Wednesday, October 27, 2004

How Africa is courting its exiles

By Elizabeth Blunt
BBC News

Estimates suggest Africans working abroad send home $45bn a year. On the fringes of the European Social Forum in London, people of African descent are holding their own conference - and discussing how Africa could benefit from their achievements.

Suddenly Africa is wooing its exiles. Some of the continent's best brains, and deepest pockets are in London, Paris or New York, not in Lagos or Nairobi.

Add in all the people of African descent, black Americans, the population of the Caribbean and large parts of Brazil, and Africa has millions of prosperous and influential people potentially on its side.

When the new African Union was drawing up its constitution it made space for these people of African origin; after north, south, east west and central Africa, the diaspora was designated the sixth region of the continent.

Sophie Kalinde, the African Union's ambassador in Geneva, is one of the links with this constituency in Europe.

"It's a big population. You know that the dispersal of the population is such that Africa cannot ignore the presence of its own outside Africa," she said.

Perhaps the real wake-up call came after 11 September, when governments began to make careful records of money movements.

Best estimates suggest that Africans working abroad send home some $45bn a year.

Collective strength

But most of it goes on living expenses for their families; they are less likely than expatriate Indians for instance, to invest their savings back home in Africa.

I asked Ambassador Kalinde what she thought Africa could learn from India, or from that other great success story in mobilising its diaspora - Israel.

"You can learn that you can be small and be very powerful. You can learn that you can defend yourself in the public arena, through debate."

"You can see that India has gone even so far as having nuclear power, and most of the resources are the resources that India has had by being so well organised as a diaspora."

But if African governments want the diaspora's money, they will have to earn it.

Another message to this meeting was that collectively Africans living abroad have real strength.

If they want better governance, more transparency, a more stable investment climate, they should demand it; now they know the demands are backed by $45bn a year, their governments may be more ready to listen.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Writer's block

I had this idea that I should write wonderful, thrilling and confounding murder mysteries and show those authors who can't write fast enought for me how it is done. But before I could start, I hit a serious block. To write crime novels, the writer has to have quite a lot of knoweldge of both the bad guys and the good guys. She needs to know things like police procedure, foresic science and the law. The author has describe crime scenes so realistically that the reader feels they are truly there. The writer must understand and write about the bad guy's personality, what he/she looks like, thinks about and their dreams and desires. Essentially, one has to get into their minds. Me!

Nah, not this chicken. I only seen exactly two horror movies and was so tramatised that for days I could not sleep without a light on (well that has not changed, but I have a new excuse nowadays). I who shut my eyes at bang bang scenes and hate the sight of blood and violence. I did not know what I was thinking of. I would have to visit jails (who me?)and talk to the baddies, talk to the police - well not so bad, but who wants to go to the police station, read psychology and things like that. Besides, who wants to get into the mind of murderers, rapists and psychotic killers. Who wants to make nice with all these baddie, bad enough that they are nasty in fiction who wants to meet the real thing.

That dream has been quashed, and never allowed to surfaces.

Traditions, traditions

To all those who believe that we have lost our culture and traditions!!!!!

How Ngugi and Njeeri Got 'Properly' Married at Ngurario


Holding one end of a goat's roasted right "arm" in his left hand and a knife in the other, the bridegroom asks his bride to hold the other end.

Then with the precision of a surgeon, renowned Kenya author Ngugi wa Thiong'o cuts the piece of meat into two.

His now excited bride, Njeeri, holds her piece high in the air, waving it about amid ululation from simply-clad village women. Invited guests join in, clapping and cheering the "newly-wed" couple.

The occasion, in the dusty village of Mitero in Thika district in Kenya's Central Province, was a traditional wedding ceremony on August 28.

Ngugi, who professes to practice his native Gikuyu culture, had returned to the country from the US on July 31, after a 22-year self exile. His main mission was to formalise his marriage to Njeeri under Gikuyu rites.

The author had fled Kenya in 1982 at the height of state persecution of dissidents, when he was perceived to be a thorn in the flesh of then Kanu government of former president Daniel arap Moi.

"There are two things you can never shed: your age-group and your culture,'' he said, during the ceremony at the humble chief's camp in Mitero.

It was interesting to see the celebrated author receive lessons in tradition, and more so, from a villager of modest education.

So over the course of the hot afternoon, the director of the Irvine-based International Centre of Writing and Translation, became the willing student of his agemate, 70-year-old Paul Muthumbi.

Ngugi and Muthumbi belong to the Gikuyu age-group Warurungana, which comprises young men who were circumcised between 1951 and 1953.

Muthumbi is the chairman of Warurungana group from Ngugi's home village of Kamirithu in Limuru, about 30km northwest of Nairobi.

Muthumbi explained to the guests that, in Gikuyu tradition, a marriage is incomplete without the Ngurario ceremony.

This tradition requires the bridegroom to take to the bride's home, days before the ceremony, a he-goat that is the same colour allover.

