Lights, Camera, Fire

And so when I finally decided to write I sat down at my computer and began to think. Steam from the cup of coffee on the side of my desk warming my fingers. Thoughts swirled around in my head. Egypt, Syria, The USA, South Africa, Kenya.


We burned the airport and the analysts came out. Everyone spoke, and with authority too. “Airport fire disastrous for the  tourism industry.” One headline boasted. Another, not to be outdone went even deeper into the story “Airport fire may have disastrous effects.”  Yes, this type of in depthanalysis analysis was characteristic of what we have come to expect from the local media. Foreign media didn’t disappoint either. In fact, foreign anything didn’t disappoint. The FBI themselves made their way to the airport amidst whispers of terrorism.

It surprised me that I wasn’t necessarily surprised when the airport fire broke out. It seemed to be the next logical step in the narrative that is our country. The squabbles, the noise, the little microaggresive tendencies they had all been relatively small in scale.

In his blogpost on banal misogyny is Keguro Macharia asks “when did misogyny become dull?” He goes on to talk about where we chose to set our gaze as society. About the things we see, without seeing and without recognizing them; the things that happen at the corner of our eyes that we wave away to be tricks, or distractions.

In a similar line of thought I’d like to ask when scandals, corruption and this general ugliness became the norm. To the extent that two weeks after a major airport fire no one is talking about it. As if the memory will jar us from our collective stupor.

I think about this as I reflect on the recent accident in Narok. As I write the death toll is at 41. It is tragic. However, the larger tragedy, in my books, is the fact that in a few weeks the Narok tragedy will be, just that, another tragedy in a long line of tragedies; perhaps coined up to the whole idea of August being cursed. There may or may not be a roadside decree issues on traveling a decree which will quickly be forgotten, or ignored in lieu of bribes.

Sarah Ahmed in her essay, Black feminism as a life-line, writes: “when racism recedes from social consciousness it appears as if the ones who “bring it up” are bringing it into existence… People of colour are often asked to concede to the recession of racism” The idea of recession is one that can be replicated when it comes to Kenya and how we deal with tragedies.

It is very important that we think about the airport fire, the floods on Thika road, the suspected gangsters that we shot, the bus that crashed in Narok and think about what these events represent. It is important that we refuse to consent to the recession of these events. There’s no saying that this will form a coherent story. A friend says the present never lays itself out into a fully coherent narrative. And, if the narrative can barely been seen to be coherent, how can we claim to understand it?

We can’t.

But that cannot mean that we ignore it because we can’t completely understand what’s going on. There are things we do know, and we know to be fact:

  1. The police have shot, and killed, 100 people over the last 4 months, at least 2 of whom turned out to be fellow police men.
  2. We still don’t know who burned the arrival terminal of our airport.
  3. The IEBC refused to swear to the results of the presidential election, yet still claim that  they must be true.
  4. The TJRC report has been largely ignored even for the atrocities it revealed.
  5. People have, and continue to, die due to our laxity in enforcement of the law.
  6. Rape culture continues to be propagated
  7. and it continues not to end.

When making a tv show there is a process known as storylining. This process involves creating plot points and story arches. These arches are then filled in bit by bit after which the bits are put together by the scriptwriters.  If one was to take the points above and use them as plot points in making a script they would only say one thing, “It needs a grand ending.”

Pay attention to the plot points. The major(minor) events that happen along the way. The things we barely see, even when seeing is exactly what we are trying to do. Trying to see the things that we would miss even if we were looking for them.  Then, finding these things, hold onto them with a fixation and call attention to them. What hides in the shadows will only be seen if we cast a light to it.

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