Saturday, May 1, 2010

Kenya, write your own freedom charter in the optic fibre

Optic Fibre, the new living word
Kenya, July 25 2009 9.02am

(If you don't like it, just turn around and say, this is old school.. what is optic fibre doing here? :-))

There was a little rain in Nairobi last night. A fresh shower suddenly after a cold July day, warmed up by a little sun in the afternoon.Oh Lord!, did it rain everywhere in this land of Kenya and other dry lands? We let the water go? We un signed our own freedom charter! I have seen the drought in Ukambani. I have seen the drought in Pokot. Rain has failed even in Nyeri and Kericho...

And under the sea, it was raining connectivity in Kenya and most of Africa, (yes, even just under the pirates favorite seas on our eastern coast shared with Somalia, The Horn of Africa, Djibouti, Eritrea, Egypt, Tanzania Mozambique and South Africa and soon it will go till Nigeria)In Kenya, 17, 000 km Fibre optic cable has reached us here.. to be more alive on the internet! This is the new Living word which can reconnect all of us!

You hold the skies, end the rain but please do not send us 'El Nino' for we are longing to plant trees! The rain the clarity has brought this morning threatens with dryness; Oh do not send us "La Nina" ( sorry girls would you like to re-name it?) we are overburdened already! I am afraid that light rain last night is the rain my Mother says comes to 'wash the moon .. and vanishes".
And under the sea, a 17, km Fibre optic cable has reached us here.. to be more alive on the internet!

We plead the seeds we plant grow, grow into big trees.. good trees that bring more rain! That our pods burst out with cultural solidarity and faith. That the internet may make us grow, grow trees and words too...That if the pods carry in them the hope of truth; reconciliation may follow in word and deed. I hope it can rain hope and peace and and revolution too.. Write the Freedom Charter 09 in your hearts. Forget ethnic hatred; it took away our crop. Dump it on politicians. Write your Freedom Charter in the trees you plant. Change must come! Sing with me a song for Change! Begin by making noises and chasing our the scourge of corruption. It was the first to steal our trees and rains! Chase it out like the people near Lake Victoria who used to beat their pots and pans overnight to chase evil spirits! Nyawawa....wa! wa! wa!

Philo's thesis and reflection

In the poem "Kisumu", Poet and novelist Macgoye Oludhe Macgoye describes a Dholuo practice of cleansing evil from the homesteads. With incantation and noise making the ceremony of Nyawawa was supposed to drive away evil forces.
Amongst the Agikuyu ethnic group of Kenya, evil was also traditionally destroyed through words, noise and the beating of sticks as Jomo Kenyatta documents in Facing Mount Kenya. In this process, he says, the last act was a speech by an elder saying: "Evil spirits ... we have crushed you. We now send you in the river. Let the water drive you .... You will go for ever never to return".11 These spoken orders were believed to have the power of cleansing evil totally.
The poem "Kisumu" says Nyawawa was about evil and collective expression. In "Kisumu" we are informed that several things had gone wrong in the town and its environs. First, there appears a man, a prophet, who speaks with all the weight that words should carry in this context, but words that people do not understand. This `prophet' who is supposed to foretell important things to come seems to speak in Latin:
... Prompted by an inscription
in Latin by the hillside,
appearing to speak Latin
most fluently himself, desired
attention for the end of the world.
The `prophet' causes confusion because he claims to have a very important message - that the end of the world had come. This `prophet', according to the poet, did actually exist and he appeared at a time when other tragedies caused by disease had made the atmosphere in the locations mentioned in the poem tense:

"The discord spread through Kiboswa,
Kudho, Manyatta, Kaloleni,
into the town itself, up to Ahero,
all round the lakeside...."
In this poem people are shown to be invaded by invisible and visible evils. These were evil
spirits (according to their belief) - and diseases respectively. They employed the power they had in order to warn, strengthen and even rid themselves of evil. This was the power of expression in action:
Clangour of tin-pans
broke last night,
screams of abuse
directed by the elders (...)
Nyawawa is celebrated with drums and voice,
timbrel, and petrol - can,
for fear of infection,
fear of neighbours,
fear of evil abroad,
fear of being different... 15

This reaction depicted in the poem "Kisumu" is in great contrast to the silence forced on the people when in independent Kenya, evils such as assassinations of important people confront the people. Through Macgoye's record of both the traditional and modern set up, we are able to perceive the difference between the two eras. Self and collective expression after the coming of a new culture is constrained.
It was only after the infiltration of the local people by a different culture - Western culture - which is represented not only by Latin but also by the introduction of literacy and later;
minis, chain belts, long stockings
whatever else despoiled
the Romans in retreat ...

that the elders are unable to dispel evils through traditional means. Macgoye's refrain: "but the Ojuok hedge does not bend to let the evil out" effectively expresses this deeply ingrained evil that will not depart at the word of the elders. Traditionally, the words and actions used in Nyawawa were believed to be so powerful that the euphorbia hedge surrounding each homestead would be seen to bend as evil was expelled.

The reason why the evil fails to leave the people is not stated directly in "Kisumu" but it is clear that the poet affirms that if the right choices of values are not made in the meeting of the Western and Luo culture, chaos, the prophetic poem says will ensue. Already there was much of it as the images of dust and disorderly movement used in the poem tell us. In the whirling "dust" of turmoil people's values change fast. People choose material progress and reject the Living Word. They are wrapped in a world of print which they can ill handle:

Here in Kisumu
Occasional dust-devils are notable,
tossing into listless air every day
fag packets, old examination papers (...)
mysterious envelopes
Postmarked Tirana, got unsought by post
or magazines wrapped in New York, for writers
who have made themselves vulnerable
by print.

The word is in the centre of freedom of expression but in this poem we see it causing chaos and threatening further violence since the new culture gives more power to the printed word while overlooking the power of the spoken or living word. Traditionally, the word was only uttered and it went with the wind or remained in people's minds and passed on to generations. Now the poet foretells more danger brought about by the acceptance of the printed word and at the same time rejection of the "Living Word"; has the internet made all words more alive than ever before? Are the hopes of revolutions hidden here?