Still

The big black Kenyan man.

The big black Kenyan man is

The big black Kenyan man is invincible.

The big black Kenyanmanis invincible .

ThebigblackKenyanmanisinvincible.ThebigblackKenyanmanisinvincibleThebigblackKenyanmanisinvincible.ThebigblackKenyanmanisinvinciblethebigblackKenyanmanisinvincible.hebigblackKenyanmanisinvincibleThebigblackKenyanmanisinvinsibleThebigblackKenyanmanisinvincibleThebigblackKenyanmanisinvincible.ThebigblackKenyanmanisinvincible.

And then a word

and then a cut

and then another.

And then pain.

And display of pain.

Still, it’s okay. It’s a big black Kenyan man.

A big black Kenyan man.

And the big black Kenyan man is…

…invincible.

(c) Michael Onsando

michael.co.ke

Na hiyo ndio maendeleo…

It would have been a different story if you were this dedicated/obsessed by something more acceptable. Something with a larger promise of stability. Stability, you have been told, is an illusion.  Still it becomes an illusion that makes sense. If we create liveable spaces it must be comforting to know that they will exist forever.

Even if forever is nothing but a sigh and a cold cup of coffee.

So it makes sense that the thing you now find yourself actively pursuing is met with questions and doubting eyes.

#TrustYourArt.

A story that begins somewhere in the centre of the earth and expands at the rate of V=H0D. Having increased the distance between this galaxy and other stars you had expected your velocity to increase exponentially. What you didn’t know is that Hubble’s constant is only available to card carrying exceptions.

(How can you expect access if you don’t swipe?)

In your mind though you had built up the momentum hadn’t you?

And now it’s racing through time and space in ways that you couldn’t imagine. Still, an overstatement is only something that is made to sell an emptiness. In real sense time continues to move in the same chaotic way that it always has. Outside your head exists a world – but you’ve explored. And you’re bored. Something that needs to be hidden behind a fleeting paragraph because some truths are better left to wander their way into the world.

But creating liveable spaces demands attention.

And, if we give our attention to creating liveable spaces, it must be comforting to know that they will exist forever. It becomes important that we build a stable foundation and use sustainable methods. Stability, you have been told…

Amalgamation

The idea of kintsukuroi is one that’s held onto you for a very long time. Somehow you imagined that if you held onto it hard enough you’d have enough gold. And they have seen the gold, they long for the gold, but they do not want to talk about the cracks. About the number of times that you have shattered yourself against the wall to start again.

(but even then you remember that others have been shattered against the walls themselves)

Misery loves company.

Misery knows no company.

Adabu ya kaburi aijuaye ni maiti.

Even in the graves they have turned over to listen to the pumping that has kept you alive for longer than they expected. Somehow you were set up to run into walls, and somehow you keep running into them, and somehow they keep breaking. This is not through any super power of your own, you just ran into enough walls to realise that eventually they break – and that’s long after you’ve broken.

You just ran into enough walls to break.

And learned the art of kintsukuroi.

Still there is something romanticizing about this. Still a friend reminds me that everyone must, at least, be allowed to romanticize their situation; the world is cruel.

What’s wrong with imagining better?

what’s better?

I don’t know, I’m still trying to figure it out – but not this.

But I like this

But I don’t

So what now?

I don’t know

You must

Why?

 

 

 

You Will See Me

One wonders what happens when black bodies continue to refuse to be unseen. What does it mean to demand visibility in a world that goes out of its way to keep you silent? What does it mean to have your visibility taken away?

(What, I wonder, does black excellence mean?)

A story is told of David Rudisha going in for the world record in the 800M finals. The wording changes from tongue to tongue but the story remains the same. One version has Rudisha telling Kitum “Timothy, I am going to give some simple advice to a fellow Kenyan: do not follow me if you want to win a medal.”

One wonders what it is to go into a race knowing that you are going to win.

I like to imagine a version of a story where Injera puts the marker in his socks before the game knowing what’s going to happen. I like to imagine a version where he only puts the marker in his socks in this one game. Where he cuts and the marker scratches his calf muscle; a reminder. Where every single stride is pushed by, “it’s time now. They will see me, I will be known.”

(What does it mean to want to be known?)

I’m wondering what demands for humility entail. Love, Deray reminds us,  is never a request for silence.

I’m confused about what a request for silence is.

A story is told of Okwiri Oduor winning the caine prize and Binyavanga immediately beginning to delegitimize it. Kwani nini?

(What, I wonder, does black excellence mean?)

Still, Elani and H_Art the Band continue to pack rooms to the thousands.

