What Unfairness Has Fate Brought?

— By Editoro from Nigeria

It was not the rays of the sun that seeped through to the road, nor was it the dog barking with so much ferocity, the stench from the heaps of abandoned refuse has given them an enduring purpose: to become the downtrodden and the wretched in the society.

They neither smiled nor frowned, perhaps they were content, but their eyes were begging pleas. Clinging to their arms were children, that have already become a mockery to the perfect deity anyone worships. Buzzing from giant flies was more of an accompanying tune, rather than a discomfort.

I walked faster, with haste, head down in weariness. Knowing I could have become one of them with a mischance in the game of genes sent shivers down my spine.

The aroma of richly cooked food hit my nose, it was from an adjoining fence. Before my eyes were the glitz, the glamour, the ostentatious nature of wealth. Cars of varying sizes and colours were laid one after another spectacularly, like rainbows. Bulky cheeks, potbellies, and proud disposition characterised their features. These were the elites, the ones whom fate had been ‘partial’ to. A mother with richly designed headgear and shoes that made her tiptoe, held her son who was suckling his lollipop. If only he understood what was happening to his peers few metres away.

I scuttled along, my feet dragging on. My eyes watered, not at the deep social divide that has plagued most third world countries, nor what unfairness fate has brought, but the ever-present lacking of the poor.

That experience gave me a powerful sense of responsibility and purpose, and it became my compass in the midst of my travail.

The Chariots of Ouagadougou

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— By Alexandrine from Burkina Faso

Ouaga*, it is noon. The sun reigns supreme over the capital of ‘Men of Integrity’*. On Basssawarga Avenue, the traffic jam is at its peak. Apart from the impressive ocher color that dresses this city, it is the ballet of countless motorcycles that attracts attention. Ouagadougou is full of motorcycles. They are everywhere and for all. Small, young, women with babies on their backs, or with a tray of merchandise balanced on their heads, and old people…each has its own two-wheeled craft. You don’t need a driver’s license, you just have to learn how to start it, how to stay stable, and how to sneak. It’s enough! In Ouaga, everyone has his own “chariot”. Asian motorcycle sales companies have felt the deal.

Living without a “chariot” is a misery

Experience with motorcycles when arriving for the first time in Ouagadougou differs from one person to another. When I arrived in the country of Thomas Sankara, father of the Burkinabe revolution, I swore to never venture on this machine that everyone leads through the arteries of the capital without protection (helmets are annoying for the Burkinabé). I quickly changed my mind. Bicycle races, not for fun or exercise, but because I had no choice. Difficulties finding a taxi and a good one (some are only a set of old spare parts that threaten to yield in every movement, worse, most of them are fueled by gas bottles), and the cost of journeys quickly dissuaded me…”Ouaga without a chariot is galley,” said the artist.

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The Ouagalais* road code.

After a few apprenticeship sessions that took place without fractures, but not without scratches, I bought my “chariot”. A beautiful black motorcycle. I was proud of it. The hardest obstacle remained to face was traffic, and in Ouagadougou, traffic doesn’t forgive.
“In Ouagadougou, we don’t drive, we avoid each other!” This statement by a colleague illustrates quite well the situation. The Ouagalais have thier own road code, and you must know it to avoid insults, breaks, and serious accidents, which are common things. No one cares about flashers, their importance is unknown. I am hardly exaggerating. To turn left or right, simply swing the arm or foot in the desired direction, or turn the head to check if the road is clear. These gestures are large enough to alert the other drivers that we want to turn.

