Thursday, February 21, 2008

My Brain, My tribe

Just last week, a friend and I got a thirsty throat and our next stop was the inevitable Kengeles Koinange, right next to our office at Ambank House, and once the Rum and tusker malt started flowing, we got talking; on the men seated around us, to relationships, commitment, flowers, or lack of on valentines day, commercial properties of love, when is love really love, or what is the cost of love these days? It can be in the thousands…or better still millions so, when he, the one right across, whose attention I got while wrapping my fingers suggestively around my 100% human hair from the UK, tells me he runs a dairy farm, I ask him if it’s the family business.

You see, if it’s not, its love in the thousands, and if it is the family business, and he is the adored son of the man who practically owns that town, centre of the great rift, it is love in the millions, with probability of growing, maturing, if with tender loving care, to love in the billions. Another double rum is placed on the table, a few tusker malts cover the apple red’s table lining, the proud way the Luo’s like to do when out drinking, someone makes that famous joke, and after being on first name basis for the last 20 or so, he asks…”and what tribe are you?”

The million-dollar question.

Why does he want to know what tribe I am?

The questions start racing in my mind, and I don’t have multiple choice answers

Of note is that I have been watching the news a lot lately, the throat slitting headlines now remain etched in my mind, until another gory headline appears on my used to be my very light newspaper( read tabloid)..Militias prepare to go to war…

“What tribe are you?”

What tribe am I? How does that affect the price of my Meakins rum this rather adulterous looking Thursday evening, or looking at long term options, how does that affect how much you will love me?

What tribe am I? Do the millions in your family account need know what tribe I spur from, the egg that hatched me is human, only carried by my Kalenjin mother, sad, that my tribe is blamed for burning, killing, hate campaigns that make me now want to hide…but still I am proud, made proud by community, that which has seen Kenya, the name in athletics..(read Tergat, and all the other Kips and Cheps) and even with our English as lacking as it may be, I am proud, that, I speak the language that my mother taught me, that I am different from the Americans, who understand, speak and love only that one language.I am proud that one day, when I get married, my mother will receive a number of cows. I am proud, that I have an ethnicity, and the vile humour that runs in the blood of those that curse the culture divide.It is a beautiful divide, it introduces me to the beauty of a ngurario, and the sour love of mursik, it beats me in the bull fights in luhya land, and makes my blood run at the lusty waist beads of the Taita woman.

I am a Kalenjin, and am proud that I can tell my brother, in my tribe, that there is cow dung in his path, so he can step the other way.

That’s my culture, that’s the African culture.

So what tribe am I? I am the tribe that seats in the middle of the country, and boast that I own the Rift valley, because, you know, I do. I was born in the rift valley, and the soil that I step on, I own.

I am the tribe that loves, that shares, but,one that does business too, yes, even with land.

I sell my 40 acres of fertile land which my grandfather inherited from the white man called Masta Chosep (Master Joseph) to the best offer.

I am that tribe, that jokes about the Kikuyu having a thieving record, we see that everyday in court, and the Luo’s being the stone throwers…lets just start with the primary schools in Yala…and the Kamba’s being overly loyal to the Indian traders, and the Luhya’s being the cooks, the watchmen and the Boda boda kings..

So when did it get so bad, just last year, right here and right now, we would be laughing our heads off…at the very same jokes, and now, I cannot even say my tribe to a young handsome man who runs a dairy farm, whose love is worth millions, and if treated with tender loving care, love in a billion.

“ I am a Kenyan”, I say, and I f I was a dog, at this point, right here, right now, I’d tuck my tail between my legs, and let them stay there FOREVER.

Shame, guilt…what became of me, an Independent, educated, young, sometimes sensible, making it big in this world of today woman?

I cannot say my tribe, because, in the Kenya of today, just a few weeks after December 30th, my brain shrunk to the size of a tribe, I am that tribe.