The ceremonial cuts are the goat's right "arm" (guoko); entrails (gitungo kia mara); ribs (inkengeto) and the two kidneys (higo).

These cuts are served in a bowl covered with banana leaves. Should the kidneys, which the "experts" roasting the meat are wont to eat themselves, be missing, the bridegroom is fined another goat that is slaughtered and roasted on the spot.

To be on the safe side, the bridegroom brings along several goats.

Like a university lecturer supervising a student's thesis, Muthumbi uncovered the bowl, picked up the meat pieces one by one, and upon finding all the ritual cuts there, declared: "Ngugi has passed the exam.''

He added, "Normally, only one ceremonial goat is needed, but because of Ngugi's generosity, he has brought two.''

The author had in fact brought rather more animals, more perhaps than was necessary. There were nine goats and two bulls. But only five goats and the bulls were slaughtered – at Njeeri's former homestead, about 50 metres from the chief's camp. Tradition demands the animals' blood be spilt within a bride's homestead.

There was also plenty of traditional brew, muratina, which the elders as well as the young men and women drank from big horns.

The Ngurario ceremony was mainly attended by villagers. However, a few VIPs were present, including psychiatrist Frank Njenga, who was the couple's key counsellor during their four-day stay at Nairobi Hospital following the attack.

Seeming eager to learn, Ngugi followed the instructions carefully as Muthumbi guided him in cutting the roasted "arm" (guoko) into two. The author remained with the lower-part and Njeeri the upper, kiande (shoulder).

The couple then fed each other a piece each. And the Ngurario ceremony had reached its climax.

The Ngugis then distributed the rest of the meat to the guests, starting with Ngugi's mother-in-law, Mary Magdalene Wambui, who is in her late 1970s.

Muthumbi said a typical Gikuyu man was only truly married after performing such a ceremony.

The author was then seated between two agemates, after which he had his hair groomed by elderly local women.

He sipped porridge from a calabash, which was held for him by a villager, Mary Miring'u, who, from time to time, wiped Ngugi's lips with a white cloth.

Meanwhile, Njeeri had been whisked off to the chief's office, metres away, where she was covered with Swahili kangas from head to toe. Another 10 women of similar height were also covered.

Singing and dancing, the women surrounded and walked Njeeri to where Ngugi was seated. They challenged him to pick out his bride from the rest.

Ngugi thrilled guests as he danced and mingled with the women in a bid to identify Njeeri. There was ululation after he finally identified her, perhaps after recognising her light skinned legs, not to speak of her black leather shoes.

The couple sported beaded rings in place of their golden wedding bands, which were lost during the August 11 attack.

The author, who does not profess any religion, then asked Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology assistant chaplain Fr Peter Ngugi, and Pastor Shadrack Kang'iri of the African Independent Pentecostal Church, to bless the rings.

Ngugi had a traditional marriage to his first wife, the late Nyambura, with whom he has six children: Thiong'o, Kimunya, Nduchu, Mukoma, Wanjiku and Njoki. Apart from Kimunya, an economics graduate from the University of Nairobi, the rest attended US universities. All his children are working, in the US and different African countries.

Njeeri has a 24-year-old daughter from a previous relationship with an African-America partner.

The couple have two children, 10-year-old Mumbi-Wanjiku and Thiong'o, aged nine years.

The couple and their two children left Kenya for the US on the following day (August 29) via South Africa.

Ngugi was to take up his job at the International Centre for Writing and Translation. Njeeri is a counsellor in the US.

Njeeri told the press at Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta Airport that the rape ordeal had actually encouraged her to market Kenya abroad. "Wherever we go, we will be telling people that Kenya is the best place to visit. The attack on us was just an isolated incident.''

Ngugi said he would be returning to his homeland "over and over again.''

Monday, October 11, 2004

Personality test

Its fun and interesting. Take it. My test said that I am a Poet!

This is a bit of what they said about me!

Your personality is actually determined by two personality sub-types - your primary, or dominant sub-type, and your secondary sub-type. You are a Poet which means you are a Thinker / Golden Your primary sub-type is defined by "Thinker" characteristics and your secondary sub-type is defined by "Golden" characteristics. You're complex and artistic with a rich inner life. Chances are you're a bit shy and quiet, and you enjoy peaceful, comfortable environments. You're an interesting person to know, full of insights and inspiration, even though you're sometimes hesitant to express them.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Number one hobby

It has been days since I last blogged. I have been side tracked by my number one hobby.

I enjoy knitting, and pride myself in being creative, since ponchos came back in fashion, I have not been able to make one successfully and it has been driving me nuts. So I went to the wonderful world wide web and found several FREE patterns for making ponchos. So guess where all my energies and creative drive has been directed to. KNITTING.

It is such a fun hobby, especially when the design comes out just right. I am particuarly enjoying making stuff for my new niece, and imagining how she will look when she wears it. Not forgetting the admiration I get from who ever sees my work.