Showing posts from 2010


"Strr-o-k-e, strr-o-k-e it shoulders-elbows-fingers strr-o-k-e it come on! Are you breathing?" Hardly. "Heels-toes pump, p-u-m-p it come on! leave your day behind let your body go let your body dance dancing baby come on! Feel the cadence punctuate use your heels syncopate p-u-m-p it curl your toes release! Endorphins." Finding the right balance between work and play is a challenge. So this two-in-one is right up my alley. One hour, three times a week, a worldly instructor with the gift of gab and an international collection of music. Every single time, I mount my saddle in anticipation of the mix of the day. I stroke my bike, legs rotating smoothly, skin glistening with perspiration, and pretty soon, the feel good hormones take over. My body responds to cardio pulmonary aerobics, also known as spin. Here's an example of the music we spin to: Seasons Greetings! Mingi Love, Mama Shujaa.

Bellows of Madness

The much-anticipated match-up between our youngsters and the boys from Ohio was finally underway. After the first whistle, more than the static energy emitting from our blankets charged the air, as we watched from the sidelines on that freezing 27-degree morning. It was day two of the Adidas Invitational and our boys had shed the lackadaisical approach they displayed in the match on the previous day, which ended in a poor result. This morning, they exhibited energy and focus that reminded me of the cliché: “When the road gets tough, the tough get going,” as our boys rose to the occasion of playing the No.1 U12 boys’ team from Ohio. I tucked the blanket tightly around my body, silently praying that my husband would feed off the almost tranquil atmosphere that had settled onto the pitch within minutes of kick-off. Tranquil, because the self-assurance displayed by the Ohio boys was mesmerizing, their playing style was one of validating each other, as one player talked to the other in

Somebody I Know

Last Thursday night I ran into somebody I know at my son's soccer practice session. His son, two years older than mine (fourteen) usually practices on Wednesday nights, but every so often the coaches organize scrimmages between the younger and older boys, which they did Thursday night in preparation for our final tournament of the season. He's a soft-spoken, studious type; happily married like me, by all indications. He and his wife work in the field of Sports Medicine. That night his rimless eyeglasses highlighted the platinum streaks in his hair, a few more than I remembered. And his face drew me in again because even at rest, his lips form into the shape of a smile. He's the kind of guy that is interesting to engage in conversation; he is well-informed and is an attentive listener. "Doing great," I said in response to his question about my son who had suffered a hairline fracture in his right foot in February. "After six months off, he is back strong,

The soaring impulse: On World AIDS Day - A tribute to Swaziland

The soaring impulse: On World AIDS Day - A tribute to Swaziland : "It is World AIDS day and I would like to make a simple tribute to those whom we serve in the country of Swaziland. For their unflinching co..." I met Dr. Maithri (pronounced MY3), about two years ago; he is a medical doctor living in Melbourne, Australia. He is also executive director/co-founder of Possible Dreams International, Inc - a non profit organisation designed to bring tangible hope into the lives of those facing the challenges of extreme poverty, malnutrition, HIV/AIDS and endemic disease. Currently the main focus of the group's our work is in Swaziland, with the gracious people of Swaziland. Swaziland is a country with the highest prevalence of HIV in the world (42%). 10% of its population are orphaned children. It serves as a vivid microcosm of the most emergent and under-recognised humanitarian crisis of our generation: the cycle of poverty and HIV infection.' Click here to read his

The Peacemaker

" You have too much Life in your Voice for it not to be heard ." That line is from Tyler Perry's movie, "For Colored Girls," an adaptation of Ntozake Shange's 1975 play " For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf ." My husband and I watched it on opening night; it was alright, too melodramatic for my taste. I preferred the Choreopoem which allowed for my own interpretation of the nuances in the subjectmatter explored. As opposed to the gag reflex I experienced with all the spoon feeding in the movie. You have too much voice   in your life  for it not to be heard. Even with the transposition of the words life and voice , I like it. It inspires. And encourages, much like the lines an editor shared with me after his review of my submission some time ago: "Looking forward to your next re-submission and remember this 'sure I am of this, that you have only to endure to conquer.'" I endured to the v


There are stories that cause asphyxia, which explains my long interruption in blogging. That and my wonderfully consuming new position at work - in Litigation, where no two days are ever the same; where daydreams (and plot sketches) pale in comparison to the real life cases at hand. But the beast of a story I am working on... it is criss-crossing my mind, weaving tracks, revealing truths, moving me on. I look forward to the end, coming up soon, I can feel it. Siku njema, Mama Shujaa

Who Will Raise This Child

This summer, our hectic travel experience was eased by the Airport Art Program at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. We made time to take a leisurely walk through the Zimbabwe: A Tradition In Stone permanent art collection of twenty contemporary stone sculptures from Zimbabwe. You can read more about the collection here . Who Will Raise The Child by Gladman Zinyeka. Photo:Mama Shujaa, Hartsfield Int'l Airport I like this perspective of Exercising Man . Photo Credit Wiki njema! Mama Shujaa.

