Untitled – Ray Mwihaki

“O, rouser of the lands
Pardon my reluctance to  heed your call
To drop me and mine to give   to your cause
I choose to lie a minute longer”

“Farmer most enterprising,
The choice to lie lay not in your hands
But in my voice of reason
By my word you shall tire,
By my staff shall you rise
For your good you shall abide.”

“O, rouser of the lands
Your voice steals my dreams and stabs my ears
Your cause taints the beauty of the coloured morning sky
I shan’t resign my fight for a minute more”

“Farmer most enterprising
A minute more, a shilling less
For your persistence i give you a minute less
For your pains, i raise my neck to the knife
My offspring take over my cause
With a voice most sharp to kill your dreams,
A minute earlier.”



Decade by decade, it has been heard; death and all his sentences. In many forms they come; some mainstream, some not. Death by electrocution, death by hanging. Death by the barrel, death by the gas chamber, death by the lethal injection. Death. Perhaps death by a nagging wife. Or husband. Or both. Still death.

Well a story is told. Of tradition, of community. Of a girl named Apondi. Yes..
Apondi was her name. Tall, dark and not handsome; but beautiful. So beautiful, she must have been created on the famous Sunday of rest. Her skin glowing with Arimis milking jelly; soft to the touch. Like pamba. Face oval with high cheek-bones. Kiwi-black skin; something close to Ajuma or Alek Wek. Her azure eyes, her wide smile, her swaying hips. All consuming, all baffling. And Apondi knew this. She knew she was nothing short of dynamite. Or platinum. And so she walked it.

Karat-kabich, karat-kabich; clap-clap, thunder and lightning; her buttocks went as she strode around the village. And when she passed; ululations, screams and suicides took place. Thanks to her gigantic sitting vessels, she had easily secured herself an eligible man…..perhaps the most eligible around; the chief. She had passed the litmus test in the whiff of a second. Barely had she touched her jembe when the chief picked her out…mostly while starring at the long-prized possession that he had always dreamed of since it grew feminine additions. His round starry eyes and drooling tongue didn’t leave this unnoticed.

Her friends Akinyi and Auma on the other hand, had remained at the laboratory. At the litmus test grounds. Where they dug, and dug, and dug some more. Bent over, with backs arched. Day long, night long. But no, no one chose them. No one wanted a wife with no child-bearing regalia. Curvaceous and overflowing; that was how they liked them. So for the umpteenth time, the two skinny girls returned to their mother’s nest; weeping and gnashing their teeth. Disappointed.

The union began on rocky ground. Unstable, uncertain. Many a men had not accepted the great defeat. A whistle or two would frequently be heard at the chief’s fence; of young men hoping to steal a minute of the chief’s new bride.

“psssssssssssst- pssssssssssssstt..kssss ksssss-xxxxxxxxxx-kssssss”…”matanunulia we basikeli” and many other promises…but the deal was sealed. Had been sealed . with the picking at the litmus ground. With the envoyance of one fertile goat, a white cockerel, and the great gift to Apondi’s father. The great gift- a bicycle. Big things; truly the chief was stinking rich…oozing money and wealth from his ears, nose, and mouth too. All in all, the deal was sealed.

Insecurities. They crept into the chief’s heart. Brain. Like a stealthy thief of the night. Insecurity and pride. He was proud of her; so stunning a being. As beautiful as the rising sun of Alego. At least as long as she silenced. For when she spoke, she said things such as,” manamuke kasi yake ni jokon” -a woman’s place is in the kitchen…..philosophies in which she firmly believed, was firmly grounded.

Back to chief’s insecurities; these village boys had done it for him. His fence was now a porous mesh. The once live fence now resembled a fishing net, severally ripped by knives, by stones, by razor blades, by hungry boys pleading to his wife. His million dollar prize. His only fish in Lake Vicky. Lake Victoria (what a mouthful). Some afternoons, he would sit at a bushy corner in his homestead, pitch himself on his newly-built 3 meter-high bamboo chair made just for him. To sit, to guard, and to insult. To wait on these greedy hyenas that came to beckon at his wife.