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A multi-functional machine

Motorcycles are used to drive, but not only. Effective to zigzag between cars and avoid clogs, motorcycles also help to load live or dead beasts, whole or skinned, which will serve many barbecue places around the capital. Chariots of Ouagadougou are also “places of discussion”. You can see two or three motorcycles in traffic, their drivers gayly unscrewing while driving. Better than a head to head! Other functions, these two-wheeled vehicles are very useful for dredging. Yes, it is not for nothing that burkinabé refused to wear a helmet. It is not uncommon to see in streets of Ouagadougou very pretty girls in miniskirts and heels, hair in the wind, braving the dust with huge black glasses. Impressive thing! For me, it is already hard enough to handle speed and the foot brake with my ballerina flats, but do it with shoes with heels, girls of Ouagadougou have incredible talents! And the mini-skirts – a friend showed me the trick to drive with these skirts : “You have to raise your leg slightly and climb by the space between the seat and the handlebars, sit and tighten your thighs so as not to reveal between your legs”. 
Me, in good Togolese, accustomed to motorcycles, taxi Lomé, I always go out in jeans and I climb on my bike by making a big gap above the seat…

Let’s go back to the dredge. I was saying that a girl on a motorcycle, a hand on the clutch and the other using a phone, such a beautiful show can’t go unnoticed. The “candidate” has no choice but to follow the beautiful girl with his motorcycle and try to attract her attention. In spite of my helmet, which never leaves me when driving, I paid the price of this mode of seduction.

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Motorcycles also play a large role in wedding ceremonies. After most ceremonies, cousins and neighbors of the bride and groom fill the streets of the capital with their processions by honking and making figures with their motorcycles to mark the end of celibacy of the couple of the day.

Finally, no matter what we say, motorcycles of Ouagadougou make the charm and the particularity of that city of West Africa, Ouaga-sweet-taste!

– Ouagadougou or Ouaga is the capital of Burkina Faso. 
– Ouagalais are residents of Ouagadougou.
– ‘Men of Integrity’ is the meaning of Burkina Faso in the mother languages. 
– Burkina = Integrity in Moore ; Faso= Country in Dioula

Gender & Inheritance Among the Kuria People

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— By James from Kenya

The Kuria community is a Bantu tribe found at the border of Kenya and Tanzania, near Lake Victoria. Traditionally, Kurians were subsistence farmers and cattle keepers. But with the advent of modernity, they have greatly metamorphosed. They currently occupy every kind of profession such as finance, military, administration, medicine, engineering, business, etc.

Culturally, it’s men who inherit property among the Kurians. A woman’s position is with her husband, it was believed. And even this way, the inheritance of a woman who did not bear male children was a complicated issue. For such a woman, it meant that all her daughters would be married off and the woman would remain alone with no one to inherit her property or advance her lineage – for only a son could carry on someone’s lineage. So by extension, a mother without a son was generally deemed childless (which was not the case). Therefore, the Kuria community, just like many cultures in the world, values the boy. A sad thing according to me.

Due to these cultural complexities, there were some cultural practices allowed to compensate for the two issues: inheritance and lineage continuity. The “Nyumba mboke/nyumba ntobhu” was the savior. “Nyumba mboke” is a cultural arrangement where a barren woman (not necessarily that she was barren, for the problem could have been with the husband, but she remained faithful to him) or a sonless woman was permitted by the culture to take a younger woman and stay with her. This younger woman has the right to choose a man of her liking to sire children with her. The children of this union were assumed to belong to the older woman, thereby ensuring that the inheritance remained in this household and that the older woman’s lineage did not terminate.

Several points are worth noting here.

First, it should be noted that there is no sexual relationship between the two women as portrayed by some outsiders. It is not a lesbian relationship. Actually, the younger woman refers to the older woman as mother. A quick check on the internet yields articles that assume that a sexual relationship occurs between the women.

Second, this arrangement is only permitted under two circumstances – where there is no son, or where there is no child at all. Again, outsiders have erroneously come up with other circumstances under which the union can occur (e.g. where the husband is absent). *Read an article written by Gabriel Samuels of The Independent on July 29, 2016: http://www.independent.co.uk/…/straight-women-kurya-tanzani…

Third, the younger woman gets to choose the man of her liking to be her companion and whom she should make children with. It should be noted that the man has no claim whatsoever over the children born out of this relationship. *Read Marie Claire: http://www.marieclaire.com/cult…/a21668/the-tanzanian-wives/

Despite the fact that this cultural arrangement has given women some sort of peace of mind for a long time, it has several major challenges. Essentially, older women who take a younger women have usually reached menopause, meaning that they are advanced in age. Thus, a woman starts taking care of “her children” in her old age when she herself should be receiving care. This becomes a burden.