Exercising Man

Excercising Man, by Sylvester Mubayi. Photo by Mama Shujaa, Hartsfield International Airport, Atlanta, June 7, 2010 Exercising Man, the anatomy of your body entices my senses; right-angled legs splayed, almost erect. A trunk, flaring in fleshy fullness, growing out of the mass of a boulder from the great house of stone , hinged on right-angled legs splayed, almost erect. A head, carved into shoulders, conjoined for the purpose moving my eyes with fluidity, to the drama of your right-angled legs splayed, almost erect. A highly polished finish, a curved form with carefully placed crevices that create tension, and dramatic relief. Exercising Man, you stretch and lure me into an exploration of your latent energy, and the flow of the rhythm that makes Zimbabwe stone sculpture so powerful in its form. Mama Shujaa.

Crouching Tiger

I could never squat by the roadside and relieve myself, in broad daylight, on sprays of grass in South Africa's breadbasket, the Highveld. No amount of decent cover could convince me to diversify the soil's fertility, to contribute tributary rivulets to fecal mounds of the animal variety scattered on the vast land; dried up, brown black swirls, no longer Swiss cakes to the bluebottle flies buzzing around. I assure you; you would not come upon me crouching behind a clump of bushes as cars speed past on the N1 freeway towards Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein. I am not, after all, an African woman. I be lady o. I no be woman. I be lady o. Market woman, na woman o. I am an acculturated African lady.  And that van load of Nigerian soccer fans, men and women gathered on the side of the road, within inches of each other, in varying positions of relief; spouting, spurting, oblivious to the hundreds of World Cup road travelers, the men of course, having it easier than the women

Shock Absorber

I have become a good shock-absorber, cultural or otherwise.  So, my life is now an important reservoir of long-standing beliefs, and of fresh, unused experiences.  All to be seen in a pleasantly consistent whole, some day. As growth.  An African writer who wants to move into a realm of content that exemplifies humanistic expression, wholly involved in the search for spiritual and intellectual heights that are universal. I am back from our family's South Africa 2010 holiday. And I am an evolving long-distance traveler - Johannesburg to Dubai: 8 hours; Dubai to New York: 13.5 hours; New York to Atlanta: 2.5 hours.  I admit, I do not possess an unbiased eye, and frankly, mimicking passengers at airport security checkpoints, customs and immigration, has worn me out. Yet it inspires a flowering of thought, stories to feed the soul.  Slow eater that I am. Now, the World Cup 2010 Final is upon us:  Holland and Spain.  And I am routing for Holland! Mama Shujaa.

Thoughts, Plans, Reality

My desire was beyond reason:  to read seven books packed in my suitcase, for this too-short 2010 World Cup holiday in South Africa. 1)  My brand new purchases: African Roar , a fiction anthology drawn from the very best stories published from 2007-2009 in the StoryTime  weekly literary ezine dedicated to publishing African writers. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy Away  by Amy Bloom. 2)  My 'started but not finished': Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Love Invents Us by Amy Bloom 3)  And two of my favorite re-reads: Drown  by Junot Diaz Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. What was I thinking?  Our days and nights here in South Africa have been filled with remarkable experiences, some startling in their immediate lessons, others to be processed and reprocessed, and then embraced for a lifetime.  Maybe I'll do some reading on the flights back... Mama Shujaa.