“Ssssssstupit!! Ssssssssssssssengenge!!!!”,and these words would always be followed by a click-loud and angry. Like it had been done by 16 tongues in his mouth, NKT!! And the boys would all run away. Like a swarm of flies. They would run away in fear. Fear of bad things to happen to them. Fear of the big-bellied old chief. Fear of he who was omnipresent, omnipotent, and omni-wived (yes, he had 9 of them and counting). And the boys’ helter-skelter behavior gave him some satisfaction. Made his belly feel bigger. Made him feel the more powerful.

Until along came a strange one. He was young and robust, sturdy and strong. Like a bag of bamburi cement. He walked with confidence, and had a killer half-monalisa smile. He was new in the land, resembled some kind of a vagabond. He had once set his eyes on the forbidden fruit; and since then there was no turning back. He ate, lived, and dreamed Apondi. She was his Hollywood dream. In fact, unlike the rest who used crude weapons to cut through the fence, he walked right through the entrance. Straight to the mighty great one. Addressed him in humility, and asked him for a job. Bravery and boldness. That was it.

He made no empty promises; no basikels and trips to the city did he offer. Instead, he offered her a thing called love. Emotions. Apondi wondered how this beautiful thing would look, it was beyond her fathom. Yet this young man spoke of it with such brilliance, such surety.

Slowly, a bond blossomed between them. Slowly but surely. At times, the vagabond brought her gifts. Small meaningless things; a biro, a stapler, a drinking straw, an old dusty framed photo of President Kenyatta……..he stole them all. Straight from his master’s office. And she appreciated them. She knew nothing of what to do with them; but she felt valued.

He gave her beautiful things; joy, good times, laughter, stories. A pregnancy. Yes. But still she didn’t leave her old hag. Only death could do them part. For her father’s bicycle could not be returned. No, never. And the chief leaped in joy, for it was his first time to score..his 8 wives had no ovaries, but this 9th one was truly a good bargain. The land of milk and honey.

And it pained him; it pained the vagabond. To see the fat old hag. Full of himself, well even literally. Rolling around the village, preaching about his new achievement. Deserving of a trophy. No even gold, but tones of dynamite. Maybe diamond. With pride and pout. Modesty was no longer his close ally. At Barazas, his face shone even more. Glory, glory, I did it. And when he stood to address the masses, he never failed to unceremoniously dedicate his speeches to his new bundle of joy. Never minding the hungry trousers in the parting of his buttocks. And when he did, he casually pulled them out, mostly leaving two brown finger prints at the back of his white khaki trousers. But all these didn’t count.. He was now a father. A no-nonsense figure. They could not mock him anymore.

But Mr. Vagabond had had enough. Enough I say, no more. It was time; time to stop this sharing, time to stop this shame. So on a fine Sunday morning, when the sun shone like Apondi’s eyes, and the idle village women swayed their hips to meet the missionaries in hope of receiving some rewards; the vagabond appeared. Right at the compound entrance. Just like the first time. Just like the first time. Just like he was coming to seek employment. But no, it was not for employment. It was revenge. Vengeance. Pay back time.

In his birth-hood glory, he stood. With a healthy cockerel in his hand. The wives ran helter-skelter. Screaming. Shouting. ‘Wololo!’ ‘Yaye’, were the sounds of the day. Danger was looming in the air, and the skies turned black with fury. But the vagabond showed no fear. Walked on, walked forth. The chief was shouting, “Kijana,sssitopp!! Sssittopp!!” but the man showed no mercy. It was too late, too much. His shaking naked arms could not take it anymore. Working in unison, they lifted the jogoo (read njongoo by some counterparts) to head-height, and cruelly, cruelly (drumrolls)……..threw it to the ground. And the njongoo landed with a thud. Abomination. Thunder and lightning. Taboo. Mourning. Fear. Such like emotions…Manyasi. Death. And so was the death of a bicycle giver. Death by jogoo.

