…. And in the Manner of Africa, she was Born: The Story of Chhiko.

So, yeah. My name ACTUALLY is Wanjiku. And while I’ve always liked the name, it was more because of who it honoured and not really WHAT it honoured. As the ENTIRE world probably knows, Kikuyu custom stipulates that the first born girl be named after her father’s mother, and that truly is where my secret love affair with my grandmother began. For a while I loved the name because of how dearly I loved her. Strength, Grace, Integrity, Womanhood, Motherhood, Wisdom; she wore these so well, like a second skin attached to her through the struggles of life but, more of her first skin than the skin she was given initially by the Almighty. THAT’S why I loved my name. But then she died, and the romanticism with which many new ID holders like myself, viewed the world began to die along with her and the realities of life began to unravel before my eyes. That’s when my name began to take on a new, intimate, form. GRANTED, it had something to do with the fact that the name is colloquially used to somewhat identify the vague but oh-so-familiar face of every Mama Mboga we we have within our borders; a way to bundle all these heterogeneous ideas, thoughts, desires, into one stuffy, homogeneous hut. It’s always infuriated me by the way, mainly because it made me feel ordinary? You know? Maybe not but, THAT thought infuriated me further because that was someone’s reality; that mediocre standard of living where yes, the rubber did very literally hit the road. As I began to try and purge myself of my stupidity, I was Blessed to find some solace in the pursuit of knowledge, and the two culminated in a moment that has made me appreciate my name in ways even my mother can’t handle too well.

It is, along with every single African name, an adage in its mere existence – a manifestation of African heritage, identity and pride. Now, I don’t really know why people don’t agree (the number of people that constantly try to attack me when they hear I’m disposing of my “government names” is baffling) with the idea that your traditional name tells more of your story than any other single part of you which precedes your actual presence. I kinda do really think so. Why do I say all this? Because I feel that our biggest failure as members of this continent is our shame; our unabated shame of being Africans. 

I’ve become a fan of Franz Fanon recently; methinks he’s the big brother the founding members of the OAU never seemed to know but so desperately needed. You know, that nigga that’ll chapa that SHIT out of you when you’re dictator-like, retrogressive tendencies get out of line? (Phrasing. Boom.) Anyway, they needed it, as do we, desperately. In the works of Fanon’s that I’ve come across, he doesn’t even try to sugar coat how he believes our leaders were brainwashed and have passed on neo-colonialism as their legacy to us. In Black Skins, White Masks, he used an illustration to show how niggas leave the motherland to “educate themselves” but in truth, just appeal to an exploitative system and thus come back more foolish than before:

“There is a kind of magic vault of distance, and the man who is leaving next week for France creates round himself a magic circle in which the words Paris, Marseille, Sorbonne, Pigalle become the keys to the vault. He leaves for the pier, and the amputation of his being diminishes as the silhouette of his ship grows clearer. In the eyes of those who have come to see him off he can read the evidence of his own mutation, his power. “Good-by bandanna, good-by straw hat. …”

Now that we have got him to the dock, let him sail; we shall see him again. For the moment, let us go to welcome one of those who are coming home. The “newcomer” reveals himself at once; he answers only in French, and often he no longer understands Creole. There is a relevant illustration in folklore.”

With this in mind, I’ve been exploring every single piece of my existence: as a sorta adult female, a recent graduate, a Kikuyu in today’s Kenya, an individual with a set of ideas, and goals, and ambitions – and what those things under MY name truly represent. I feel like that extract describes almost every African I know in some way or another and it’s too true for us to pretend so, let’s just not. I have a colleague who thinks I read too much, and think too much about that shit I read too much. The last time she said it, my heart sank as she tried to cite the advantages of liking Mexican soap operas over present and future space tech and the existence of alien life outside Earth. That’s fine, people see life in the same glass but through different angles; the upsetting part was her stating that there’s no need to be bothered, why know? It’s just better to surround yourself with fantasy. I was slightly dumbfounded by this because, she was quite serious.

This is why this the BEING Wanjiku matter to me has become relevant; I wondered why my colleague had bothered to ever leave the house and get an education then because, she was genuinely and basically wasting people’s time, the most, hers, I believe. It reminds me of many people I know, who don’t ask the uncomfortable questions as African youth and what THAT REALLY DOES BLOODY MEAN and would rather be famous on Twitter. Furthermore, there is a lack of continued questioning of the system: if it quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, then it is a duck? <the Kenyan electorate. This is not a stance the Kenyan proletariat can afford. It’s even worse for Kenyans my age. I look at my surroundings and realize that things have “changed” enough so that nothing has changed at all. At the point that I realized this, I was very happy being like everyone else, blissfully ignorant as a pawn of the system, believing that my continent’s poverty could be changed if I protested enough or, became revolutionary enough. But, the golden moment arrived: I can’t fucking want change for you, you have to want that change for yourself. It’s something women still don’t get about their versions of Mike Tyson.  As such, forcing it down someone’s throat is a sort of rapey, expensive expedition that no one will really enjoy. I saw that change can only come about if we ALL know what we want to change, why we want to change it, and how we’ll go about it. If you think about it, for even one second, our leaders are not interested in the slightest in this change and you can’t particularly blame them. Niggas need to live in Runda, and wear L’Eau D’Issey – honest rebellious reform doesn’t make this shit happen (and if you think about it, every pursuer of true good you know never smelt that great). The high road doesn’t produce the average Nigerian immigrant’s life and again, vanity is cool. It makes the roads look much nicer, and the lobster doesn’t suck now, does it. The problem arises when we allow these self serving ambitions into PUBLIC OFFICE and expect them to deny themselves. But who am I kidding? The educated know this well but the status quo pays a type of “well” that is transcendent of most, aye. However, this lack of foresight and hindsight will, in the long run, continue to burn. One may say the Bible may very well be pages upon pages of contradiction, but it is still Wisdom beyond measure: Hosea 4:6 really does have a point. Anyway, those of us who aren’t Manu Chandaria are busy struggling for political and well just, genuine freedom, in this day and age where we think we’re free, but have just re-issued our carrot and stick relations in another region via the courteous folly of our leaders. I look at how gullible the collective African electorate is and my heart sinks.

However, I would never want to be a member of any other state, well except the Hellenic Republic, I’m proud of my dark skin, hard ass hair, and inherent fleshiness. I am proud of the, Kipchirchirs, Mumbis, Swalehs that are all over this continent (I don’t know common names in kina Nigeria to be honest) and sit here with my nappy ass hair and my MAC (yeeees, beech!) eyeliner and continue to think aloud……

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One thought on “…. And in the Manner of Africa, she was Born: The Story of Chhiko.

  1. Ck’, well now its C for Ciku’ (has been for a very long time, just that now it bloomed) , this is Brilliant and true. Thank you for speaking for the many that are still somewhere in cocoon “shame”.

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