Before my arrival, I had heard about South Africa's world-class infrastructure. Now, here in Johannesburg I have seen for myself, the modern, highly efficient systems in place.  Everything Public works!  The malls are mind-boggling in magnitude (Monte Casino and Sandton City, to name just two of the hundreds) boasting four or five concourses, resplendent with shops dealing in everything under the sun, from high-end to designer to modern basics, you name it!  And the people that traverse the malls halls emerge from every corner of the world;  milling about in the enclosed spaces, amusing, indulging, scrutinizing, profiling. Ah, Johannesburg is rich in diversity. Cream colored or ros é , cement walls stretch across homes, opulent and modest alike.  Ten foot walls topped with barbed wire looping in endless menacing revolutions; alternatively, slender, pointed pieces of metal driven into the walls, thorny ends up, jutting with purpose towards the sky, establishing the unmistakable

Nigeria vs. Argentina

Ellis Park, Johannesburg - June 12, 2010. "Excuse me.  Can you please tie your hair up?  Put it in a pony tail or something?"  My husband, cloaked in our Nigerian flag, said to the young lady in the front row, tapping her shoulder one time too many. "Every time you flick it, it flies into my face," he completed his request, addressing her horrified glance, expecting full compliance. The damsel in distress turned anguished eyes to the fat guy to her left before swinging back with a retort: "It's my hair!" Not sure what to expect, I stole a quick look at hubby and "WTF?" was written all over his face. We were now more than thirty minutes into the match and the couple's euphoria was temporarily disrupted.  The fat guy's Argentina was leading Nigeria 1-0.  With fantastic Category 1 lower level seats, just five rows up from the pitch, right behind the press folk, there was nothing to complain about, except an inconsiderate fan

The Price of a Smile

There is a lack of smiley faces here in Johannesburg. And I need them, thrive on them. Just a little something to bid me Welcome!  The slightest hint, I'll take that.  A change in expression, enough to fool me into thinking that you embrace my presence.  Because I want to identify with you.  Whether symbolic, or fake, like the nanosecond ones dishe d in pulsing metropolises like New York . Transform your face, let your smile hold sway over your mind.  Summon the god of laughter, of joy, even if temporarily for the World Cup, because the world has converged on this great country for a month. I've recovered from my initial hurt on day two, when I discovered that you did that to everyone: talk to them in your own language - Zulu, mostly.  I believed you thought I was one of you, felt momentary compatibility, somehow. All these tourists here, staying in apartments, hotels  needing to shop for groceries in supermarkets, for AC/DC converters in hardware stores, asking for directi

Eating, Drinking, Sleeping Football

We are in the vast and beautiful city of Johannesburg where everybody is eating, drinking, sleeping and dreaming soccer. Yesterday, we watched a fantastic World Cup 2010 Opening Ceremony and opening match at a Fan Park in Sandton City. Some questionable officiating notwithstanding, RSA should have won that match over Mexico. Even so, we are pleased with the 1-1 draw, especially after France and Uruguay tied at 0-0. This morning, I am at an internet cafe, my keyboard has a few sticky letters, I'm getting tired of backspacing to fill in a missing e, o, t and f here and there. So, I'll be back as soon as I can with details; the ambiance... This afternoon, Nigeria plays Argentina at Ellis stadium, we will be there.  The vuvuzelas are deafening! Mama Shujaa.


I learned the meaning of “déjà vu” when I was thirteen years old, thanks to Uncle James. With striking clarity and detail, before his car appeared, tires rolling on the jacaranda-strewn gravel driveway, I knew that he was coming to visit: every, single, time. My father would have picked him as brother, if we could choose relatives. He settled for Best Friend: and their souls married into the spiritual and intellectual strivings of their day. One fed the other in endless conversations driven by an intense urge to survive stagnating aspects of neo-colonial Kenya. They were concerned about culture and life in Africa, about reviving indigenous forms of East African art. My father Elimo Njau, an educator-artist, Uncle James Kangwana, a communications guru who began his career with the British Broadcasting Corporation in the 1960s. The two were co-founders of Paa Ya Paa in 1965, along with Sarah Kangwana, Rebeka Njau, Terry Hirst, Jonathan Kariara, Pheroze Nowjoree, Primila Lewi


(One of my Kangas bearing the Kiswahil saying:  Ukipenda Boga Upende Na Ua Lake [ If you like the pumpkin you must like it's flower ].  Photo:  Mama Shujaa)   I am a junkie for people's faces. Last week I came across one that belonged to a woman. I had seen something in her face, somewhere before. I will call her Kisura, because I hold on to the hope that the content of her character will one day resonate with the Kiswahili meaning of her name: pretty , beautiful . Kisura: the inconsiderate woman. I awarded her an All Star in Bad Behavior that day. In retrospect, however, I accept that social signals sometimes wrongfully indict a human being. An apple is not always rotten to the core. There was a steady downpour of rain that morning. With every stop on our bus route, I prepared to receive a wet seatmate or, at the very least, collect a few drops of water from umbrellas, raincoats or book bags. Thankfully, a conscientious school girl took the seat next to me at Jimmy Cart