Meeting the daily demands (both social and economical) for such a household becomes a task. From my general observation, the young women who enter such arrangements are in most cases lacking in western education. Hence, making ends meet in a world that is dependent on western education becomes a challenge.

And, as Marie Claire notes in her article (above link), the biological fathers are not compelled in any way to take care of the children born from this arrangement. This breeds and cultivates irresponsible parenthood. And as it is, these households are more likely to lack a father figure. Thus, the development of the children is disadvantaged in some way.

The words “Nyumba mboke/nymba ntobhu” translate to “the weak house” or “the house of women”. These terms are derogatory in nature in a community that is predominantly patriarchal. The meaning attached to the words impacts how people view themselves or how they view others. So, this household is generally viewed as weak and incapable of supporting itself (which in some cases is wrong). Therefore, the children of this household may grow up thinking that they are inferior or that they are not as worthy as the other children in the community.

Although the “Nyumba mboke/nymba ntobhu” practice is decreasing (contrary to what outsiders have painted), property inheritance among women in Kuria culture still tends to cater to traditionally held views.

My Lesotho

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— By Lealimo from Lesotho

Lesotho is a very mountainous country, blessed with rivers, waterfalls and valleys. Lesotho depends on water and animals, its our biggest economy.

I recently came back from my father’s home village, one of the remotest and very rural places in my country called Thaba-Tseka. It is about 8 hours’ drive from the capital city and then 2 hours ridding on a horse to get to the village since it’s inaccessible by car.
Before technology and everything else that comes with it, before “stilettos and make-up” and the current lifestyle, there’s culture and family, where I grew up and came from.

The pictures below portray a good story of where I come from. They represent culture and family. These young girls draw water from this spring each day for domestic purposes and the young boy herd sheep riding a horse. They are my cousins. They do all this chores after school, which is an indication that education is important to them. I am not an exception as I went through the same route. This woman is our grandmother and she prepares dinner for everyone while they also offer assistance to her.

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My great grand parents and I grew up in this village and under the same circumstances. The roundavels you see is the original plan of Basotho houses in rural villages made of mud. In the capital city the same house is built in a modernised way and its part of Lesotho’s emblem. The very same culture and family lifestyle moulded me to be a proud Mosotho woman who knows where she comes from.

Here are other picture from rural Lesotho, my Lesotho:

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Somali Heroes

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— By Adan from Somalia

Here is Somalia; a country located in the horn of Africa which experienced many years of political turmoil, corruption, and instability. These photos below are statues of some respected persons who were responsible the freedom of our country. I was told that, originally, there were human shape pictures (especially the Hawa Taka statue), but they got erased because of time and lack of repairing. Today only the buildings remain.

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This monument represents the Somali Youth League. It was a league of thirteen young men and women including poets, intellectuals and other elites, who fought against the colonization with words and written poems. They negotiated with the colonial leaders by telling them that it’s indispensable to let Somalia be an independent country. Simply if you ask any Somali guy “who led Somalis to their independence?” He/she will always answer: the Somali youth league

 

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This blue statue is for a great and brave woman called Hawa Taka. She was killed by colonial armies while she was fihting them.

 

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This statue is for Sayid Mohamed Abdulle Hassan. he has been fighting against the British colonial power fo more than twenty years. He was a mullah and poet. After many times that he defeated the enemy, he was eventually defeated himself, and died of malaria. What a loss!

Because of the struggle of these people, we got our independence on July 1st 1960, but the country had re-destroyed in 1991, when Mohamed Siyad was overthrown by armed groups. Starting from 1991 till today we live in insecurity.

Private owned cars can’t pass near these statutes. It was a bit risky to take these pictures that’s why they’re not perfect.  A picture you took while you are looking on your sides can’t be a fit, and the reason is that, these statues are near to presidential palace and the security forces are so in attention because of fear from opposition attacks.

Our former braves did great, but still we don’t live the life they wanted us to be in.