Somewhere inside the idea of humility lies a construct that reminds us that we are not enough. Somewhere inside the idea of humility lies a need to remind people that they are not enough. Something inside the need for silence demands silencing.

(Checkmate beats a drum, the pulse of a city reverberates “hakuna kujificha tena kwa giza ukimess up – put everything on the table, face facts.”)

A violin speaks, a violin replies.

And then a dance. And then a dance.

Still we continue creating, putting markers in our socks to remind us, it’s time.

Reaching

A coin drops, rolling it begins to gather dust, spinning through behind an old newspaper. The one that you read last night that had the story about the person who did something to get attention and fail. It was a stupid ass thing.  You like stupid ass stories, they remind you that you are not crazy. Still, it becomes strange to imagine that somehow you would be consoled by a story about a person from years ago. As if somehow remembering that things have broken in the past will help you navigate the cracks that have formed themselves on the soles of your feet.

The world, you have been told, will cut you. Protect your soul

It continues to roll until it settles under the old rocking chair that your father bought but never used. The rocking chair that has always been a symbol of a possible future as opposed to a presence. In your mind you see your grandfather in that chair. He has been away for so long that you have begun to forget what he sounded like. You are afraid of that, that if that voice disappears there’s something that you need to let go of but won’t.

Pain brings you back to the present.

A rocking chair rocks against fingers that were never meant to be where they were – a coin remains lost.

A Return

A boy sits in front of a piano.

Something sits wrong. Not ready.

A boy sits in front of a piano.

Eyes trained, their stares burning

holes into his mind. Their eyes

see his unknowing fingers. A memory

fails.

A boy sits in front of a piano

 

(this is not about a piano)

(this is not about a boy)

 

 

Tears well up as he sees the

end, riding steadfast, powerfully

into nothing.

Fingers that know to put their left leg

in, but have long since forgotten

how to take their right foot out.

 

A crescendo, increase pace

vigour. Maybe, if you go harder

you will burst past the edge.

Whispers to a story

 

(this is not about a boy)

 

The surprise symphony is

best known for its halting

staccato. Haydn is said

to have written this piece

under the influence of 70 eyes

in a hall at the KICC. But rumors

are only fuel to immortality. Not

worth considering.

 

Except maybe

in a conference room

as a part of an audience seated behind judges

watching a piano

an empty seat

and a half complete symphony.

but even this might be too much

Learn your friends. Learn them in intimate ways. Learn how to say their names. Pronounce every vowel in the mirror, rounding your lips at the right curves.

Learn the ways they speak, the languages they use to navigate the world. Understand their metaphors. Listen to them in ways they haven’t even heard themselves. Speak with them in their language.

Understand your differences. Define spaces that you share, that you don’t. Respect the spaces that you don’t, or don’t. But this is a point of separation. Listen to your actions, listen to theirs.

Demand a level of respect that listens back. Take nothing less. Create spaces that hear each other. Spaces that accommodate. Spaces that have room.

Grow.

Together.

Unlearning

You’ve spent your life asking glasses to be rocks because the idea of fragility is one that sits uncomfortably with you. Because it is your nature to bash things against walls and because you imagine that because you can handle a bashing everyone can.

None of this happened because of anything you did. In fact you are the least to blame in this quest but, in a way you also hold the highest blame.

But you don’t know this.

So you have spent a lot of your life wondering why people can’t understand that the things that, to you, seem very fundamental. You don’t understand that there is nothing wrong in being a rock but, in being a rock you break glasses.
This, of course, is information that you know. Or that you once had but have since forgotten.
One wonders if you are a rock. Or if you are a glass that has then gathered rocks around itself. One wonders if the rock that you imagine is only a reflection of the things you have chosen to see, missing the things that are unseen, and, in being unseen are unthought of.
This is all fine and dandy when discussed in the abstract but harder to apply because, whether illusion or not, you are a rock (or you believe so which is what really matters) and it is the nature of hurtling rocks to break glass.

But you love speed, don’t you? The rush of the wind giddy with excitement, leaving everything behind is something that you not only love but have come to desire. The moments of pause to consider any glass that may be in the way have slowly began to outweigh the value that the glass could have had and now the broken glass has began to piece itself together.

That scares you.

You’ve never been good at kintsukuroi and having hurtled for so long that you can’t imagine the sensation of standing still you imagine hurtling as a way of being, of seeing, you imagine that learning has to be a destruction.
You know this, you are trying to unlearn this. Except unlearning is a learning of its own and the only way you know how to learn is to destroy.

So you sit and wonder, “there must be a better way.”