Made in China – Andrew Onyango (writing for Kenyabuzz dot com)


Manure’s Note: Andrew writes and takes pictures and makes tea at Kenyabuzz.com. He is also a regular attender of WLL. He is the ape that recorded the Ben Okri Youtube video from the pmbc interview that inspired the theme for WLL4(p): Dancing with life. After you read his Kenyabuzz dot com article, check his video of pmbc.co.ke’s interview of the Okri here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtZOIQOkQbc

We Live, We Yuan – Mwangi Ichung’wa



Time is bullshit,

Lead paint is poison,

Baby formula is toxic,

Like my heart


Responses are plastic,

Their small pieces ready,

For you to choke on,

Swallow gurgle and spit,

Package it and sell it on


I’m like that guy at Tiananmen,

Waiting to get run over,

I’m cheap like your friend’s fake Rover,

Doing things undercover,

And falling short of ten


But things could be finer,

Like history that reads,

While we were still trading in beads,

Everything else was being made in China

Globe Cinema – Raphael Kariuki

ImageIt’s a bloody hot afternoon in December. It’s global warming’s fault. Nobody says anything about the hazy cloud of dust choking the air over Ngara and Pangani and the rest of that side of town, especially around what used to be the Globe Cinema roundabout. The same way nobody says nothing about the life-threatening antics of hundreds of matatus, the stink of a black-green Nairobi River or the piles of human shit amidst the rubbish strewn all over the overgrown spaces, the cracked pavements and in the alleys leading further down into town proper. People can get used to anything.

About the roundabout, the old crippling clot is no more. It is hardly even remembered, although a year has not even passed since it was replaced. In its place is a knot of dual-carriageways rushing over and under and all over the place. The roads ride over stout concrete pillars and braces that impress most of the people from around. Oh, but they are already used to it. The “ultra-modern” intersection, as the newspapers call it, is not quite finished yet. In the center is an expansive wasteland, currently the home of the Chinese Wu-Yi Company’s road works plant. They are the contractors doing the job, and the place is an organized mess of ballast mills, concrete mixers, compacters and all that.

Even with its ruckus, the Wu-Yi yard is an island of relative calm encircled in the hot, dusty, helter-skelter of Nairobi today. Every day. Buses and mini-buses, small cars, big cars and more cars, motorbikes and motorbikes, and the literally uncountable pedestrians swirl chaotically around in fuming and sweating, huffing and puffing torrents of human toil.

In the island, leaning against a great concrete culvert, a Chinese construction worker, or engineer, whatever, in dirty jeans and a reflective jacket, smokes a nonchalant cigarette. His yellow plastic helmet makes him a termite. Around him, a bunch of other termites take their lunch break on boulders and earth-movers and mounds of construction dirt.

“I hear that they have factories where they pay their workers in shoe laces,” says Ocholla as he takes of his helmet and wipes his forehead with the back of his hand. Ben’s own helmet is resting beside his dusty boot. He is already half-way through his lumpy rice and watery madondo stew, leaning on the massive metal drum of a Bomag earth-compacter.

“You can’t eat shoelaces,” Ben grunts.

“They sell them. I know a guy, Jack’s cousin or something. He imports shoelaces and combs and toothpicks and shit like that. Sells them on the streets through an army of hawkers.”

Ben says nothing.

“Some of the hawkers have diplomas and degrees.”

“You can’t eat paper,” Ben replies with his mouth full.

“Why are you always so cynical?” Ocholla asks.

Ben spits a piece of rock, curses and throws his empty plastic plate to the ground.

There is still some time left to the end of the lunch break. Ocholla is doing more talking than eating.

“I hear they cook dogs. Ben, they are worse than Indians.”

“At least they pay better,” retorts Ben as he wipes sweat off his dark, glistening scalp. His hair is cropped short in an attempt to hide a premature balding. Ocholla shifts his mind to his monthly budget. The way food prices are going he can hardly afford a glass of that cheap…

“Ants. Roaches! Lice!” Ben curses, regarding the streams of people and vehicles rushing about them. D

Lunch break is over and Ocholla already has his termite helmet back on.

”Bastards!” Ben spurts at the dusty traffic. “What are you looking at?”

Ocholla is walking back to the crane.

“Ocholla, Buddy, wait for me!” Ben calls after his friend.

Ocholla looks back, stops and waits for his friend, wondering where he has heard that call before.

Homegrown -Ray Mwhihaki

Blind eyes
Squinting in search
Of colour and beauty
Small eyes
All seen is gloom

Wounded hearts
All that is found, never lasts
Weakness in built
In search of the right
Frail hearts abound.

Malfunctioning spirit
His and hers tried
Still thine own unknown
Spirit cries, tries
To free from mediocrity

Failing bodies
Frail and torn
Struggling to be free
Of pain and sorrow
Hoping to survive

Perfect imitations
Of him and her
None real, true
Peoples searching to be free
Of them
Waiting to be homegrown