The Most Misunderstood Part of my Community

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— By James from Kenya

I am a Kenyan citizen with a keen interest in my country’s cultures. I come from the Kuria community which is found in both Nyanza province of Kenya and Mara province of Tanzania, thus falling within two countries. The Kuria community has many cultural practices; some commonly shared among African communities but some are uniquely Kurian.

For instance the way we give names to our children is quite unique. Our community has 6 distinct names reserved for first born. There are three names for the first born sons and three for the first born daughters. These six names happen to be our most common names. These names are Chacha, Marwa and Mwita for sons, and Boke, Gati and Robi for daughters. To this end you may think that anyone bearing any of these names is a first born. Hell no! The Kurians also have the practice of naming after their relatives. For instance I am called Marwa, an obviously first born name; which I am not. Actually I am named after my grandpa. My surname is Mwita because my father is my grandpa’s first born son.

Among the Kurians, it is also a normal thing for names to cross the gender boundary meaning you can find a boy bearing a traditionally female name such as Boke, Gati or Robi. Equally a girl may bear a traditionally male name such as Chacha, Marwa or Mwita. My younger brother is named after my grandma. Still following, Good so nominally, since I am named after my grandpa and my brother is named after my grandma; my brother is my wife! Yes. I know. It gave us a great deal of embarrassment during our childhood for older women would always refer to us using our grandparents’ relationship—husband and wife. Sorry I digressed. Back to our six names!

Due to our naming practices, the six names easily dominate other names. And as I move around the region, I always encounter a very curious question whenever I introduce myself to people: “Why is it that every Kurian name I know is either Chacha, Marwa or Mwita?” Should I be answering this question with the history of our naming practices? No! I always tell the askers that they should learn about the Kurian culture.
I tend to think that our naming practice is the most misunderstood part of my community—easily the most misunderstood until you encounter the Nyumba Ntobu.

PS: The Kuria community has thousands and thousands of other names 😉

Pawa 254 – Where Nairobi activism and art meet

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— By Millicent from Kenya

There is nowhere interesting like a place that brings out the giant in you. Pawa 254 is this place for me. A place that most Kenyans associate with human rights, activism, poetry and art. This is the office to one of Kenya’s renowned activist Boniface Mwangi. He is always on the forefront to fight oppression and through this place he has opened space for creative aspiring minds. This magnificent place shares the same road with where our president’s office is.

The main office which occupies the second floor is a work of art. The seats and the interior décor are creatively designed to give a warm welcome to visitors and work as a motivation to the people who work there daily. The office management has also invested in a nice conference facility. The rooms are vibrant and colorful and help spice up the meetings that are held there.

Pawa 254 is my favorite place but more specifically its rooftop has my heart. The rooftop is indeed a piece of artwork; graffiti on the walls will welcome you while, on the stairs before, the amazing view of Nairobi city steals your attention. On one of the walls, the graffiti is usually a picture of great people. The day I paid the rooftop a visit, the graffiti on the wall was for Mohamed Ali the great boxer.

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I felt that I was indeed connected to greatness and that I could do anything including flying from the rooftop. It felt good taking a picture next to it as how else would I document this moment? There is a small fish pond at a corner of the rooftop with a few fish in it. At the center of this pond, there is a fountain that supplies water to the fish. Looking at it while feeding the fish gives the feel of renewed strength. Sitting on this rooftop and marveling at the artwork is a great way to refresh one’s mind.

The view of Nairobi city is the highlight of this great place. Moving closer to one of the corners next to where Ali’s graffiti is, you perfectly see the city landscape. The architecture of the city buildings is clearly visible from this point with one being able to distinguish the tall ones from the short ones. The city skyline is also visible and beautiful from this point. Sunrise and sunsets are perfectly experienced from this place creating a perfect moment. Social environment in this place is so friendly that it is impossible to distinguish a visitor from the people who work here on a daily basis. People are ever happy and bubbly. On one corner you will see people cracking jokes and laughing hysterically while in another corner others will be discussing art and appreciating it.

Pawa 254 has a special place in my heart. I may not visit this place as often as I would like to but it is etched in my heart. It is my recommendation to anyone visiting Nairobi to pay the place a visit. It is open to everyone and without a doubt it is a second home.

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