years to conclude that indeed, you are One Beautyful One That Was Born.

Mungu Akubariki. God Bless You.

Love,
Mama, Dad, Emmanuel and Chid

Copyright © Hana Njau-Okolo 2008. All Rights Reserved.

Me And My New Boots, Yesterday

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I clutched the scarf around my neck, tightening it a smidgen. White, cold, flaky stuff was falling with no rhyme or reason. Intermittent flurries, not sporadic enough to prevent a million of them from landing on my freshly straightened hair. I didn’t care. There was no time to return to the office for the umbrella. I had just an hour during lunch to walk the half mile to the bank, complete the transaction and return to clock in at 2:00 p.m. Sharp.

It was not chilly, just disagreeably damp. I made a futile attempt to zip my jacket. This week my bust was not budging. I clasped my hands instead.

The hallway coat closet needs re-inventorying before the month is over.

I walked past MARTA, up Lenox Road towards Peachtree Street. I am a master walker. Right, left, right, left. A gentleman ahead of me branched off towards the slanted cobblestone walkway leading into the Lenox Building. A shortcut. I followed. He seemed to slow down.

I kept walking. Left, right, and then! My left foot skidded on t…

World AIDS Day

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We are back to a regular work week, most of us. Some are considering what to do with Thanksgiving leftovers. Some don't even want to think about food. Are there those among us who are experiencing Black Friday Remorse and Cyber Monday Blues? Or those that are marking off to-do lists, shopping lists, and planning the next holiday?

Let's take today to focus on the concern around the world. Because, it is only when our level of consciousness and compassion is raised that we can collectively fight the stigma that is attached to the epidemic that former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called "the genocide of a generation."

I urge you to harness your personal resources (spiritual, physical, economic) and commit to making a difference. First and foremost, recognize your ability to do so. Visit Twana Twitu and learn about how you can make a difference in the lives of Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVC) in Kenya.

Peace.

My Brown Baby, THE Space For Moms

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I've been following MyBrownBaby for a few months now and I absolutely love the joint! Founder and Editor Denene Millner has a terrific sense of humor and has created a warm, inviting place where moms share wonderful tidbits about motherhood. And, from time to time she runs fabulous contests such as the one I am broadcasting here today.

This week, the give-away is a solid set of four incredible autographed books penned and illustrated by the prolific husband and wife duo, Andrea and Brian Pinkney.

One winner will receive Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation; Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince & His Orchestra; Peggony Po: A Whale Of a Tale, and; Mim’s Christmas Jam.

Hebu (just) imagine?!

Don't delay, the contest ends at 11:59 pm EST on November 30, 2008, and with the holidays coming up, these will make wonderful gifts. Visit MyBrownBaby, enter the contest and tell them MamaShujaa sent you.
Sawa?

Africa is Not a Country

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Just recently, I took my son and his best buddy to watch Madagascar Escape 2 Africa. It seems there are quite a number of folks in America who think Africa is a country. Gloria, the curvaceous hippo is in contention with Sarah Palin for the Mama Shujaa2008 Seriously Uninformed Character Award.
Picture this scene: Moto Moto, the massive watering-hole womanizer swaggers over to Gloria as she lounges on a cool rock somewhere in Africa, sipping a Martini. L.U.V. is on his mind and with a name like Moto Moto you’d expect more than the thought-terminating platitudes that issue from his bulbous lips. You learn very quickly that he is all mass, no substance.
Miss Thing on the other hand has got it going on. She knows the meaning of his name: Moto Moto means Hot Hot in “African!” Uh, Africa is not a country, Missy. It is a vast continent made up of 53 countries with an estimated 2000 languages spoken. DreamWorks and its writers should take note. Going forward, we want far more inspiring and rel…

Just Want To Say Asante Sana. Thank You.