Me and My Kangas

  Here I am, at my front door, wrapped in my kanga; outerwear that binds me to my homeland. Pure cotton, long enough to cover the whole body comfortably, with a theme strong enough to enrich my soul, resuscitate childhood memories, and deepen my faith in the future. I have a stack of these kangas , each one bold in design. They are works of art dazzling in their representation of an aspect of East African culture, where women and young girls wrap them around their bodies as skirts, head-ties, or nifty strapless dresses. Lately, I’ve been pulling them out of my closet, one by one, indelible symbols of my youth, and purveyors of African tradition. They contribute to the power behind my voice. And I’ve been writing a lot lately; writing and rewriting, under the gathers of my brilliant prints. And during each one of the solid forty days that have gone by, I’ve been making new habits stick, and I'll tell you more about them soon. Mingi Love, Mama Shujaa

Inspiration Matters and Paa Ya Paa is featured in The East African Magazine

There are people that fuel the fire. Trailblazers who keep their focus. I think about them, and I am inspired. I have written about them, and I am sure I began with Just Want To Say Thank You , because I have manners; then I begged my mother to Tell Me .  After that, I shared The Antelope Rising   because my parents envisioned Paa Ya Paa as a spiritual calling and I too promised myself that I would flesh out the hints of the melodies that pulse beneath the surface: in my soul and in yours...Along the way, I have asked whether it was Too Raw , manifesting creative independence, authentically, without worry. And of course, life being what it is, I am learning to live Beyond The Ashes . So when Paa Ya Paa is recognized, once again in the African media, most recently, on March 15, 2010, in The East African Magazine and we read about my father "Elimo Njau's living art is testimony of the present and past" I have to share the fuel that fires me. "The spirit of art sho

Gasping For Air

Her ample chest heaved two quick short bursts, her nostrils flaring in defiance.  This is it, she thought. Manicured fingers moved feverishly over the short dense strands of the white berber carpet; then slowed to a soft rhythmic caress.  She could feel the sinewy muscles of her lover beneath her palms, comforting like midnight under Nairobi skies. Sorrow overcame her as the air from her lungs made a final escape through her glossy lips.  Two tears began their journey down her cheeks.  This is it, she thought. One of these days I will write a romance, what do you say?  Right now, I'm deep in a piece (working with an editor) for a literary magazine, not a romance; but I'd like to distract myself and continue with this, and see where it leads. Weekend njema! Mama Shujaa. Copyright © Mama Shujaa 2010. All Rights Reserved.


Photo credit Dear Tiffani, Ever since you phoned me last week, I have spent time reconstructing our conversation; interchanging your sentences with mine, in a back and forth exchange that recaptures and breathes fresh life to the core of our sharing that day. I’ve spent time daydreaming about you and I realize how I have missed you. When you talk about anything and everything, your language is infused with details most ordinarily skip over. My heart finds its way through the layers of thought you plant on it. And then emotions that encompass my life, your life, our lives, provide a limitless reservoir of means by which to celebrate joy, and confront reality. My friend, we talked often enough when you first moved away. Then slowly, our conversations became fewer and far between. I became lazy. I succumbed to geography. But deep down, I knew you would always be there . When you called to wish me happy birthday, you awoke my senses; and they sprang involuntarily forth, organic.


We met her, face-to-face on February 9, 2010. The night before, I had gone to bed an hour earlier, to offset any symptoms of sleep deprivation that might result from a midweek night on the town. As a result, I awoke early the next day, with enough time to pick out two outfits - for work and after work. It was extraordinary, how quickly that work day began and ended; perhaps because of the atypical ending I anticipated. Not that I live a humdrum life, it's just that during the week, I'm always working, at the office, on the commute, at home with our kitindamimba [last born] and his homework, on my writing, and on my reading list. After a quick work-out at the gym, I showered and changed into the jeans and sweater my charming husband had remembered to bring. The evening began with a pleasant dinner at Lobby at Twelve . I chose the grilled skirt steak with creamy potato gratin, green beans and beef jus; he had sautéed Atlantic salmon with herb risotto, asparagus and sundri

