Empty Cases

“Do you remember or has your history forsaken you?”

– Saul Williams

Ever since you were born you learned how to echo things that were said to you. Even as the words leave your tongue they bear a foreign shape, folding themselves before they break into six pieces of the same thing that was whispered weeks ago. It was a dark night on the Nairobi streets, nothing was out of the norm, except everything was different.


It becomes an adjective that has no grounding. Everyone is different, still they torture each other into a sameness. A singularity of thought continues to be demanded. A duality at most. Still, there are more ways to be human than there are to skin a cat. Having “figured it out” it becomes a discussion that throws everyone into their own little boxes, breaking the universe down into manageable chunks makes it easier to navigate. It becomes easier to find words of accusation, words of defense. You are this way, because you were this way – can’t you see this? Why can’t you break how you are from how you were? But what do these questions mean to those who have already broken who they were? What makes us think that anyone hasn’t broken? What makes us feel different?

Except maybe a night under the Nairobi moon. With the daggers of an unknown soul being stabbed right through the emptiness of the street. The bus home remains silent in the way that only a people who have forgotten themselves inside the trappings of our minds can be. A man declares his masculinity – pinches. Pinches he is. He is pounding his chest for the entire bus to hear. He is pinches – the beginning and the end, who dare defy him?

Who dare defy him?

Who dares to walk into the path that begun ten thousand years ago and has been followed by beasts, birds and everything in between? Who dares walk the path that has created room for the destruction of the house that kept us protected from last night’s tragedies? (art, you have been told, is therapy for the stubborn). Outside the darkness continues to whisper stories that have not yet been told, every moment another moment of life –  another moment of beauty. Life can be beautiful if we let it. Life can be ugly if we let it. Life doesn’t ask for permission.

Life happens to everyone.

– Apondi

Still it isn’t difficult to think that the occurring of life to you is something that can’t be deciphered by anyone other than yourself – and this is important. You remember about the story of the donkey and the couple. You have carried a donkey on your back for so long that you have learned how to bray. So these words continue to echo in your mind; but everything they hear seems to be nothing but fractures on polyvinyl chloride – a broken record.


And when it is all over

we shall once more inherit

a generation of cracked souls

for whom we must erect new

monuments and compose new

anthems of praise and the eternal hope of life

beyond the recurring stupidity of war heroes.

– Kofi Anyidoho (1991)

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