Paa Ya Paa Creative Arts Center is located in Nairobi, Kenya. Paa Ya Paa is a Kiswahili phrase which means “the antelope rises,” a symbol of new creative adventures, a place where ideas flourish and flow freely. This is where we get the Utu I speak about in my From Kenya With Love post. Enjoy the video andAsante kina Baba na MamaAsante FamiliaAsante MunguCopyright © Hana Njau-Okolo 2008. All Rights Reserved.

This Is Not My Africa

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Map Source: AP

13 Year Old Somali Girl Stoned To Death

A thirteen year old girl was stoned to death before one thousand spectators in a stadium in the southern port of Kismayo, Somalia.

On October 27, 2008 Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow was stoned to death by members of Al-Shabab. What did Aisha do? In breach of Islamic law, she had committed adultery.

The truth is that Aisha was gang-raped by three men. When Aisha attempted to report this to the Al-Shabab, they accused her of adultery, and detained her. None of the three accused men were arrested.

It all began in August 2008 when Aisha traveled from a refugee camp in Northern Kenya to Kimayo, and was held there against her will by the militants. As the days went by, she grew distressed and it was reported that she became emotional, or mentally unstable.

Initial reports stated that Aisha was 23 years old, but her father confirmed to Amnesty International that her actual age was 13. Under Islamic law, convicting a girl of 13 for adultery is illegal. …

Essential Utensils

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Thanksgiving is right around the corner. This year I’m tweaking our traditional menu. I’m thinking about cooking roasted Turducken, a partially de-boned turkey stuffed with a de-boned duck, which itself is stuffed with a small de-boned chicken. That sounds like GOODNESS to me!

I am going to roll up my sleeves and learn how to de-bone and stuff poultry because I love the decadent, excessive act of slicing into a layered multi-bird roast and devouring it. Mmpphh! Oh, and my side dishes will include jollof rice, chapatis and dengu - African dishes that I can prepare with eyes wide shut.

You see, as is customary in many African cultures my Shangazi (paternal Aunt), taught me how to cook when I was a pubescent teen. For that I am truly thankful. I do feel a little cheated though because some of my sisters from Uganda received extra training. In the Baganda and Basoga cultures, the Ssenga (paternal Aunt), delivered skills for the kitchen as well as the bedroom.

Using utensils such as the pestl…

Barometric Pressure

On this post-election Sunday I’m mulling over two interesting occurrences of social contact that materialized on Friday. Help me angaza; shed some light here as the historical magnitude of this election sinks in.

The day began like it was going to be a horrible, no good, very bad day. I developed a headache very early in the morning. It was slow in its emergence and persistent in its pounding. Sharon, a co-worker diagnosed it as a barometric pressure headache. According to meteorologists there was a storm on the way and sensitive folks like me are usually affected. I was inclined to trust her diagnosis as she is an experienced migraine sufferer. So I took two of the strongest stuff in the office, Back & Muscle Relief tablets.

It was close to mid-morning when the buoyant, good-looking Caucasian office services guy stopped by on a routine mail drop-off and pick-up.

“T. G. I. F!” He said cheerfully, pausing at my cubicle. Thankfully, the throbbing at my temples had somewhat subsided.

“Ye…

From Kenya With Love

Barack Obama’s win is good for my Kenyan soul. This morning, my husband said he noticed that there was more ounce in my bounce. I too was surprised at how refreshed I felt, considering I'd clocked a mere three hours of sleep after a momentous 2008 election night.

Just as fresh on my mind this morning, is that last night I was quite okay with our oldest daughter's emotional comment that she was finally proud to call herself an American.

Aside from a momentary tinge of guilt that we had probably succeeded in robbing her and her siblings of an allegiance to the American flag (more on that later), I felt more strongly the overwhelmingly redeeming quality of Barack Obama’s victory.

At last, the distortions that have made up the fabric of American socio-cultural relations would exist no more. Finally, the suffocating guilt that bleeds into relationships and chokes them into premature death would be eradicated as time went by.

Indeed, our children can now brandish their U.S. passports, b…