This Is My Africa

The award-winning documentary airs tomorrow Tuesday, February 9, 2010 at 11:30 AM ; only in the U.S. "Directed and produced by Zina Saro-Wiwa , this quirky and unique film is a journey into an Africa that many may not know about. Created to reveal a more personal vision of the continent by weaving together the personal memories, tastes and experiences of 21 Africans and Africaphiles, This Is My Africa has been described as a 50-minute crash course in African culture." "The film is so tender and full of humour and honesty and … such a welcome alternative to the constant portrayal of Africa as a problem ... or a posh safari destination. It filled me with a desire to know more, travel more, listen to more music (I've already bought the Asa...). I'm proud to be a part of it." Colin Firth. Here's a clip: I hope you get a chance to watch or record it. Mama Shujaa

A Purposeful Weekend in London and Berlin

Myweku's Pose for Purpose event in London on Saturday, February 6, 2010. A group of professionals donate their expertise by offering pre-booked professional photoshoot sessions. Contemporary Photography + Superb Makeup Artistry = Amazing Images . You participate and raise awareness. More here Haiti Lives , a Celebration of Haitian Culture in Berlin on Sunday, February 7, 2010. German actors (Muriel Baumeister, Hans Werner Meyer, Tyron Ricketts and others) read Haitian literature (Edwidge Danticat, Jacques Roumain, Michele Voltaire Marcelin) and perform traditional Haitian storytelling like Krik? Krak! More here

Lost in America

"Are you okay?" The usually tranquil eyes are chaotic. "Are you okay?" No Good Morning, nothing. Her voice is earnest, startling. Her eyes urgent, fixed on mine. My eyes waver, and land on her glossy lips, they compliment her red sweater. Heavy women usually wear dark colors to the office. She never does. She flaunts her colorful busty body on a daily basis. The entirety of her attention is focused on determining my state of mind. "Is your family okay, honey? Are you okay?" She's Mama Bear and I'm the cub. Three thoughts float through my mind: Sometimes we have uncomfortable feelings and we project them onto others. I’ve been told many times, that I wear my heart on my sleeve, so I am used to occasional inquiry from coworkers whose misery finds company. My heart aches for the people of Haiti; have I internalized and projected my anguish to this extent, to elicit such compassion? Mama Bear senses some confusion. "You are fr

What Remains is What Matters

What remains is all muddled up. Bodies crushed concrete. Faces broken haunting. Will the grief ever go away? What remains is bewilderment. This most recent devastation, like its predecessors, distinguishes itself as a crippler of a nation. What remains is for us to keep caring, keep loving, keep giving, keep remembering, with and for the people of Haiti. To keep remembering what remains is what matters: Mingi Love, Mama Shujaa.

Ben Okri's Approach To Writing

" is what the story does to you in the taking you somewhere, that the story is about..." Just one of the many wonderful statements his makes.

Vanpool Diary

In college I enjoyed exploring the workings of real life interpersonal communication.  Inescapable messages, verbal and nonverbal.  Irreversible utterances whose effects remain even after the judge has told the jury to "disregard the last statement a witness has made."  And the complexities - the fact that no two people use the same words exactly alike, combined with the influences of perception, e.g. W.E.B. DuBois theory of Double Consciousness  (Google digitized version of The Souls of Black Folk ). Research observes that:  If communication can fail, it will.  If a message can be understood in different ways, it will be understood in just the way it does the most harm . I wrote about the near death of our vanpool back in September 2009.  We managed to keep it going, but since then we have lost riders, due to job loss.  Now only four remain.  Our small group of survivors have developed, quite naturally a kinship born out of the desire to maintain the expeditious, stress

Don't Cry For Me Nigeria

Africa Cup of Nations Angola 2010

The Africa Cup of Nations 2010 kicked off yesterday with the opening match between host Angola and Mali. With Angola leading 4-0 at the 74 minute mark, the end result at full time was unbelievable. I don't think I've ever watched a top draw soccer match featuring such a comeback. ANGOLA-MALI Uploaded by petebrown60 . - Check out more sports and extreme sports videos. The tournament continued today with another shocker: Malawi defeated Algeria 3-0; and Cup favorites Ivory Coast were held to a 0-0 draw by Burkina Faso. On Tuesday, Jan. 12,  Nigeria's Super Eagles take on the Egyptian Pharaohs; and Mozambique will tackle Benin. On Wednesday, Jan. 13, Cameroon v. Gabon; and Tunisia v. Zambia. The matches are not televised in the U.S., but you can watch them all live at , click on the myafricanfootball banner or the Orange Africa Cup of Nations 2010 banner. If you like fantasy sports, participate in the African Cup of Nations 2010 Fantasy