Trajectories

You don’t ask people to stop taking care of themselves, you ask them where it hurts. But Warsan Shire has told you often that it hurts everywhere. The words you have reblogged, shared, tweeted, written, thrown, kicked and pulled around are only made through the idea of a single cell surrounded by two pencils, a phone and a missed appointment.

Standing on the corner of a decision and two algorithms is hard enough if you do not have to give out flyers to everyone while you’re at it. Being firmly grounded in reality is hard enough without having to explain yourself to everyone who you meet. It’s easier to have your context understood. It’s easier to navigate through life when people know your history.

It’s easier to navigate through life when you know your history.

Except maybe if your history is one of violent erasure, removal and exploitation. Except maybe if your history is a history of pain. When the whip’s crack still echoes fresh in your muscle memory. When guns have been used to point you in the direction of life. When the image in the mirror is an image that you have seen over and over again.

“five suspected gangsters were shot down”

“my boys exchanged fire”

“these niggers are violent”

“no pets or blacks”

Except maybe if your history is one of violent erasure, removal and exploitation. Except maybe if your history is a history of pain. When they have seen you as an object for years and exploited your body for their sexual urges. When the phallus has been a prerequisite to be human. And you don’t have one. When the image in the mirror is an image that you have seen over and over again.

“another girl was found on the side of the road”

“you’re asking for it.”

“make me a sandwich.”

“you’re over reacting”

Except maybe if your history is a history of violent erasure, removal and exploitation. Except maybe if your history is a history of pain. When they have told you over and over that you don’t exist. That you aren’t possible. That this person you are is a phase, can be cured, is a disease.

“when did you first know?”

“you really have sex though?”

“we don’t get that in Africa.”

“but the bible hates it”

Except maybe if your history is a blend of violent histories, mixing up to create a person who is in pain and the cause of pain. Except maybe if you are yourself.

But you aren’t.

On truths

“you’ve spent a lifetime in silence, scared that you’ll say something wrong”

– Emeli Sande

“These kids want something new I swear it, something they wanna say but couldn’t coz they’re embarrassed”

– Childish Gambino

The idea of speaking one’s truth is always one I’ve been wary of. In fact, I’d probably argue that I’ll always be wary of it. Truths collide. And truths, being so closely tied to the self are more often than not imagined as communicable. We protect our truths because we don’t imagine that they are sufficient. We protect our truths because we don’t imagine anyone will accept them.

In effect, this means that speaking one’s truth becomes an action of laying one bare. An action of putting the self on the line. Putting the self in the line of possible violence.

That’s scary.

That’s very scary.

So we keep people around us who, we believe, are speaking truths. We wait for them to give us permission to speak our truths. We pick our cues off them. Is a certain way of being allowed? Is a certain way of being accepted? In our minds we don’t understand it. But we don’t care. We’d rather not try to figure it out. Instead we look for reasons to invalidate uncomfortable truths. We see the big buildings, but we don’t see the deaths. We see the industry but not the industrious.

The problem is that a truth, once seen, cannot be unseen.

Any further ignoring of this truth is willful.

(but this is neither about the will nor unseeing)

Inside a dark room a candle flickered. Somehow it was not that there was an idea but that the idea had taken over the space. As if somehow a presence – except not.

Not yet.

 

But truth,

at the end

of the day,

is just a

five letter word.

 

So we hide it. We put the truth behind complicated multisyllabic dated artforms that were invented to represent emotions. We make it so difficult to imagine within the frames of stark because we are afraid. We are afraid that the world is out to get us. Afraid that we know too much. Afraid that we know too little. Afraid that we are inadequate.

 “Still,

somehow,

she heard

me wrong.”

 – Dude

I’ve never understood how people communicate. Half the time I walk around asking myself “what do they even mean by that?” I spend large chunks of time in my head trying to figure out what people are talking about. Because many times conversations are metaphors. Because many times we’re saying a lot more.

 (Most other people seem to have this down somehow. I’m not sure how, I’m quite jealous.)

Her hand, steady at first, was now shaking. She lifted the paper off her desk. Holding it up to the flame. She began to read.

 Still we don’t know what we mean when we say these things. Instead we agree that certain combinations of words and letters mean something. But we agree in different ways. Our groups, our circles all settle on different meanings, different contexts (what’s life without a little fun?)

 …happily ever after.” She finished, slowly crumpling the paper.

But at the end of the day we have to survive. We have to live somehow. So every day we wake up, hoping it will be different. Hoping that somehow, we’ll get it.

(a shoe falls from the rack

he is unbothered

it’s not

making

more

sense)

 

Instead it gets more confusing.

 

Darkness. A thought wanders “now that I’ve burned the last page of my manuscript, how will I see my future?”